Sacramento are not taking New Orleans matchup lightly despite Zion Williamson injury

Apr 18, 2024, 2:43 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes up for a slam dunk against the Sacramento Kings...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes up for a slam dunk against the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA game at Golden 1 Center on April 11, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Sacramento’s reward for beating the Golden State Warriors is a Friday night matchup against the only Western Conference postseason team they could not defeat in the regular season. Pelicans’ star Zion Williamson (hamstring) will be unavailable, but their most favorable margin against the Kings this season came without Williamson.

In January’s Kings/Warriors showdown, New Orleans ended the first quarter with a 12-point advantage and never looked back en route to a 33-point victory. All without Zion Williamson.

When they matched up eight days prior to Friday’s play-in game, Domantas Sabonis was assigned to Zion Williamson while Harrison Barnes attempted to slow down 6’11 Jonas Valancuinas. With Williamson sidelined, Sacramento head coach Mike Brown won’t have the same dilemma with defensive assignments.

But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier. It makes New Orleans stylistically different. “They’re still a really, really good team (without Zion Williamson), and, at the end of the day, shoot, we’re down two guys that score a lot for us,” Brown said after Thursday’s practice.

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“They’ll probably start Trey Murphy, and when he’s started, he’s been a load because he’s been more aggressive,” he continued. “He’s going to get more shots. CJ McCollum is going to get more shots, and both of those guys have hurt us from the three-point line.”

“[Brandon Ingram] is probably going to be a bit more aggressive, knowing that Zion is not out there. So, they still have formidable shooters and scorers, and I hadn’t even mentioned Valancuinas, who can score on the low block. They’ve got guys that can be aggressive.”

Trey Murphy II started 23 games in 2023-24, averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 44.6 percent from the field and 39.3 percent on 6.9 three-point attempts per game — including a 27-point performance against Sacramento a week prior.

It’s been a similar story for McCollum, who has killed the Kings. The 11-year veteran guard averaged a team-high 26.0 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.3 rebounds on 60.4 percent from the field and (get this) 70.4 percent from three on nine attempts per game in his three showings. Seventy percent is just absurd.

“We just have to be better,” Fox said. “What happened before doesn’t matter. This is a one-game series, and we have to go to their place and we have to earn a win.”

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So, while Zion Williamson has clearly been New Orleans’s best player when healthy and available, including tallying 40 points in Tuesday’s play-in game against the Los Angeles Lakers before heading to the locker room, Sacrament can’t take them lightly.

It may alter some of their points of emphasis, but being different is not always equivalent to being easier. Three-point defense and gaining an advantage in the possession game remain crucial in Friday’s pivotal matchup for the final Western Conference postseason spot.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will need one more win on Friday night to keep their season alive and clinch a first-round playoff berth, but the New Orleans Pelicans will stand in their way as the two teams will meet for the sixth time this season.

The Pelicans have won all five head-to-head meetings against the Kings this season, including a 135-123 triumph on April 11th at Golden 1 Center.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Pelicans coverage, beginning at 5:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:30 PM PST tip-off from New Orleans.

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 6:30 PM PST

NBA Postseason Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 16th-Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In Tournament
  • Saturday, April 20th – NBA Playoffs (First Round) begin

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