Game 30 Preview: Kings at Pistons

Editor’s note: DeMarcus Cousins was originally ruled out of tonight’s game because of back spasms. He will now play reports Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. This preview was written before that news broke.

In the third game of their longest road trip of the season, the Sacramento Kings will be without their young franchise center when they take on the Detroit Pistons.

Gametime: 4:30 pm PT

Broadcast Information: Click here.

For Pistons perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Piston Powered.

Kings Probable Starters (10-19)

Tyreke Evans Marcus Thornton John Salmons Jason Thompson Chuck Hayes

Since winning four of five, capped off by an emotional national TV win over Oklahoma City, the Kings have dropped three consecutive contests.  They couldn’t stop the Lin-sanity Tuesday night as the New York Knicks point guard ran circles and killed the Kings with 13 assists.  As reported by Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, the Kings will be without DeMarcus Cousins due to injury for the first time this season.  Head Coach Keith Smart has not revealed who will start in his place.  However, with the Pistons starting undersized power forward Jason Maxiell, don’t be surprised if Chuck Hayes gets the nod in the front court with Jason Thompson.

Pistons Probable Starters (9-22)

Brandon Knight Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Jason Maxiell Greg Monroe

The Pistons have been playing better basketball lately.  After losing a season-high seven consecutive games, the Pistons went on a four-game win-streak.  They proceeded to lose two straight to Washington and San Antonio, but come into tonight’s game fresh off a victory over the Boston Celtics.  They are paced by second-year big man Greg Monroe, who has grown leaps and bounds offensively this season.  At nearly 17 points per game, the Pistons center is Detroit’s leading scorer.

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.

Dan Feldman and Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered join me to preview tonight’s Kings/Pistons match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Dan Feldman:  Greg Monroe vs. whoever replaces DeMarcus Cousins in the lineup. It’s no secret the Pistons wanted to draft Cousins and explored trading up to get him. They ended up staying at No. 7 and drafting Monroe. Since then, Monroe has played better than Cousins, but Cousins has a higher upside. The second-guessing for both sides that this game evokes is juicy — whether or not Cousins plays.

Patrick Hayes:  Tyreke Evans vs. Brandon Knight. Knight has had his struggles defensively against dynamic guards. The Pistons have the option of shifting Rodney Stuckey onto Evans, but that potentially creates another mismatch as Knight isn’t strong enough to consistently handle bigger shooting guards. If Knight is competitive defensively, that takes some burden off of Stuckey, who plays much better when he doesn’t have to take the toughest defensive assignment.

Jonathan Santiago:  Tyreke Evans vs. the Pistons interior defense.  Teams know that the best way to stop Evans is by crowding the paint and daring the Kings guard to shoot jumpers.  Can Evans find his stroke tonight to keep the Pistons defense honest?

2. Stat that decides the game…

Dan Feldman:  Sacramento’s effective field-goal percentage. The Kings shoot poorly, and the Pistons defend shots poorly. Something will have to give. Brandon Knight’s defense of Tyreke Evans will go a long way in determining which side gives.

Patrick Hayes:  Assists for Detroit. The Pistons are 7-5 when they get 19 or more assists in a game. That’s not great shakes, but it beats the 2-17 record when they get below that mark. The Pistons often struggle to share the ball, don’t run the offense through their best passer, Greg Monroe, enough and they turn it over too much. They are 4-13 when they turn it over more than 15 times.

Jonathan Santiago:  Kings bench production.  Without DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings need their bench to step up tonight.  J.J. Hickson, Chuck Hayes must pick up the rebounding load while Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette must set the tone offensively.  Because of their physical attributes and versatile skill sets, Donté Greene and Travis Outlaw need to provide both scoring and rebounding in Cousins’ absence.

3. More surprising sophomore success: Greg Monroe or DeMarcus Cousins?

Dan Feldman:  Neither player’s improvement surprises me much, but I’ll take Monroe just because he went later in the draft. They’ve both upgraded their games since last season, and I see no reason why they won’t continue to improve. Cousins and Monroe could be stars, and that should no longer surprise anyone.

Patrick Hayes:  Monroe’s. Cousins’ issues have never been about talent. He has as much upside as any big man in the league, and it’s great to see him putting things together. Monroe, although projected as a solid player, is one of the best big men in the league offensively this season. I don’t think anyone expected his offense to develop this quickly.

Jonathan Santiago:  Greg Monroe.  The guy has such a refined offensive game, particularly in the post.  He establishes position early, eliminating any need to dribble-drive for lay-ups.  Along with Cousins, Monroe looks like he’s on his way to becoming one of the best big men in the NBA.

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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.