Why have the Sacramento Kings struggled on the second nights of back-to-backs?

Jan 2, 2024, 4:31 PM | Updated: 4:32 pm

Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings takes a shot during the game Desmond Bane #22 of the Me...

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 31: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings takes a shot during the game Desmond Bane #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on December 31, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. 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 Justin Ford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

As of Tuesday morning, the Sacramento Kings hold a 19-12 record, ranking them fifth in the crowded Western Conference. To start 2024, they are scheduled to play their fifth back-to-back of the season with home matchups against the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Up to this point, the Kings are undefeated on the first nights of back-to-backs but winless on the second. Why?

Honestly, nobody seems to have a good understanding of potential reasoning. After their most recent second night of a back-to-back (a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves), JaVale McGee explained his uncertainty and attempted to offer a potential logic.

“Maybe we have to realize we can’t get too high, and we can’t get too low,” the fifteen-year veteran said.

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The Sacramento Kings seem to struggle from all over the floor on those second nights. Their 102.3 offensive rating and 122.9 defensive rating in those matchups totals to a -20.6 net rating. That would be a league-worst relative to other team’s season-long standings in those categories.

42.4 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from three is a challenging recipe for wins. In eight first-half quarters on the second night, the Kings have tallied less than 25 on five occasions. Simultaneously, they’ve allowed their opposition 35 or more points four times.

Fatigue plays a factor, as does an atypical lack of preparation and game planning. Maybe their high-paced and physical brand of basketball bodes for tough consecutive matchups.

Or maybe the lack of morning shootarounds when they played the night prior (neither do most if not all, other NBA teams) could throw off players’ routines. No players on their roster will use those as excuses. It’s all part of the association they’re in.

It’s worth noting that the Sacramento Kings have faced off against high-caliber opponents on those occasions. Two losses have come at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, with the other two coming against the New Orleans Pelicans and Timberwolves.

Minnesota (24-8) is first in the Western Conference. The Clippers (20-12) have found their rhythm since trading for James Harden and currently rank fourth in the West, one spot above Sacramento. New Orleans (19-14) sits in sixth.

Maybe it’s all of the above. While Tuesday’s matchup against the Hornets, who come into Golden 1 Center on an 11-game losing skid, understandably has the Kings as a heavy favorite, Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic is no simple task.

The Magic (19-13) are in the second tier of the Eastern Conference standings, with four potential title contenders above them.

When Kings’ forward Harrison Barnes was asked about their struggles on back-to-backs at Tuesday’s shootaround, he approached it with a big-picture mentality.

“I think for us, it’s just approaching each game,” he said. “I don’t think we have the luxury to look at records, to look at streaks, to look at anything like that that’s going on. It’s simply just saying every game right now, with where we are and where we’re trying to go, where we’re at in the standings, let’s just take it game by game and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”

After the mentioned early January’s back-to-back, the Sacramento Kings have eight remaining on their schedule. It’s a long season, and it wouldn’t take much for the trend to change.

If they can continue to play their preferred and ideal brand of basketball on those nights, they should be able to buck the trend sooner rather than later.

Upcoming schedule for the Sacramento Kings

  • Tuesday, January 2nd – Sacramento Kings vs. Charlotte Hornets – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, January 3rd – Sacramento Kings vs. Orlando Magic – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, January 5th – Sacramento Kings vs. Toronto Raptors – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, January 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 3:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, January 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Detroit Pistons – 4:00 PM PST

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