SACRAMENTO KINGS

High-powered Kings welcome New York Knicks to town

Mar 15, 2024, 9:50 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2024, 8:46 am

Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks shoots over Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings du...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 09: Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks shoots over Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball gaem at Golden 1 Center on March 09, 2023 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)

Two teams hoping to avoid the play-in tournament face off Saturday night when the New York Knicks visit the Sacramento Kings.

The Knicks (39-27) and Kings (38-27) have each won two straight as they race to the 40-win mark in the first of their two meetings over the final month of the regular season.

The clubs meet again April 4 in New York.

In a classic matchup of good defense vs. good offense, the Knicks have been brilliant on the defensive end of late. They held three straight opponents fewer than 80 points before giving up 93 in a 12-point win at Portland on Thursday to start their current four-game trip.

New York has given up 81.3 points per game during that four-game stretch, nearly 27 points below its season average of 108.1 points allowed, which is second in the league to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers (twice) and Trail Blazers combined to shoot just 37.8 percent overall and 27.9 percent on 3-pointers during that stretch.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is proud his players have been able to turn back the clock to some of the glory days of New York basketball.

“The thing is, 20 years ago that really was the style of play,” he said of the suffocating defensive style. “To be able to do it in today’s game, it’s a credit to the team. You have to be tied together and you have to be working together and you have to be able to count on each other.

“That’s the way our team is playing, and we’ve had to use that most of the year when you’re down players.”

The Knicks began their road trip still without injured Julius Randle (shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle). OG Anunoby, who played in his second straight game after returning from right elbow surgery, had 12 points and nine rebounds in Portland.

Jalen Brunson carried the load offensively against the Trail Blazers with 45 points in a game in which no other Knick scored more than 12.

The Kings come into the matchup having scored 120 or more points in four of their past five games.

Sacramento has won its past seven games when scoring more than 110 points, and lost its past four when failing to top the mark.

The Kings had 111 with more than four minutes to spare in Wednesday’s 120-107 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers. They were even more impressive offensively in a 129-94 home romp over the Milwaukee Bucks the night before.

Sacramento shot better than 50 percent overall and hit at least 45 percent of their 3-point attempts in each win.

The Kings also held the Bucks to 36.6 percent shooting from the floor and 17.9 percent on threes. Sacramento also successfully kept the Lakers off the offensive boards (just seven in the game).

“A lot of what we do offensively is fueled by our defense,” De’Aaron Fox said. “As long as our defense is like that, I think we’re in a great position.”

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–Field Level Media

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