Tonight’s contest is the second game of the Sacramento Kings’ lone back-to-back-to-back set this season. And they’ve got quite a task on their hands in the Mile High City, facing an uptempo Denver Nuggets team.
Kings Probable Starters (2-4)
|Tyreke Evans||Marcus Thornton||John Salmons||Chuck Hayes||J.J. Hickson|
It’s unlikely DeMarcus Cousins regains his starting spot at center, so expect J.J. Hickson to start yet again in the second-year big man’s place.
Nuggets Probable Starters (4-2)
||Kosta Koufos||Timofey Mozgov|
Nene suffered a bruised left foot that kept him out of the Nuggets’ 91-86 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s considered day-to-day and perhaps is a gametime decision. If he can’t go, expect Kosta Koufos, who started in Nene’s place on Monday, to once again get the nod.
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?
Kalen Deremo: Marcus Thornton vs. Arron Afflalo. While Thornton has been one of the hottest players out of the gate, Afflalo has struggled to net consistent playing time. The Nuggets will need to hold Thornton in check and Afflalo is likely the only member of the Nuggets who can accomplish this feat.
Zach Harper: The Denver backcourt vs the Kings backcourt. It’s really a tale of two current basketball schools of thought. Lawson and Afflalo are a sabermetrics dream backcourt. They’re good, underground and capable of suffocating you with efficiency. Reke and Thornton are volume guys, who may not have the most direct way of getting the job done. One way isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s just a fun juxtaposition of two different styles.
Jonathan Santiago: Ty Lawson vs. Tyreke Evans. Speed can kill in this league and because the Nuggets like to run the floor, it’s crucial that Evans be careful gambling on defense tonight.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Kalen Deremo: Naturally, points. Sacramento is the penultimate team in the league when it comes to opponents’ points per game, while the Nuggets currently rank third in offensive points per game. If the Kings can’t do something to stop the Nuggets from scoring, it will be game over.
Zach Harper: Transition points. Denver likes to come at you in waves of crashing the boards and busting outlet passes that make your head spin. With Lawson’s speed and their bevy of spot-up shooters, they can surgically massacre your transition D like an evil doctor in a small town horror flick. If the Kings can slow down the attack and make Denver execute in the halfcourt, they have a great chance of taking tonight’s game.
Jonathan Santiago: Fastbreak points. The Nuggets have established early on that they like to push the tempo, currently leading the league in pace at 98.8 – six points higher than the league average. Transition defense has proved to be an issue for the Kings so far in this lockout shortened season.
3. The Nuggets are coming off their first back-to-back-to-back of the season (at the Lakers last Saturday, home against the Lakers Sunday and home against the Bucks on Monday). Meanwhile, the Kings are currently on their first and only back-to-back-to-back this year (at the Grizzlies yesterday, at the Nuggets today and home against the Bucks on Thursday). Who’s had the more challenging three-games-in-three-nights set?
Kalen Deremo: I’d have to say the Kings. I know the Nuggets played the Lakers twice, but L.A. has struggled to open up the season. Plus, the Grizzlies and Nuggets are both playoff contenders who are excellent at home and anytime you can play two home games in the NBA, it’s always better than two away, no matter who it is against.
Zach Harper: Definitely the Kings. Having to go on the road for two of your three games in a row is just such a tough adjustment and instant turnaround from one night to the next. Denver at least got to be in their own beds for two of their three games. Even if they had to face the Lakers twice, it’s much easier than packing your bags and checking into hotels at all hours of the night. Also, they didn’t have to deal with a moody Nene wanting to be traded during their back-to-back-to-back.
Jonathan Santiago: On one hand, you have a team that’s playing two games of its back-to-back-to-back on the road, which includes a stop in a city where altitude plays a factor. On the other, you have another team that’s played two games of its back-to-back-to-back on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, where there may have been some temptation to celebrate. With that said, I have to go with the Kings because they have that Cousins/Westphal drama clouding over them.