Hawks vs. Kings Game Preview

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Sacramento Kings v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (13-12) will look to build off of Monday’s strong second half performance that led to a 114-100 victory over the Lakers when they take on the Kings (7-15) on Wednesday night at Philips Arena. The Kings have been active lately on the trade market, acquiring Derrick Williams from the Timberwolves earlier in the season and just recently trading with the Raptors for Rudy Gay. The complexion of the Kings lineup and rotations is very different from the one the Hawks faced early this season in Sacramento, a game the Hawks won 105-100.

Gay has come in and played well in his first two games, in which the Kings are 1-1. Not known as an efficient scorer, Gay has been very effective in his first two games scoring 25 points per game and shooting 56.3% from the field (1-of-6 from three-point range). He has been attacking the rim and settling for fewer jump shots than he was in Toronto, getting 15 of his 32 shot attempts and converting at a 73.3% clip inside eight feet. The Hawks know how to slow down Gay, though, as they held him to 6-of-23 shooting in the Hawks’ first match-up with him against the Raptors earlier this season.

With the addition of Gay, and the loss of other players in the trade, Isaiah Thomas has found his way into the starting lineup. Thomas torched the Hawks in the fourth quarter of their first meeting, scoring 18 of his 26 points in the final quarter and almost single-handedly kept the Kings in the game. Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack will be tasked with trying to keep Thomas in front of them and they will need to be quick getting under or around screens in order to prevent his penetration, which is a big key to the Kings’ offense.

Thomas has been terrific for the Kings all season averaging 18.8 points per game and he leads the team with 5.4 assists per game.  Thomas is shooting the ball at a 42.7% rate from three-point range and his eFG% is 53.5%. Thomas gets 72.5% of his shot attempts inside eight feet (where he shoots 53.2%) or from the three-point line, which has been the key to his efficiency.

DeMarcus Cousins was the Kings leading scorer prior to the Gay trade and is averaging 22.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but has not been as efficient as most big men with an eFG% of just 48.5%. Cousins was out-played in the first match-up by both Al Horford and Paul Millsap, who combined for 52 points, 21 rebounds, five assists, seven steals, and three blocks.

The Horford/Millsap combo took advantage of their athletic advantage over Cousins and the Kings frontcourt in the first match-up. This time around, it will be interesting to see if the Kings’ new additions will fare any better against the Hawks’ bigs, or if they will struggle once again to contain them. The Kings have been playing Gay at the small-ball four a good bit early in his stint in Sacramento, and Williams is also an option if they choose to go with a more athletic power forward.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

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