When you think about it, the Sacramento Kings are the Western Conference's kindred spirit to the Milwaukee Bucks, aren't they? Two small markets, two previously rabid fan bases attempting to work back in to the mix, two franchises experiencing the trials and tribulations of long-term stability. And for the first part of the season, two fun, entertaining nuisances to the rest of the league.
Things have changed.
The Bucks (29-23) eye their sixth-straight home win against a Kings (18-33) team that has lost twelve of their last fourteen games tonight in Milwaukee. But the recent losing has nothing on the turmoil upstairs in Sacramento, though they are inextricably linked.
After firing coach Mike Malone in December for... reasons... the Kings are poised to oust Ty Corbin following tonight's game in favor of George Karl, whom we know around these parts and like a lot. None of these are massive problems until you look at the details. Malone was fired because his owner, Vivek Ranadive, wanted a different look to how the team played, including considering playing 4-on-5 defense for cherry-picking. And the Kings have been as discreet as an elephant riding a moped in their pursuit of Karl, all while Corbin sits sheepishly in the corner waiting for his nightmare to end.
It'll end tonight, one way or another, and the Bucks are looking for their 30th win... which is insane! Having surpassed most everyone's predictions on win-loss record already, including all of us here, the Bucks look to close out the unofficial first half of the season winners of eight of their last nine. If a victory is in the cards tonight, it would be the first time since the 1990-91 season the franchise hits the 30 win mark at the All-Star break.
But if it's possible for a team to not want a long break while subsequently needing one, it's the Bucks. They are rolling, but man do they look exhausted. This team has had to grind out victories over Brooklyn, Boston and the LA Lakers over the last week, clubs the Bucks would like to handle with relative ease at this point in the year. Sacramento is in the same category.
The Kings possess something those three teams don't... an all-star center. DeMarcus Cousins, now the face of the franchise, has found himself the center of attention with the upheaval around him. Despite all that, and missing time with viral meningitis in December, Cousins has been a force this year, average 23.6 points and 12.3 rebounds a game. Can John Henson, Zaza Pachulia and others contain him? Unlikely, so the second-best defensive team in the league will have to work on limiting what Rudy Gay does, who put up 24 in last night's loss in Chicago.
Then again, a massive disadvantage down low was not a problem in the Bucks one-point win in California in December. Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley and O.J. Mayo were lights out that night, and will likely need to be again tonight.
How will Knight play now that he is officially not in the All-Star Game? Will he play like a man possessed, or a man who kills possessions? And will Giannis play in the fourth quarter, which he did not do against Brooklyn on Monday? While you ponder that, read this glowing report on Giannis from SBNation's Mike Prada.
You should also read this piece from Grantland on Giannis, Dudley and Khris Middleton, because it's been awhile since the Bucks got so much good national press.
Don't take that for granted, Bucks fans. Just ask the Kings.
Game Coverage: Kings vs Bucks coverage
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
(29-23, 14-10 home)
|February 11, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center| Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Ramon Sessions
|Khris Middleton||SG||Ben McLemore
|96.3 (13th)||Pace||97.2 (9th)|
|102.0 (17th)||ORtg||101.6 (19th)|
|99.2 (2nd)||DRtg||105.9 (26th)|