Hornets, Kings going opposite directions in first meeting
The Sacramento Kings are at .500 after 42 games, a hefty improvement over last season, when won only 27 games all season.
These Kings, built around a core of young pros such as guards Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox, are playing a full-speed-ahead style.
Sacramento is averaging 13.1 seconds per possession -- down from 15.4 last season -- a pace that ranked second in the league after Thursday night's games. The Kings also were leading the NBA in fast-break points at 22.6 per game.
So, even at 21-21, Sacramento is doing more than spinning its wheels, which is an attribute more apt to apply to Saturday's visitors to Golden 1 Center -- the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets (19-22) will be playing the second game of a back-to-back and might not be interested in having to run after getting run off the court Friday night, 127-96, at Portland. The Trail Blazers poured in 70 at halftime and led by 33 after three quarters.
Charlotte has lost four of five games and seven of 10. This will be the fifth game of a six-game road trip for Charlotte, which plays at San Antonio on Monday.
Hield is averaging a Kings-high 20.1 points and shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range (136 of 306). He's on pace to reach 265 made 3-pointers, which would comfortably break the franchise record of 240, set by Peja Stojakovic in 2003-04.
"I think playing faster has opened up some shots in transition," coach Dave Joerger said in the Sacramento Bee. "We're playing with more possessions per game than we have in the past, so there's more opportunities for him."
Fox is averaging 17.9 points and 7.3 assists, and he's also a menace on defense. He has 75 steals this season, five more than as a rookie last year -- despite having played 700 fewer minutes.
"I am the fastest person in the league," Fox said this week on the Posted Up podcast on Yahoo Sports.
A potential tripping point for Sacramento against Charlotte: turnovers. The Kings committed 26 in a surprising loss at Phoenix on Tuesday, and 20 in Thursday's home win over Detroit.
For Charlotte, point guard Kemba Walker continues to lead the way. He is averaging a career-best 24.9 points per game after scoring 18 in the loss at Portland.
Charlotte rookie guard Devonte' Graham was limited to seven minutes Friday night because of an ankle sprain. Coach James Borrego said before the game that veteran point guard Tony Parker might sit out Saturday because of the back-to-back, but that was assuming Graham was at least close to full strength.
Parker played only 12 minutes Friday night. For sure, he wants to be at his best Monday when he returns for the first time to San Antonio, where he played for 17 seasons before joining Charlotte this offseason as a free agent.
"I don't want to over-use Tony right now," Borrego said. "We have the second half of the season coming right now. He's done really well physically; he's given us a lot. Keeping him fresh is going to be big for us down the stretch."
Saturday's matchup will be the first of two meetings between the teams in the span of a week. They will also play Jan. 17 in Charlotte, N.C. The Hornets have won three in a row in the series.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 12, 2019