Game Preview: Kings (9-5) at Rockets (11-3)


With last nights win over the Pelicans, the Sacramento Kings are now guaranteed a .500 or better record for the month of November. They did it. You can find our post game coverage here.

It really is incredible. The Kings had fallen somewhere inside the top-5 toughest schedules all season (it’s a fluid stat), and have managed to pull off gutsy win after gutsy win. Last night they did it without Rudy Gay, Darren Collision, and Michael Malone (after he was ejected for back-to-back technical fouls). And it just doesn’t get any easier, because tonight the Kings have to play the 11-3 Rockets in Houston.

Both the Kings and the Rockets have players questionable for tonight. The Kings will likely be without Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison’s status is still up in the air. The Rockets will probably be without Patrick Beverly, Terrence Jones, and Dwight Howard, but we can’t say for sure just yet.

The Kings have been very good at taking advantage of presented opportunities. That is a big reason why they are 9-5 almost a month into the season. Tonight, in Houston, on the second night of a back-to-back, is another huge opportunity.

It’s not going to be easy. Houston is obviously a very good basketball team, but they are missing some key pieces, most of which anchor their defense. Without Howard and Jones defending the paint, and Beverly shutting down the point guard, the Kings should be able to do some serious damage inside. Without Howard specifically, the Rockets shouldn’t be able to contain DeMarcus Cousins.

The Kings have had some issues dealing with zone defenses over the past week. I think the Kings have been getting better at playing through it, but I’d be willing to bet we’ll see a lot of zone out of the Rockets tonight.

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  • As I previously mentioned, the Kings are doing a better job breaking the zone. You can tell they have been working on it. But the Kings are still at the bottom of the league in three-point attempts and three-point percentage, and perimeter shooting is such a huge part of zone breaking that the Rockets would be smart to employ this strategy, especially because they will struggle to defend Cousins one-on-one.

    The Kings have had a hard time getting the ball to Cousins in advantageous positions against the zone. If the Kings don’t shoot well, and Cousins isn’t getting the ball where he likes it, the Kings could be in some trouble.

    Fortunately for the Kings, the Houston Rockets offense is very limited right now. James Harden is one of the most frustrating offensive players to guard, but the job does get a little easier when he doesn’t have any help. Ben McLemore in an improved defensive player this season, but Harden is nearly impossible to guard. It’s going to take a full team effort to keep his offense under control.

    I wouldn’t call the Kings a deep team, but with Omri Casspi and Ramon Sessions, it feels like they are more equipped to deal with their injuries than the Rockets are. Of course, Dwight Howard is irreplaceable in a lot of ways, but the point is, if all of both teams’ questionable players sit this one out, the Kings should be in better shape.

    I’d feel a little better about this one if the Kings had shown any ability to shut down James Harden in the past, but its hard to avoid the obvious paint advantage the Kings will have if Howard doesn’t play. Beyond just interior scoring, the Kings could dominate on the offensive and defensive glass. I think they can do it, provided the back-to-back fatigue doesn’t set in.

    I’ll leave you with this gem from Michael Malone’s post game press conference last night, talking about DeMarcus Cousins overall improvement this season.