The Sacramento Kings square off against a few familiar faces as they try to win their second consecutive road game in Houston.

Gametime: 5 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For perspective on the Rockets, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog “Red 94“.

Kings Probable Starters (4-7)

Tyreke EvansJimmer FredetteJohn SalmonsJ.J. HicksonDeMarcus Cousins

In the absence of Marcus Thornton,  Jimmer Fredette gets the starting nod alongside Tyreke Evans in the Sacramento Kings backcourt.  James Ham has a quick recap of Fredette’s sluggish performance thus far in a post from earlier today.

Rockets Probable Starters (3-7)

Kyle LowryKevin Martin
Chandler ParsonsLuis ScolaSamuel Dalembert

Kyle Lowry is making a strong case for Most Improved Player, averaging 15 points and 9.4 assists over eight contests.  Meanwhile former Kings Kevin Martin and Samuel Dalembert have seen drops in their production.  Martin, who leads the Rockets in scoring, is averaging only 16.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting, while Dalembert is playing five fewer minutes per game (19.4) than last season in Sacramento.

3-on-3 Roundtable

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.

Michael Pina of Red 94 and Justin VerrierESPN.com NBA editor, join me to preview today’s Kings/Rockets game.

1. Match-up to watch?

Michael Pina: If they’re paired up against one another, Kyle Lowry going up against the bigger Tyreke Evans could be an incredibly interesting matchup. When up against scoring point guards, Lowry plays man-to-man defense with a personal side vendetta, and Evans is certainly one to try and embarrass would-be harassment. The winner of this battle could decide the game.

Justin Verrier:  Jimmer Fredette vs. Kevin Martin. They probably won’t guard each other (even though, for comedy’s sake, they really should), but each has reason to pay close attention to the other. Martin is the type of hyper-efficient gunner Fredette should aspire to be, while Fredette has the type of notoriety the perpetually under-the-radar Martin probably deserves. Perhaps we can merge the two into some mighty-morphing basketball player. Then again, the defensive horror show it’d produce is something not even Doc Frankenstein could conjure up.

Jonathan Santiago:  DeMarcus Cousins vs. Samuel Dalembert.  It’ll be interesting to see if Dalembert can keep Cousins off the offensive glass.  With 50 boards so far, the Kings big man is currently ranked second in total offensive rebounds, only behind the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Michael Pina: So far this season neither team is shutting anybody down on the defensive end (they both sit at the league’s bottom five for defensive efficiency). In the end, if DeMarcus Cousins can stay aggressive on the offensive glass and continue to dominate his battles with opposing big men—extending possessions and grabbing between 5-8 of them throughout the contest—the advantage lies with Sacramento, a team that holds the second best offensive rebound rate in the league.

Justin Verrier:  The Kings’ 33.7 free-throws-drawn rate (sixth-best in the NBA). Well, we know they aren’t going to create scoring opportunities through ball movement. But if the Kings can crash their way to the free-throw line against the Rockets, one of the least foul-prone teams in the league, they have a shot.

Jonathan Santiago:  Halftime score.  How about this fun fact?  This season, the Kings are 2-0 when leading at intermission and just 2-6 when trailing.

3. Who’s missed more – Chuck Hayes with Rockets or Samuel Dalembert with the Kings?

Michael Pina: In Sacramento’s case, Dalembert’s departure opens up more minutes and opportunity for an actual offensive talent at the position (although the team is allowing 74.7 percent shooting at their own rim, dead last in the league). With Houston, the loss of Chuck Hayes has yet to be solved. There’s little to no interior defense in the 30 minutes a game where Dalembert is on the bench, and the Rockets are crying for Hayes’ stability right now.

Justin Verrier:  How about Chuck Hayes from the Kings? (Did I just blow your mind?) Although letting Dalembert walk in free agency instead of trading him at the deadline was a perplexing move, the Kings are just as bad on defense as they were with him last season (106.3 defensive efficiency in 2010-11, 105.6 now). With Hayes hobbled, though, Sacramento loses what little hope it had of improving defensively and the lone adult on a roster full of kiddies. Now Cousins and Evans are mostly free to take as many shots and give as many Wet Willies as they want.

Jonathan Santiago:  I think the Rockets’ miss Hayes more-so than the Kings miss Dalembert.  We’ve learned so far that Hayes is very vocal on defense, making sure players are in the right spots on that end of the floor.  I’m not sure that the Rockets have that steadying presence on the defensive end anymore.