Winners of their last three contests, the Sacramento Kings wrap up a franchise-record nine-game homestand against the Utah Jazz.
Gametime: 7 pm PST
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For Jazz perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Salt City Hoops.
Kings Probable Starters (17-29)
|Isaiah Thomas||Marcus Thornton||John Salmons||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
John Salmons remains listed as the Kings’ probable starter at small forward. Will Tyreke Evans start? Head Coach Keith Smart said after practice yesterday he’s leaving that decision up to the 2009 Rookie of the Year. Evans returned Tuesday night from injury, but opted to come off in the bench in an effort to keep Salmons’ confidence high.
Jazz Probable Starters (24-22)
|Devin Harris||Gordon Hayward||C.J. Miles||Paul Millsap||Al Jefferson|
The Jazz have righted their ship following their last visit to Sacramento. After losing to the Kings to open-up the second half of the season, Utah has gone 9-4 and won their last four games. Paul Millsap has been a catalyst for the Jazz’s success, especially in their last game against Oklahoma City. He scored 20 points and played solid defense against Kevin Durant down the stretch.
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?
Spencer Ryan Hall: I’m always terrified about the ‘One-legged Tyreke Evans vs Any Point Guard the Jazz Roll Out,’ but with Marcus Thornton on a tear and CJ Miles coming off the two best defensive performances of his career against Kobe and against OKC, I’m curious to see if Miles can finally keep the Sacramento guards from getting in the lane at will.
Jeff Lind: I’ve said the same thing three times this year: Cousins vs. Utah’s young bigs. The Jazz have been on a tear of late, and a lot of that credit goes to the pounding low post presence of Kanter & Favors. They are hungry, excited, & coming off an impressive win vs. the West’s best, Thunder. Expect a battle.
Jonathan Santiago: Paul Millsap vs. Jason Thompson. JT has been Kings’ x-factor in their three game win streak, recording double-doubles in each victory. Though Millsap has played well lately, he’s had his struggles against the Kings’ this year. The Jazz power forward is averaging only five points and eight rebounds in two games against Sacramento.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Spencer Ryan Hall: Whichever team scores the most points is always the most important stat, but this game is going to be all about points in the paint. The Jazz have to keep the million quick King guards from getting in the lane and need to dominate the paint with their big men on the other end of the court.
Jeff Lind: Points in the paint. In their last game, the Jazz scored 50 of their 97 points in the paint (at 51.5%). The Jazz don’t have many great shooting threats from the outside, so if the Kings can limit their points down low, they have a shot of shutting Utah down.
Jonathan Santiago: Assists. The Kings have recorded at least 20 or more assists in their last four contests. Even when they faced questionable calls in Tuesday night’s win over Memphis, Sacramento didn’t deter them from running their offense. If the Kings regress back to “hero mode”, the Jazz will likely win this game.
3. Would the Jazz benefit more from making or missing the playoffs?
Spencer Ryan Hall: Winning the lottery is always nice, but I like that the Jazz are making a push to make the playoffs. I hate tanking in any form and the Jazz risk losing their playoff culture if they miss for the second straight year. It’s also a fallacy to consider Utah’s current position as that horrible middle ground of mediocrity. An exciting playoff push this season will be the key to preventing fan apathy–which would be the death knell of the team in Utah.
Jeff Lind: Making the playoffs. The Jazz have shown that they should be taken seriously by any opponent, and getting into the playoffs would help renew and foster a long time tradition of hard nosed, underdog, tough as nails Utah basketball. It’s that attitude that will carry them to the post-season, which will help wet the trajectory of success that this young team needs.
Jonathan Santiago: Making the playoffs would be good for the Jazz. Come this offseason, they’ll have plenty of attractive assets to shop and will have at least one early-first round pick, depending on what happens with the Golden State Warriors. Unlike other middle-of-the-road teams, they’re not that far from becoming a perennial playoff team again and would be better off contending than tanking.