Mike Brown

Kings hope lessons learned vs. Pels help in NBA In-Season Tournament

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  • Programming note: The Kings' NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinal against the Pelicans will be shown on NBC Sports California at 7 p.m., preceded by "Kings Pregame Live" at 6:30 p.m., and capped by "Kings Postgame Live" immediately after the game.

After sweeping their West Group C with a 4-0 record, the Kings now face the New Orleans Pelicans in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. 

The Monday night affair at Golden 1 Center will be the third time Sacramento and New Orleans have faced off this season, with the Pelicans winning the first two matchups at Smoothie King Center by scores of 129-93 and 117-112.

Ahead of the Kings’ first home game against the Pelicans this year, Sacramento plans to use its prior experience against New Orleans to its advantage. 

“[The Pelicans] are a good team,” Kevin Huerter told reporters at practice Sunday (h/t “The Deuce & Mo Podcast"). “Really, both games they punched us in the mouth. They’re a big, lanky, physical team. Zion [Williamson], individually, poses a lot of issues for us. [Brandon] Ingram is really good. Both those guys have had a lot of success on us [in New Orleans]. It’ll be nice to have them at home and to get a shot at them.”

Across the Kings and Pelicans' two prior meetings in late November, Ingram and Williamson combined for 105 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds. 

As Huerter mentioned, New Orleans’ overall length and size are irritants to Sacramento. 

In 96 minutes versus the Pelicans this season, the Kings have earned 29 fewer rebounds, 11 fewer steals and 58 fewer points in the paint, likely due to the long wingspans of New Orleans’ roster.

“Well, [the Pelicans] are up there in [length and size],” Kings coach Mike Brown explained to reporters (h/t “The Deuce & Mo Podcast"). “They have a true big in [Jonas] Valančiūnas, they got 7-footer that’s in that paint protecting the rim. Then they have long athletes on the wing with [Dyson] Daniels and Herb Jones. They got a couple of other kids, guys too. [Trey] Murphy’s out from 6’10” or 6’11” or whatever he is. Anytime you have length that’s versatile and quick, and athletic, it bodes well for a good, defensive team.”

Considering its poor results in previous meetings, Sacramento knows what it must do to have better odds against New Orleans.

“We have to try to assert ourselves and be aggressive, and use our aggression to our advantage,” Keegan Murray shared with reporters (h/t “The Deuce & Mo Podcast").

“We’re really good when we’re playing up and down, and their length can be more bothersome in the half-court, so we just go to try to play our game at our pace and not let them take us out of what we’re trying to do,” added Huerter. 

The Kings made history last season by snapping their 16-seasons-long NBA playoffs drought.

The Kings can make even more against the Pelicans by winning its quarterfinal matchup during the In-Season Tournament.

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