The Sacramento Kings return to the capital region after a 1-2 road trip. Their opponents tonight? The streaking Denver Nuggets, who’ve won four in a row, all victories coming away from the Mile High City.
Kings Probable Starters (6-12)
|Tyreke Evans||John Salmons||Donté Greene||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
Kings head coach Keith Smart said after shoot-around today that veteran power forward Chuck Hayes will not return to action tonight.
“He had just an extended little practice yesterday but everything was fine,” Smart said. “He woke up this morning, no pain and things like that.
Hayes has missed the last 10 games after dislocating his left shoulder against the Milwaukee Bucks almost three weeks ago.
“It’s totally in his hand and our team physician’s to see when he’s ready,” Smart added. ”When he’s ready and they say he’s been released to me, then we’ll have him on the floor.”
After shoot-around availability, the Kings announced that guard Marcus Thornton will also not play tonight. He’s expected to miss at least one to two weeks because of a nagging left-thigh injury he originally suffered January 8th against the Orlando Magic.
Nuggets Probable Starters (12-5)
|Ty Lawson||Arron Afflalo||Danilo Galinari||Nene||Timofey Mozgov|
Currently second place in the Western Conference, the Nuggets are one of the best teams in the NBA. And tonight they wrap up a five-game road trip before heading back to the Mile High City for a two-game home stand. In their last meeting, Denver blew out the Kings in Paul Westphal’s last game as head coach. In other Nuggets news, they agreed to a contract extension with starting small forward Danilo Galinari.
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?
Kalen Deremo: Small forward, specifically the way Sacramento attempts to guard Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington. Both have higher PER ratings than any one player on the Kings roster and both are coming off 25-point outbursts against the New York Knicks.
Anthony Bain: Cousins vs Nene. Boogie got down against the Nuggets on Jan. 4th to the tune of 26 points, three blocks and three steals. But wait, there’s more! He grabbed just three boards before fouling out. In order to contain the power and grace of Nene, Cousins will need to bounce him out of the lane on both sides of the floor.
Jonathan Santiago: The battle between the backcourts. No Thornton tonight for the Kings, but that still doesn’t change the contrasting styles of both backcourts. The Nuggets have playmaking point guards while the Kings have playmaking scorers.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Kalen Deremo: As simple as it sounds, points. The Kings are allowing the most points per game while the Nuggets are averaging the most points per game. If the Kings can’t figure out some way to get stops, they’ll be in trouble.
Anthony Bain: Assists (see: here). The average Nugget is like an Italian grandma who makes sure everyone is fed. The average King, currently, is more of the Will Ferrell variety, yelling for his mother to bring him meatloaf. OK, that’s unfair. But the Nuggets distribution powers are transcendent. And as two teams with no clear go-to guy, Sacramento better share the ball if they don’t want to get served.
Jonathan Santiago: Points in the paint. The Nuggets scored 62 points in the paint in Saturday’s win over the Knicks. I’m willing to bet at least a quarter of those points came on fast break opportunities. If they don’t want to get blown out like last time, the Kings will have to play good transition defense against this uptempo Nuggets team.
3. The last time the Kings played a team coming off three days rest, they won. So will the layoff help or hurt the Nuggets tonight?
Kalen Deremo: A little of both. The Nuggets desperately needed rest after playing four games in five nights, but a long layoff for such a smoking-hot team is never good (see: Packers, Green Bay). Quite honestly, this has the makings of a “trap game.”
Anthony Bain: Help. With the impetus of history on its shoulders, Denver is looking to cap a five-game road trip without a loss: A franchise record. And it’s not as if the last four W’s were easy; 23 points (including two overtimes) are all that separated the Nugs from some pretty mediocre teams. Look for Denver to come out with fresh legs and a motivated perspective.
Jonathan Santiago: Help. The Pacers, who had three days rest before the Kings beat them last week, are a much different squad than the Nuggets. Denver is a running team and getting some rest can only help their cause tonight – especially since this is the final contest of a five-game road trip.