Game 41 Preview: Kings vs. Hawks

The nine-game homestand continues for the Sacramento Kings.  With a victory tonight over the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento has an opportunity to match last season’s 11 home wins.

Gametime: 6 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For perspective on the Hawks, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog “Hoopinion“.

Kings Probable Starters (14-26)

Isaiah Thomas Marcus Thornton Tyreke Evans Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

J.J. Hickson remains a likely scratch from tonight’s lineup.  The Kings power forward has missed the last five games with a hip pointer.  Kings Head Coach Keith Smart said after practice yesterday that DeMarcus Cousins is still “catching up with his conditioning” after suffering food poisoning earlier this week.

Hawks Probable Starters (23-17)

Jeff Teague Joe Johnson Marvin Williams Josh Smith Zaza Pachulia

The Hawks own a seven-game win streak over the Kings that dates back to 2008.  The last time Sacramento beat Atlanta was a 119-107 victory at ARCO Arena on February 20, 2008.  The Hawks come to Sacramento without their man-in-the-middle, Al Horford, who tore his left pectoral muscle in January.

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.

Bret LaGree of Hoopinion and Tracy Weissenberg of SLAM join me to preview today’s Kings/Hawks game.

1. Match-up to watch?

Bret LaGree: Jeff Teague vs. Isaiah Thomas. Teague’s irregular playing time the past two seasons gives him a bit of a head start on the rookie Thomas in the battle of 23-year-old point guards.  But both are tasked with figuring out, on the job, how to integrate their quickness and skills into teams that will never be built around them.

Tracy Weissenberg:  Backcourt vs. backcourt. Thomas has provided a spark as a starter and Marcus Thornton has been a consistent scorer. Joe Johnson is back in the lineup for the second game, and he and Teague have the advantage defensively. Also, with the Hawks lacking frontcourt depth, look for Cousins to be aggressive early, especially if any of the Hawks’ bigs get in foul trouble.

Jonathan Santiago:  Tyreke Evans vs. Joe Johnson.  Evans has embraced the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best perimeter and wing players according to coach Smart.  Johnson has battled tendinitis in his left knee, so this should be another defensive assignment Evans relishes.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Bret LaGree: Sacramento’s offensive rebound rate. Typically, the Hawks are a good defensive rebounding team. They rank sixth in the league in defensive rebounding rate, grabbing 74.3 percent of their opponents’ misses. In seven of their last eight losses, they’ve grabbed less than 69 percent of their opponents’ misses, undermining some decent before-the-shot defense.

Tracy Weissenberg:  Rebounding. With Cousins averaging over 11 rebounds, and Evans at small forward, it creates a very versatile lineup for Sacramento. If the Kings crash the boards, it could lead to a flurry of transition baskets, which will provide a lot of momentum, especially at home.

Jonathan Santiago:  Pace.  The Kings are ranked third in this statistical category while the Hawks are ranked 20th.  Sacramento always has a good chance of winning when they dictate the speed and tempo of the game.

3. More likely to make a trade before the deadline: Kings or Hawks? 

Bret LaGree: Hawks. I strongly believe the Hawks will, at the very least, dump enough salary to get below the luxury tax line. A salary dump might be the most they do, as well. Because of the organization’s conservatism, Josh Smith’s 15-percent trade kicker, Joe Johnson’s contract, and Marvin Williams being Marvin Williams, a blockbuster deal seems unlikely.

Tracy Weissenberg:  Kings. Even with all the Josh Smith rumors surrounding the Hawks, I don’t see them making a move by this season’s deadline and I definitely don’t think they could get anything close to equal value in return for Smith. Kings have a lot of legitimate talent to build around, and they would benefit greatly by adding a veteran by the deadline.

Jonathan Santiago: Honestly, I think both these teams wait until the offseason to make any wholesale changes.  But if I have to pick between the two, I’ll go with the Hawks just because of the trade chatter surrounding Josh Smith.

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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.