The Sacramento Kings begin a five-game road trip against a familiar face in Spencer Hawes and his Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia 76ers. Can the Kings win their first road game of the season tonight at the Wells Fargo Center?
Kings Probable Starters (3-6)
|Tyreke Evans||Marcus Thornton||John Salmons||J.J. Hickson||DeMarcus Cousins|
In the last two games, Tyreke Evans has looked more like the Tyreke Evans fans came to love his rookie season. He averaged 27 points per contest, while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 89.5 percent from the charity stripe. His rebounding and assists were also up against the Magic and Bucks, averaging 6.5 per game in both categories.
Sixers Probable Starters (6-2)
|Jrue Holiday||Jodie Meeks||Andre Iguodala||Elton Brand||Spencer Hawes|
The Sixers are currently one of the best defensive units in the league. They rank first in point differential, beating the opponents by an average of 14.7 points per game. Philadelphia is also tops in defensive rating at 92.4 (the league average is currently 102.5 points allowed per 100 possessions).
You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.
1. Match-up to watch?
Michael Levin: I’m gonna choose two: Hawes/Cousins and Meeks/Thornton. Both Sixers are subpar defenders and if they get worked, Sacramento could pull an upset. Collins should go to Turner for his defense on Thornton instead of Jodie. Last week, Eric Gordon dominated Meeks but when Andre and Evan covered him, he did nothing.
Danny Chau: The Jrue Holiday/Tyreke Evans match-up looks awfully intriguing, especially with Evans playing as well as he has over the last two games. But honestly, what I really want is to see a gunslinging exhibition between Jimmer Fredette and Lou Williams. Make it happen!
Jonathan Santiago: The Hawes/Cousins match-up sure is compelling, but I’m going with the Salmons/Iguodala battle. So far, Salmons has not proven to be the steadying presence at small forward the Kings had hoped he’d be. He could get himself back on track tonight against Iguodala, who until last evening was averaging just 8.3 points and 23.1 percent shooting over the Sixers previous three games.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Michael Levin: Gotta go with the Kings’ field goal percentage. The Sixers lead the league in opponent field goal percentage at 39.1 percent. The defense has been stellar but opposing teams are just missing a ton of shots as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Sixers respond when shots are going in. Maybe not tonight though, as the Kings have the second lowest field goal percentage in basketball.
Danny Chau: What do all three Kings victories (and their only single-digit loss) have in common? All four games ended with 16 Kings assists. Against a tireless Sixers defense, they’ll need to create easy opportunities with spacing and ball movement. Sixteen isn’t all that impressive of a number, but it can be an indication of how well the offense is running.
Jonathan Santiago: Bench points. The Sacramento Kings will need to contain the Sixers’ reserves, as they currently rank third overall in the league, averaging 44-bench points per game.
3. Fact or Fiction: Spencer Hawes is the catalyst behind the Sixers’ hot start.
Michael Levin: Amazingly enough, fact. Spencer was not as bad as people claimed last season. You’ll remember the upside he had coming out of Washington and it looks like he’s realizing it. Especially as a passer, he’s initiating the offense and hitting an absurd percentage of jumpers. Not sure this is for real, but it’s been damn impressive so far.
Danny Chau: Fiction. Doug Collins deserves all the credit in the world for the defensive pride he’s instilled in this team, but still, Hawes is playing some of the most impressive (and consistent) basketball of his career. He may not be the catalyst, but he hasn’t looked too out of place in one of the top defenses in the NBA.
Jonathan Santiago: Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, Hawes has been fantastic. Just looking at his statistics (especially assists, averaging close to three a contest), he looks like he’s finally realizing the potential the Kings saw in him in 2007. But I think the Sixers’ early success has more to do with the excellent team defense they’ve played so far this season.