Game 27 Preview: Kings vs. Suns

Relive the excitement of Thursday’s game (Video by Jason Wise/Kings.com)

After an invigorating home victory on national TV over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sacramento Kings return to action at Power Balance Pavilion tonight.  They face the visiting Phoenix Suns, who are in the midst of transition.  However, Phoenix has been playing well, starting February with four wins in their first six games, thanks in large in part to their maestro, Steve Nash.

Gametime: 7:00 pm PST

Broadcast Information: Click here.

For Suns perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Valley of the Suns.

Kings Probable Starters (10-16)

Tyreke Evans Marcus Thornton John Salmons Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings are defending home court.  On the season, they’re 7-4 and have won three-straight inside Power Balance Pavilion.  Starting Jason Thompson at power forward has paid off the Kings, who are 6-1 with this current starting lineup.  Following Thursday night’s win over OKC, head coach Keith Smart called Tyreke Evans an “unsung hero” and praised the Kings guard for his recent play: “The guy is sacrificing so much of his game to get people involved.”

Suns Probable Starters (11-15)

Steve Nash Jared Dudley Grant Hill Channing Frye Marcin Gortat

Before falling to Houston on Thursday, the Phoenix Suns had won three-straight games.  Led by two-time MVP Steve Nash, the Suns are always still a threat offensively.  However, their bench has become suspect and they’re also a poor rebounding team.  Ranked 25th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage, Phoenix may have trouble keeping the Kings off the offensive glass.

Audio: Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry on what concerns him most about tonight’s match-up with the Kings.

 

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.

Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns and Wil Cantrell of SB Nation’s Bright Side Of The Sun join me to preview tonight’s Kings/Suns match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Michael Schwartz: Steve Nash vs. Tyreke Evans. Nash torched the Kings for 20.8 ppg and 14.5 apg last season, yet he’s no match for the explosive Evans at the other end and can’t really defend any other Sacto starter. Expect lots of fireworks from the point guard spot.

Wil Cantrell:  The Suns front line versus the Kings front line. Rebounding is the name of the game for the Phoenix Suns. Seven of their 11 wins have come when they have out-rebounded an opponent. DeMarcus Couins averages 11 rebounds a game and Marcin Gortat leads the Suns with 10.5 per game. These two men are going to be mixing it up down low all night. But the Suns will have to depend on everyone to contribute on the boards. Hopefully, Robin Lopez can come off the bench and help the second unit. Expect to see more Markieff Morris than in past games. The rookie is third on the Suns in rebounding.

Jonathan Santiago:  The Kings bench vs. Suns bench.  Sacramento’s reserves have increased their production in recent games.  In the last three contests, they’ve averaged 30.7 points and outscored opposing benches by an average of eight points per game.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Michael Schwartz: In Suns games this year the team leading at halftime has been a pretty safe bet to win the game. Phoenix is 9-1 when ahead at the break but just 2-14 when behind, so the team that gets ahead early has a great shot at earning the victory.

Wil Cantrell:  REBOUNDING. See above for the explanation.

Jonathan Santiago:  Rebounding.  The Kings may not be great on the defensive glass, but they sure are dominant on the offensive boards.  They rank third in offensive-rebounding percentage thanks in large part to DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson.  I fully expect the Kings to dominate the boards against the Suns tonight, who are poor at crashing the glass.

3. Biggest concern for the Suns tonight: bench production or rebounding?

Michael Schwartz: Definitely rebounding. The Kings decimated the Suns on the boards by an astounding 60-32 margin in one game last season and Phoenix is only marginally better on the glass this year. Alvin Gentry often laments second-chance points being the difference in Suns losses, so they must keep the Kings in check on the backboards to win this game.

Wil Cantrell:  Both are huge concerns for the Suns. When Steve Nash leaves the game, the Suns are obviously not as good with Sebastian Telfair running the point. The Suns rank 25th in the league in second quarter scoring and failed to score 20 points in the second period three times in the past week. The Suns are 9-2 when leading at the end of the second.

But when the Suns lose the rebounding war, the odds are they will not win. To answer the question, rebounding will be the biggest concern against the number one offensive rebounding team in the league.

Jonathan Santiago:  I asked Suns head coach Alvin Gentry what concerned him most about the Kings at shootaround today.  And if you didn’t listen to the audio we included above, here’s what he said: rebounding.  He knows that the Kings are a great offensive rebounding team and admitted that crashing the boards has been a problem area for Phoenix all season long.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.