The Sacramento Kings begin a six-game road trip with a stop in the Windy City.  Their opponent, the Chicago Bulls, are shorthanded and will be without their starting backcourt.  Derrick Rose will sit out tonight’s game due to lower-back spasms, while Richard Hamilton continues to be sidelined indefinitely with a right-thigh injury.

Gametime: 5:00 pm PST

Broadcast Information: Click here.

For Bulls perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog By The Horns.

Kings Probable Starters (10-17)

Tyreke EvansMarcus ThorntonJohn SalmonsJason ThompsonDeMarcus Cousins

In their last meeting with the Bulls, the Kings had trouble stopping Chicago in transition and were outscored 33-14 in fastbreak points.  At 16.6 opponents fastbreak points per game, the Kings still allow the most transition points in the league this season.

Video: Keith Smart on preparing for Chicago with or without Derrick Rose.

Bulls Probable Starters (23-7)

C.J. Watson

Ronnie Brewer

Luol DengCarlos BoozerJoakim Noah

Chicago is 5-2 in the month of February.  They’ve played the last two games without the 2011 MVP, but C.J. Watson is more than capable of shouldering the load temporarily.  In their only visit to Sacramento this season, Derrick Rose battled foul trouble throughout the game and Watson stepped up admirably.  The Bulls backup point guard came off the bench to score eight points and dish out nine assists in the 10-point victory.

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.

Bryan Crawford of SLAM and Beckley Mason of Hoopspeak join me to preview tonight’s Kings/Bulls match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Bryan Crawford:  I think the key matchup to watch will happen in the post between DeMarcus Cousins and whoever the Bulls have guarding him. He’s been playing very well since Keith Smart took over as head coach. He’s not the team’s best player (yet), but he’s getting there and should be Chicago’s primary focus on defense. Neutralizing his scoring and rebounding will be key.

Beckley Mason:  Cousins vs. Noah. This is a great work-rate test for DeMarcus, who will be going up against one of the most vocal, hardest working players in the NBA. What’s more is Noah has a penchant for getting under his opponent’s skin, so Cousins will need to be firing on all cylinders, mentally and physically, to keep up with the Bulls big man.

Jonathan Santiago:  DeMarcus Cousins vs. Joakim Noah.  In two of the last three games, Cousins has seemed to force the issue against his match-up.  It didn’t fair well against Nikola Pekovic in Minnesota, and though he finished with 26 points and nine boards against Marcin Gortat, the Kings never led in Saturday’s loss to Phoenix.  Cousins can’t let Noah, who never minces words, get in his head on defense.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Bryan Crawford:  Fastbreak points. Sacramento would obviously like to push the tempo and run for easy baskets, but the Bulls will need to control the pace of the game and make Sacramento execute in the half-court in the face of their swarming defense. Taking shots early in the clock, not hitting the offensive glass or getting back on D will ultimately hurt Chicago and play to Sacramento’s advantage.

Beckley Mason:  Rebounds! Without Rose, the Bulls will lack some scoring punch. However they do such a good job of creating turnovers and snagging offensive rebounds that they can in part make up for what they lack by just taking way more shots.

Jonathan Santiago:  Transition points.  The Kings were outscored 33-14 by the Bulls in their last match-up and they currently allow the most fastbreak points in the league.  They’ve improved their transition defense a little since then, but they’re still prone to lapses because they’re young.

3. Which Bull picks up his production in Rose’s absence?

Bryan Crawford:  I expect both Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to pick up the slack in Rose’s absence. Luol is still working his way back from a wrist injury and has been very productive when healthy. Obviously, he’s an All-Star, so I expect him to continue to play at that level while Rose is out. Joakim seems to have gotten his mojo back and is playing with the energy and heart that Bulls fans have come to expect. I see him raising his level of play as well.

Beckley Mason:  Kyle Korver is going to be the focus of the Bulls offense for significant stretches of this game, as he often is when Rose heads to the bench. Like Rose with his penetration, Korver can stretch and distend defenses with his movement, creating opportunities for other Bulls. Whoever is chasing him better stay on his hip.

Jonathan Santiago:  Carlos Boozer.  Since the Kings are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, the Bulls veteran is probably aware he’ll need to step up efforts on the glass.  Boozer came into Chicago’s last meeting with Sacramento averaging only 4.5 boards per game, but finished with 15 total rebounds in a 10-point win.