Wednesday, April 24, 2024

NBA Preview: Sacramento Kings (29-19) at Cleveland Cavaliers (31-16)

Two of the NBA’s hottest teams collide Monday night when the visiting Sacramento Kings attempt to complete a highly successful road trip at the expense of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The matchup will have a hard time approaching the entertainment value of the clubs’ earlier meeting in Sacramento on Nov. 13. In that game, four Kings scored 20 or more points to trump seven Cavaliers in double figures in the home team’s 132-120 victory.

The Kings were just 5-4 at the time. They have since gone 24-15, including having won five of six to open a seven-game trip. The lone loss was at Miami last Wednesday, after which the Kings outran the Indiana Pacers 133-122 and Chicago Bulls 123-115 to take a two-game winning streak into Cleveland.

Those two wins have come in the wake of the NBA All-Star Game selections, which did not include Kings stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

Sacramento coach Mike Brown believes both should have made the 12-man Western Conference roster, and Fox thinks Sabonis got snubbed. But Sabonis appears content putting his All-Star-level talent on display on more of a nightly basis.

Sabonis has averaged nearly a triple-double — 18.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, 8.7 assists — on the Kings’ six-game trip. He did post triple-doubles against the Heat and Bulls.

Fox has been the club’s top scorer on the trip at 27.5 points per game over that stretch, while Harrison Barnes has been on top of his game, chipping in an average of 18.8 points per outing.

Fox (28), Keegan Murray (25), Sabonis (23) and Kevin Huerter (20) all went for 20 or more points in the earlier win over Cleveland.

The Kings have shot 51.3 percent and averaged 28.2 assists on their current trip.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have forged their five-game winning streak mostly on the defensive end. During the run, they have held four of the five opponents to 108 or fewer points, including the Memphis Grizzlies (101) and San Antonio Spurs (101) in their last two games.

Jarrett Allen was a driving force in Saturday’s win at San Antonio, meeting the challenge of Victor Wembanyama with 26 points and 16 rebounds.

The Cavaliers remain hopeful Allen, not picked among the Eastern All-Star reserves last week, can still get into the showcase game as an injury replacement.

Allen had 12 points and nine rebounds in the earlier loss at Sacramento. All five Cavaliers starters — Mitchell (22), Max Strus (19), Darius Garland (16), Evan Mobley (16) and Allen (12) — scored in double figures, as did reserves Caris LeVert (21) and Georges Niang (12).

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