The Western Conference’s worst teams duke it out tonight at Power Balance Pavilion. The Sacramento Kings try to break a four-game losing skid, while the New Orleans Hornets attempt to avoid a third-consecutive loss.
Kings Probable Starters (12-26)
|Isaiah Thomas||Marcus Thornton||Tyreke Evans||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
Forward J.J. Hickson will not play tonight. However, he is coming along since suffering a nasty fall against the Los Angeles Clippers last Thursday.
“He’s doing much better,” Kings head coach Keith Smart said following shootaround today. “He was on the crutches at first. Then (he was) walking gingerly. And now, he’s able to do some work on the elliptical and bike and things like that, so he’s coming along.”
Hornets Probable Starters (9-29)
|Jarrett Jack||Marco Belinelli||Trevor Ariza||Solomon Jones||Chris Kaman|
Starting power forward Gustavo Ayon will not play tonight because of a sore left foot. According to John Reid of the Times Picayune, Hornets head coach Monty Williams said reserve Solomon Jones will likely start in Ayon’s place. The Hornets have been ravaged by the injury bug this year. Big men Carl Landry and Jason Smith are questionable and Emeka Okafor will miss tonight’s game due to injury. Guard Eric Gordon is out indefinitely because of a knee contusion.
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?
Joe Gerrity: Even though he’s been gone nearly a year, Marcus Thornton remains a favorite in New Orleans. Buckets versus whoever the Hornets throw at him is where most Creole Blue eyes will be focused.
Mason Ginsberg: DeMarcus Cousins vs. the Hornets’ frontcourt. He didn’t play in the two teams’ first meeting, but he had a monster performance in the February game in New Orleans, finishing with 28 points and 19 rebounds. Ayon did a good job against Dirk last Friday, but will miss tonight’s game with a sore left foot, so the Hornets may find it especially difficult to slow Cousins tonight.
Jonathan Santiago: Marcus Thornton vs. Marco Belinelli. Thornton will be looking to bounce-back from Monday night’s loss in Denver, where he committed a foul that ultimately cost the Kings a win. Against his former team, you can’t help but expect a stand-out performance from the Kings guard.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Joe Gerrity: Three point shooting. The Hornets need someone to be on their game from beyond the arc if they want to keep opposing defenses honest, and since their own defense tends to give up lots of looks from behind the arc, they live and die by the three on occasion. I can see this being one of those nights.
Mason Ginsberg: The simplest answer is second half scoring margin (the Kings lead 119-80 over the first two games), but I’ll go with points off turnovers. In their first two meetings, the Kings outscored the Hornets 45-27 off of turnovers. If New Orleans takes care of the ball and doesn’t allow fast break chances for Sacramento, they should be able to win.
Jonathan Santiago: Shot attempts. The Hornets are a staggering 0-24 when they’re outshot by their opponent. If the Kings play fast and generate more possessions, they should be able to win this stat and this game.
3. Which of these two teams is closer to relevance: the Kings or the Hornets?
Joe Gerrity: I really do want to say Hornets, but with DeMarcus Cousins on board, it has to be the Kings. Not saying they’re going to get there, but physical talents like Cousins don’t come around every day. Headcases, however, are a dime a dozen. If he can put it together, the Kings could put it together sooner than most people think.
Mason Ginsberg: Unfortunately for us, the answer is the Kings, and it’s not terribly close. Even if you think the best player on either team is Gordon, Cousins already doesn’t look that far behind, and there is much more young talent surrounding DeMarcus (Tyreke, Thornton, Jimmer, and now Thomas) than Eric (uhhh, Ayon?).
Jonathan Santiago: The Kings, although don’t overlook the Hornets. They’ve got a great young coach and a smart general manager running the show. Re-signing Eric Gordon and selecting well in this year’s draft could lead them back to NBA relevance.