Knicks vs. Kings: Fade Slow-Starting Sacramento

Jim Turvey breaks down Thursday's NBA matchup between the New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings, including his betting pick and prediction.

Knicks vs. Kings Odds

Knicks Odds +4
Kings Odds -4
Over/Under 235
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings square off on TNT Thursday in a matchup between two of the league’s most pleasant surprises this season.

To play the “if someone had fallen asleep on Opening Night” game, imagine telling that person it’s March 9th and the Kings were the two seed in the West and the Knicks were the the five seed in the East–they’d be surprised to say the least!

The two teams also play very opposing brands of basketball. The Kings play with a top-10 Pace and have a historically good offense, especially in the clutch. The Knicks, on the other hand, have the fourth-slowest Pace but pair that with an elite offense of their own (fifth in Offensive Rating).

We’re approaching the part of the season where styles making fights becomes the most interesting factor in the game because teams are locked in for their stretch run. The Kings have a fully clear injury report, while Jalen Brunson is the swing factor for the Knicks as he remains questionable as of writing on Thursday morning.

Luckily for us bettors, there are some clear edges in this game, so let’s dive in and highlight them and share a betting prediction for Knicks vs. Kings.

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Robinson Anchors the Knicks Defense

It might only have been one loss, but the Knicks’ most recent loss to the Charlotte Hornets does have their fanbase a little worried. At several times this season, the Knicks have had lengthy win streaks followed immediately by an almost as lengthy losing streak. Given that the loss to the Hornets was right before a four-game West Coast swing, naturally those fears are creeping in.

However, I am more bullish on their ability to avoid letting this winning streak precede a lengthy losing streak.

For one, even with Brunson questionable, this is about as healthy as the team has been all season. Mitchell Robinson, who has been the most in-and-out of the lineup of any Knicks player this season, looks as good as he has all season. This is key because he has been one of their most pivotal players, per on-off numbers, this season and is paramount to their success. The team is 27-17 in games in which he has played at least 10 minutes, compared to 12-11 in games he has either missed or played fewer than 10 minuts.

In this matchup, Robinson will play a key role in slowing down both of the Kings’ best offensive forces: De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis will be his main defensive assignment, and if he can handle Sabonis without needing help, that will significantly cut into Sabonis’ best ability: his ball movement. Sabonis ranks 12th in the league in assists per game at 7.0–a total that leads all non-guards.

As for Fox, Robinson won’t be directly on him, but Fox ranks in the top 10 in drives per game and in the top five in points per game off of those drives. Robinson’s rim protection will be critical in slowing down this Kings attack.

Can the Kings Start More Quickley?

For the Kings, the most important part of Thursday’s game may be how they start the game.

The Kings have a -1.4 Net Rating in the first quarter this season, compared to +2.7 for each game overall. This might not hurt them in every game, but against the Knicks, it could prove costly.

The Knicks are the inverse, with a +7.3 first-quarter Net Rating, compared to +2.9 overall. The first time these two teams matched up, the Knicks were up 36-22 by the end of the first quarter, and they never looked back as they cruised to a 13-point victory. (It should be noted that Fox missed this game, while Brunson played.)

Knicks-Kings Pick

The look here is going to be that first quarter. The Knicks are 38-28-1 in the first quarter this season, which is good for a 9.4% ROI that ranks fifth in the Association this season. The Kings sit on the other end of that spectrum, at 28-35-1, with a negative 15.2% ROI that ranks fourth-worst.

Even if Brunson remains out, that mostly hurts the Knicks’ second unit, where Miles McBride is a far cry from Immanuel Quickley, who has moved into the starting role with Brunson out and hasn’t missed a beat.

If Brunson isn’t playing and the Knicks take a five or so point lead after the first quarter, I will also potentially be looking to live bet the Kings to come back and win if bettors can get +115 or around there, so keep an eye in the Action app (@TurveyBets).

Pick: Knicks 1Q ML +100 (Play to -120)