The Cleveland Cavaliers (31-16) will square off against the Sacrmaneto Kings (29-19) at Rocekt Mortgage Fielhouse. The Cavs have won five in a row overall, but have not beaten the Kings in more than two years.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Sacramento Kings
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 7 p.m.
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBCS-CA
Spread: CLE -4.5
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs Injury Report: Jarrett Allen (anke, QUESTIONABLE), Tristan Thompson (suspension, OUT), Ty Jerome (OUT, ankle), Isaiah Mobley (G League, OUT), Emoni Bates (G League, OUT)
Expected Kings Starting Lineup: De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sobonis
Kings Injury Report: Sasha Vezenkov (ankle, QUESTIONABLE), Jordan Ford (G League, OUT), Jalen Slawson (G League, OUT)
What to watch for: stopping the two-man game
The Kings have one of the most dynamic two-man games in the NBA in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. Fox is coming off a 41-point game against the Chicago Bulls and Sabonis is averaging 19.9 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists per game. They have good ancillary pieces around those two in the starting lineup and off the bench in Malik Monk, Keegan Murray, and Kevin Huerter. That being said, the Kings’ offense is just middle of the pack in terms of overall rating at 14th in the league. But don't sleep on that: this offense is still dangerous.
Sacramento makes the fourth-most three-pointers per game and attempts the fourth-most in the league as well. They have the personnel to do it, too. Monk, Huerter, Trey Lyles, Murray. and Harrison Barnes are all threats from downtown. Coupled with the rim pressure that Fox gives and the Nikola Jokic-lite offensive hub skillset that Sabonis brings, the Kings are well-equipped to bring the hammer down on opposing defenses quickly. After all, Sacramento had the best offense in the league last season with largely the same roster.
This is just one example of Sabonis being tough to guard and his ability to find open shooters:
Triple-Double Alert— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 4, 2024
With this assist to Keegan Murray, Domas has now recorded his 14th triple-double of the season pic.twitter.com/kMU7ebKg31
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley will certainly be tested down low, and the small Cavs’ backcourt will have to do their best with Fox. Sacramento is a difficult team to beat when he and Sabonis get rolling. Despite a downturn in offense year over year, the Kings are still a threat to put 125 points on any team in the league.
What to watch for: will Darius Garland start to turn things around?
He gets the benefit of the doubt for now, but Garland has not been very good since returning from his injury. He had four points, three rebounds, and four assists in 23 minutes against the dreadful San Antonio Spurs and only attempted three shots while turning the ball over three times. There are some concerning things coming from Garland right now that need to be ironed out sooner rather than later.
Perhaps as his minutes increase and the feel for the game comes back things will improve. But right now, there are things that need to be ironed out soon if the Cavs are going to make a deep run in the playoffs.
One Stat to watch: driving the struggle bus
The Cavs have struggled with the Kings, for whatever reason. Cleveland is 2-8 in their last ten matchups against Sacramento and have lost three in a row. To make matters even more confusing, the Cavs have scored 120 points in two of those three games. Still, they lost.
Now, the Kings curse will really be put to the test. Last time these two teams faced, the Kings dropped 132 points on the the Cavs - the most points they have allowed all season. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell shot 12-35 in that contest and Sacramento got Fox back from an injury, two things that, when compounded, equal a tough day at the office.
Sacramento scores the eighth-most points per game, while the Cavs are 20th. They’re fourth in assists per game and seventh in effective field goal percentage as well, while the Cavs are middle of the road in both categories. What Cleveland cant allow to happen is get into a shoot-out. The Cavs, despite being healthy, may not be well-equipped to get into an offensive battle - especially with Garland still working his way back from a broken jaw. They will have to force some turnovers and keep the Kings off balance if they want to secure a victory.