Game 31 Preview: Kings at Cavs

Riding their second-longest losing streak of the season, the Sacramento Kings visit Ohio for a match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Today’s game is the first and only meeting between the two clubs this season.

Gametime: 3:00 pm PT

Broadcast Information: Click here.

For Cavaliers  perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Cavs: The Blog.

Kings Probable Starters (10-20)

Isaiah Thomas Marcus Thornton Tyreke Evans Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

For the first time this year, the Kings are 10 games under .500.  They’ve yet to win a game on this six-game road trip.  Head Coach Keith Smart benched forward John Salmons in favor of Isaiah Thomas before Friday’s game against Detroit.  Thomas is the team’s only natural point guard and his presence in the lineup made a difference offensively.  With Thomas playing heavy minutes, the Kings accumulated 24 assists in the game’s first three quarters.

Cavs Probable Starters (11-17)

Kyrie Irving Alonzo Gee Omri Casspi Antawn Jamison Semih Erden

The Cavs are paced by rookie Kyrie Irving, a leading candidate for top rookie honors this season.  At 18.2 points per game, he leads all rookies in scoring.  Only Ricky Rubio averages more assists per game as a first-year player than Irving, who averages five per contest.  Former King Omri Casspi is Cleveland’s starting small forward, but plays only 22.8 minutes per game.  The Cavs are currently in the sixth game of a nine-game home stand – their longest in franchise history.

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.

Colin McGowan of Cavs: The Blog and James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom join me to preview today’s Kings/Cavs match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Colin McGowan:  Tyreke Evans vs. Kyrie Irving. They’re going to post a lot of points on one another. Irving has had trouble keeping athletically-gifted point guards out of the paint, and Evans will likely struggle to contain Irving’s quickness. If both players are on their game, it could be a race to 30.

James Ham:  Antawn Jamison vs. Jason Thompson.  The 35-year old Jamison is fighting father time and playing well for the Cavs.  Jason Thompson has improved at every facet of the game and has a clear size and strength advantage over the Jamison.  If Thompson can limit Jamison on the offensive end and the Kings three-guard set feed the post, the Kings stand a strong chance of snapping their four-game losing streak.

Jonathan Santiago:  Isaiah Thomas vs. Kyrie Irving.  Both players a true point guards and when in the game, set the tone offensively for their respective teams.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Colin McGowan:  As is a young team’s wont, the Cavaliers have had a number of games this year when they turned the ball over 20-plus times. The King are 11th in the league at forcing turnovers; if they can steal enough possessions from the Cavs, they’ll come out on top.

James Ham:  Points in the paint.  The Kings have huge match-up advantages in the post.  If they can get out and run and then feed the post in the half court, they increase their chances to beat the Cavs.  If the Kings insist on taking long range jumpers and dribbling out the clock on the perimeter, their losing streak extends five games today.

Jonathan Santiago:  Fastbreak points.  The Cavs allow only 9.3 transition points per game – the lowest in the league this season.  The Kings set a season-high in fastbreak points with 25 against Detroit.  If the Kings get out on the open floor, they have a great shot at winning this game.

3. Better long-term prospects: J.J. Hickson in Sacramento or Omri Casspi in Cleveland?

Colin McGowan:  Both players have performed below expectations. Alleged sharpshooter Omri Casspi is at 31% from behind the arc, and J.J. Hickson’s TS% is 43. Neither player is useful on the defensive end due to a lack of athleticism and effort, respectively. I think I would take Hickson if only because he has room for improvement; Casspi is more or less the same player he’s going to be at 27.

James Ham:  Casspi, for sure.  While neither has excelled with his new team, I will be surprised if Hickson is still a King after the trade deadline.  Hickson has seen his minutes fade steadily under coach Smart, including losing his second-half playing time to Travis Outlaw Friday against the Pistons.  The Kings gave up both Casspi and a first rounder for Hickson.  The Cavs could probably have him back for the pick at this point.

Jonathan Santiago:  Neither.  J.J. Hickson could be the odd-man out considering the Kings’ big man situation.  Jason Thompson has played probably his best basketball this season, Chuck Hayes is signed to a long-term deal and DeMarcus Cousins, well you know, is DeMarcus Cousins.  As for Casspi, seems like the Cavs are using him as a spot-up shooter.  That was a role the third-year forward didn’t relish very much last season in Sacramento.

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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.