Game Preview: Sacramento Kings (7-15) Host The Utah Jazz (9-9)


To say the Sacramento Kings (7-15) have had a rough start to the 2015-2016 season would be an understatement. There are plenty of reasonable justified excuses one could make for this team. But that laundry list of issues means nothing to any other team attempting to make the playoffs out West.

The Utah Jazz (9-9) are one of those teams with playoff aspirations, and they are the visitors at Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday night. The Jazz have only played .500 ball so far this season, but have a good sample of solid wins and consistent play. They are scrappy, gritty, and beat other teams by forcing them to slow down and play a slower pace than the average. If the Kings are going to have any chance at the playoffs this season, they are going to have to start beating teams like the Jazz.

The Kings are going to need more out of DeMarcus Cousins too, in what could be considered one of Cousins’ worst droughts within the last few years. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN noted, Cousins shot 25% from the field and averaged only 14 points during the Kings 3 game road trip, in which they went 0-3.

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If there is any silver lining to the Kings road trip, it’s that there was improvement game-to-game. The Kings began with a disgusting loss to the Boston Celtics, in which they trailed by double figures for most of the game. But the games did improve, with the Kings hanging close in Houston and then nearly winning the game in Oklahoma City.

While an 0-3 road trip is nowhere near the type of improvement that many fans would like to see, it is important that the Kings remember these games instead of trying to get past them. Against the Jazz, the Kings are not going to be able to put out a performance like they did against the Celtics. They’ll need to be focused, and improve upon the mistakes that they have made numerous times so far this season. But as long as they learn from these losses, there will be more wins in store.

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The Kings may not have much fortune tilting in their favor, but the ever-persistent Jazz have had quite a few setbacks themselves. More recently, Utah’s center Rudy Gobert became sidelined indefinitely with an MCL sprain. Ever since Gobert came into the Jazz’s starting lineup last season, the team’s defense has been one of the best in the league. Not having Gobert is a huge obstacle for the Jazz when facing DeMarcus Cousins, even if Boogie is in a slump.

The keys to Tuesday night’s game are simple: play defense, play with energy, and get DeMarcus going. The Kings are starting a three game home stand, and a good strong win against a tough team like the Jazz could be just the medicine the team needs to regain its confidence.

Alternatively, a loss on Tuesday could be dire. The players have been surprisingly positive throughout all the losing, but extending the losing streak at home against a team that wants one of the coveted playoffs spots out West could really hurt the egos and confidence of the players. Locker room tensions could begin to snowball.

Here’s to hoping this matchup against the Jazz will be the Kings springboard, rather than their pitfall.