Can the Sixers Slow Down DeMarcus Cousins?
The Philadelphia 76ers return to the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center to kick off a four-game home trip tonight against the Sacramento Kings, looking to put an end to their current four-game losing streak.
South Philadelphia is a welcomed sight for Brett Brown’s teams, as the Sixers are 0-6 on the road so far this season. In fact, they haven’t won away from Philadelphia since January 20th of last year, a string of 22 consecutive road defeats.
Waiting for the Sixers will be DeMarcus Cousins and the 7-11 Sacramento Kings, who just kicked off a six-game road trip on Sunday night and sport the league’s sixth-worst defense.
The 76ers will be without starting point guard Jerryd Bayless due to a sore left wrist. The injury, which caused Bayless to miss the first four weeks of the season, has kept Bayless out of the Sixers previous two games. Bayless is averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 assists in his three appearances so far this season.
What: Sixers (4-14) vs Kings (7-11)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: Wednesday, November 30th at 7 PM Eastern
Watch: Comcast SportsNet
Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Sergio Rodriguez (?), Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova, Joel Embiid
Kings: Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos
(Note: Official starting lineups are released approximately one hour before the game).
Sixers: Ben Simmons (out, fractured right foot), Nerlens Noel (out, knee), Jerryd Bayless (out, sore left wrist).
Kings: DeMarcus Cousins (broken middle finger, probable).
About The Opponent:
The Kings are a franchise in constant turmoil, and that is a trend which has continued so far this season.
The Kings have started off slow, winning just 7 of their first 18 games, and are once again rumored to be considering moving star big man DeMarcus Cousins, a rumor which seems to pop up at least once per season.
On top of that new head coach Dave Joerger continues to experiment with different starting lineups, trying to find a way to make his unbalanced roster fit while placing enough shooting on the floor to be successful.
It is a testament to Cousins’ offensive talent that this Kings squad has the league’s 13th ranked offense (107.1 points per 100 possessions) despite those question marks. Cousins is averaging 28.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game so far this season while expanding his shooting range out to the three-point line, connecting on 39 percent of his 4.3 attempts per game.
The other end of the court has been a huge problem for the Kings, however, who hold the league’s 25th-ranked defense. Opponents shoot 50.7 percent from inside the arc, and 36.4 percent from deep, against the Kings, while attempting nearly 27 free-throws per game.
The Sixers will have to find a way to slow down DeMarcus Cousins, the NBA’s fourth leading scorer. Cousins can score on you in the post, pop out to the three-point line, roll to the basket off of pick and rolls, take you off the dribble, or bully you for an offensive rebound putback. He has every skill in his repertoire.
Brown frequently likes to keep Joel Embiid in the paint to help with weakside defense, but Ersan Ilyasova wouldn’t have a chance to stop Cousins in the paint, so Brown will be forced to put his best team defender on Cousins. That carries with it little consequence against the Kings, who are almost entirely dependent on Cousins to generate offense. With Cousins out of the game the Kings offense drops from 107.2 points per 100 possessions to 95.4.
Cousins sheer versatility will test Embiid in a way he hasn’t been tested before, something which will be important not only for Embiid to slow down the Kings best scorer, but also to stay out of foul trouble. Cousins averages just under 10 free-throw attempts per game, a bad combination since Embiid averages 5.4 fouls per 36 minutes. Reaching his 24-minute playing time restriction could be a challenge for Embiid tonight, but they Sixers will need him on the court if they hope to compete.
The Kings current starting lineup (Collison, Afflalo, Gay, Cousins, Koufos) shoots just 31.3% from three-point range and has a true shooting percentage of just 49.8 percent when they’re on the court together.
What To Look For:
Kings head coach Dave Joerger briefly experimented with going small around star big man DeMarcus Cousins, going with a two point guard lineup of Ty Lawson and Darren Collison and pushing Rudy Gay to the power forward spot.
Joerger has bailed on that starting lineup, however, reverting back to the slow, perimeter-shooting-challenged unit of Collison, Afflalo, Gay, Cousins, and Koufos.
That means that the Kings are back to playing two traditional big men for a large portion of the game, which could give Sixers head coach Brett Brown the ability to play Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor at the same time for an extended run. That has happened just once so far this season for a grand total of two minutes.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.