Game 34 Preview: Kings vs. Jazz
After a frenetic first half, the Sacramento Kings return to action following All-Star break. A fresh start for the Kings begins tonight against the Utah Jazz at Power Balance Pavilion.
Gametime: 7:00 pm PT
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For Jazz perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Salt City Hoops.
Kings Probable Starters (11-22)
|Isaiah Thomas||Marcus Thornton||Tyreke Evans||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
A more generous schedule lies ahead for the Kings. In the first half of this year’s lockout-shortened season, the Kings played 21 of their 33 games on the road. Beginning today, the Kings play 21 of their final 33 games at home. And how about this little schedule nugget? The Kings play only one more road game in the eastern time zone this season – April 22 in Charlotte.
Jazz Probable Starters (15-17)
||Gordon Hayward||Josh Howard||Paul Millsap||Al Jefferson|
After beginning the season 9-4, the Jazz have gone 6-13, including three-straight losses before All-Star Break. In their last meeting with the Kings, the Jazz narrowly escaped defeat after Jimmer Fredette airballed a three-point attempt in the game’s final seconds.
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: Definitely Boogie Cousins vs. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Even the most volatile Jazz opponents seem to have great games against the Jazz. Cousins is super-talented, but I kind of enjoy watching him deal with his emotions all game long. He didn’t have a great game in the first meeting between these teams, so it will be interesting to see how he responds. Millsap has struggled lately, after a great start to the season. He’s due for a breakout game. Hopefully the long break gave him some time to heal nagging injuries.
Jeff Lind: The bigs. Always watch the bigs. The Jazz are dealing with internal conflict – whether to develop the young guys (Favors/Kanter), or play the vets (Millsap/Jefferson). Either way, the Jazz players will have their hands full with the King’s front court.
Jonathan Santiago: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Al Jefferson. Both big men are crafty and talented players on the offensive end. As always, avoiding ticky-tack fouls will be crucial for Cousins to see extended time on the floor.
2. Stat that decides the game
Spencer Ryan Hall: Most points scored, but Tyreke Evans’ stat line will probably be the difference between winning and losing for the Kings. Last time around, Tyreke wreaked havoc on the Jazz and nearly handed Utah a loss at home. If the Jazz can’t keep him out of the lane, the Kings probably get this victory.
Jeff Lind: Offensive rebounds. With all these bigs clogging up the middle, rebounds and second-chance points are going to be the deciding factor. Especially if Jimmer remains locked to his spot on the bench.
Jonathan Santiago: Bench points. Since the promotion of Isaiah Thomas, one of the big questions for the Kings is who will provide the spark off the bench? John Salmons could be that guy if he somehow finds his offense. And ditto goes for Jimmer Fredette. Take four of the last five games as a sample – the Kings rookie has become less gun-shy, attempting 10 three pointers in 61 minutes.
3. Of these two teams, which player is primed for a breakout second-half of the season?
Spencer Ryan Hall: Things can’t get much worse for Jimmer, so I expect him to have at least one true “Jimmer” game before the season ends. For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward is leading the team in minutes and usually gets the toughest defensive assignment. I’m curious to see if he gets some confidence from the good things said about him over All-Star weekend.
Jeff Lind: Enes Kanter. The Jazz will ultimately let the young guys play, and when they get meaningful minutes, Kanter will emerge as the beast that he is. A lot of fans forget that this is basically a throwaway year for Utah (they were projected to be among the league’s worst), so it will be used as a sifting of the keepers and the trade-bait players. Kanter is a keeper.
Jonathan Santiago: Isaiah Thomas. He’s technically already broken out, but Thomas will always have skeptics because of his diminutive stature. I’m sold that he’ll continue to play well and perhaps more national media take note.