Kings Probable Starters (6-10)
|Tyreke Evans||Marcus Thornton||Francisco Garcia||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
The Kings feature a different starting frontline this time around. J.J. Hickson and Chuck Hayes started in the Kings’ last meeting against the Grizzlies, while DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench for Sacramento, following a spat with then-head coach Paul Westphal. Jason Thompson served in a reserve role at the time as well.
Updated: John Salmons will not play due to illness. Francisco Garcia will start in his place.
Grizzlies Probable Starters (8-6)
|Mike Conley Jr.||Tony Allen||Rudy Gay||Mareese Speights||Marc Gasol|
The Grizzlies have been hot lately and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. Before their last meeting with the Kings, they had just found out they would be minus All-Star big man Zach Randolph for a substantial period of time. The following day, they traded little used reserve swingman Xavier Henry in a three-team deal with Philadelphia and New Orleans to acquire current starting power forward Mareese Speights.
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?
Chip Crain: Cousins was in the doghouse the last time these two teams met, but has altered his attitude and may finally be matching his maturity with his talent. Averaging a double-double, Marc Gasol is no longer referred to as the “Other Gasol” as he powers the Grizzlies inside. Honorable mention goes to Mike Conley vs Tyreke Evans as the former University of Memphis star (Evans) takes on the current Memphis Grizzlies star.
James Ham: Speights and Gasol vs. Thompson and Cousins. I’m not sure who guards who in this battle. Speights is an aggressive offensive player and Gasol is incredibly versatile. Thompson has played extremely well in his first two starts of the season and Cousins is developing into one of the league’s best big men. It should be a good fight down low.
Jonathan Santiago: I’m going with Gasol vs. Cousins. The Kings big man was clearly out of it the last time these two teams met, registering only four points in 22 minutes off the bench. The key for him is always foul trouble. If he stays relatively out of it, this should be a compelling match-up.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Chip Crain: Rebounds. The Kings have good rebounders with Cousins, Thompson and Hickson but the Grizzlies have Gasol (7-1) and Speights (6’11) who both can grab boards with the best of them. If the Grizzlies can control the glass like they did in the first matchup, it’s difficult to see Sacramento winning. But if the Kings can get the rebounding edge, it will be difficult for the Grizzlies to do what they do best. The Kings defeated San Antonio and Indiana by not getting beaten on the glass.
James Ham: Free throws. The Kings rank second in the league in free throw attempts, but 23rd in free throw percentage. There’s no middle ground as they’re either hot or cold from the line. If the Kings can hit their freebies, it could be the difference in the game.
Jonathan Santiago: Offensive rebounds. The Kings out-rebounded their previous two opponents 43 to 31 on the offensive glass. DeMarcus Cousins, the NBA’s best offensive rebounder, must set the tone in order for the Kings to win this stat.
3. More surprising: the Grizzlies five-game winning streak or the Kings consecutive wins against Indiana and San Antonio?
Chip Crain: I’m a Grizz blogger, but outside of Chicago, the Grizzlies were heavily favored in every game in their streak and the Bulls was missing Derrick Rose. No one saw Sacramento defeating Indiana at home nor San Antonio on the road. The Kings have taken to the change in coaching style and could actually be contenders for the playoffs this year if things continue this way.
James Ham: Any win streak is impressive in this compact NBA schedule. The Kings beating two high quality teams was a huge surprise when you factor in everything they have already gone through this season. The Spurs were 9-0 at home before last night’s loss to the Kings and Indiana came to Sacramento with a 9-3 record on the season.
Jonathan Santiago: The Kings streak. I didn’t think they’d score their first win streak of the season with victories over Indiana and San Antonio. The way they beat the Spurs was very impressive, considering their youth and that they hadn’t won in the Alamo in six years.