Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Smoothie King Center
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sports 1140 KHTK
Odds: Kings -1.5
Morning injury report
Kings: OUT — Louis King (G League); Neemias Queta (G League); Jahmi’us Ramsey (G League); Robert Woodard II (G League).
Pelicans: QUESTIONABLE — Josh Hart (quadriceps). DOUBTFUL — Garrett Temple (ankle). OUT — Zion Williamson (foot).
Ingram, Valanciunas present challenges
The Kings will have one less problem against the New Orleans Pelicans with Zion Williamson still sidelined due to injury, but they will still face an early-season test when they go into Smoothie King Center on Friday night.
Head-to-head matchups between Sacramento and New Orleans have taken on more meaning over the past two years given their respective places in the Western Conference standings. The Kings (2-2) and Pelicans (1-4) finished one game apart in 2019-20 and posted identical records in 2020-21. They could find themselves neck-and-neck in the NBA playoff race again this season, but for the Pelicans that might depend on Williamson’s prognosis.
Williamson hasn’t suited up yet this season as he recovers from a broken foot. Earlier this week, Pelicans president David Griffin told ESPN Williamson will undergo scans this week to determine next steps in his recovery. There is no timetable for his return, but coach Willie Green said he is progressing.
The Kings will still have to contend with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Devonte’ Graham, Jonas Valanciunas and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Ingram, a player Kings coach Luke Walton knows well from his days with the Los Angeles Lakers, has been especially good. He is averaging career highs of 25.6 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting a career-best 48.1% from 3-point range.
Graham is averaging 18.4 points and 5.2 assists. He is shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc, but he might be due for an off night against a Kings defense that has already caused problems for Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.
The Kings will also have to deal with Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, who went to New Orleans in the three-team trade that sent Steven Adams to the Memphis Grizzlies. Valanciunas was with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season when he caused Kings forward Chimezie Metu to break his wrist on what Walton described as a “dirty” and “dangerous” play.
Wins and losses
The Kings let second-half leads slip away in home losses to the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, but they are 2-0 on the road with wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns. The Kings took down the Suns when Harrison Barnes buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give them a 110-107 victory Wednesday.
The Pelicans were blown out in their first two games, falling 117-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers and 128-112 to the Chicago Bulls, but they’ve been much more competitive in their last three games. They lost by seven to the Minnesota Timberwolves, avenged that loss with a nine-point win over the Timberwolves 48 hours later and nearly knocked off a top Eastern Conference playoff contender in a 102-99 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Kings guard Buddy Hield got hot in Wednesday’s win over the Suns, pouring in 26 points while making 7 of 11 from 3-point range. Hield is averaging 18.3 points and a career-high 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting a career-best 44.2% from 3-point range despite a 2-of-10 showing against the Warriors on Sunday.
Note: Check back for updates with the latest news, notes, quotes and injury updates before, during and after tonight’s game between the Kings and Pelicans.