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Nov 20, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Miles Plumlee (22) in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (6-13) at Phoenix Suns (12-9) Preview

Nov 20, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas (22) lays up the ball against the Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris (15) in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Rudy Gay debut was kicked back to tonight in Phoenix, it’s not quite as exciting an affair. For one, his debut will come on the road, and two—did you see the rest of the Kings on Wednesday against the Jazz?

Sacramento followed up the greatest win of the season (a 112-97 beatdown of Dallas on Monday) with the worst loss of the season (122-101 against the lowly Jazz). Now they head to Phoenix, with three new players (Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray) and the nagging question: which Kings team shows up tonight?

A slight point towards optimism—the Kings beat the Suns twice earlier this year. A slight point towards pessimism—Eric Bledsoe, easily the best Phoenix player, didn’t play in those two contests.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Phoenix Suns:

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
22.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 49.2% FG
C: Miles Plumlee, 6’11, Duke
9.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 50.6% FG
PF: Derrick Williams, 6’8, Arizona
12.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 52.8% FG
PF: Channing Frye, 6’11, Arizona
10.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 46.7% FG
SF: Rudy Gay, 6’8, UConn
19.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 38.8% FG
SF: P.J. Tucker, 6’6, Texas
9.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 45% FG
SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
9.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 36.7% FG
PG: Goran Dragic, 6’3, Yugoslavia
18.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, 48.1% FG
PG: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
18.2 PPG, 5.3 APG, 45.7% FG
PG: Eric Bledsoe, 6’1, Kentucky
18.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 47.8% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU
8.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 36.4% FG
SG: Gerald Green, 6’8, Gulf Shores Acad.
12.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 43.6% FG
F: Travis Outlaw, 6’8, Starkville HS
5.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 45.7% FG
F: Marcus Morris, 6’9, Kansas
11 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 46.9% FG
F: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 46.2% FG
F: Markieff Morris, 6’10, Kansas
13 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 50.5% FG

 

Last Three Contests:

November 20, 2013: Kings @ Suns – Kings 113, Suns 106
November 19, 2013: Suns @ Kings – Kings 107, Suns 104
March 28, 2013: Kings @ Suns – Kings 117, Suns 103

Key Matchup: Isaiah Thomas verses Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe missed the first two games against Sacramento, but he’s back and playing solid basketball. In his past three games, he’s averaged 18 points and 7.6 assists on 44% shooting. He hasn’t exactly played anyone exceptionally strong defensively (no offense to the Lakers, Raptors and Rockets points), but he’s as capable as scorer as Isaiah is.

Thomas, like the whole Kings team, didn’t look himself on Wednesday. It didn’t reflect in his statline (20 points, seven assists) but he was outplayed by the rookie Trey Burke. This is Isaiah’s team now, and he’s going to be matched up a lot by exceptional players here in the golden age of the point guard position—he can’t play like he did Wednesday.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Rudy, Take 2: Mike Malone told the media on Thursday that Rudy would start, but didn’t say at what position and how the lineup would be built. The above lineup is a guess, but given how Derrick Williams has shined since arriving in Sacramento, it seems unlikely he’ll be removed.

Rudy actually just played the Suns a week ago when he was still with the Raptors—he had 17 points and 10 rebounds on 6-15 shooting. It’s expected (and hoped) that his shooting efficiency will increase when surrounded by more capable scorers then he was in Toronto, but until proven otherwise, that field goal percent is a massive concern. This will be Rudy’s first chance at proving the Kings organization was right to make this move.

2. Battle Down Low: The Kings won their two contests against the Suns earlier in the year by attacking the paint (DeMarcus Cousins averaged 23 points and 12 boards) and by owning the glass (they grabbed a combined 90 boards to the Suns 68 in both games). Miles Plumlee tried his best, but couldn’t stick to Cousins enough to slow him down, and none of the Suns other big men (Channing Frye, the Morris twins) aren’t exceptionally strong rebounders.  

3. Turnover Battle: Neither the Kings nor the Suns are exceptionally good at forcing turnovers (The Kings snag 15 turnovers a game, the Suns get 14.9 – 20th and 21st in the league, respectively). Yet, strangely, the Kings commit the third least turnovers in the league! Not a typo, I swear.

With their team exceptionally able to force miscues, the Kings will have to focus on limiting their own mental mistakes. Considering Phoenix plays two point guards (Bledsoe and Goran Dragic), it’s unlikely they can poke away a ton from the Phoenix backcourt, but it would be nice to see.

Prediction: Bledsoe and Thomas end up in a duel that edges toward’s Bledsoe’s favor. Rudy Gay doesn’t dominate, but does moderately well in a hard-fought loss. – Suns 100, Kings 96

Tags: Sacramento Kings

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