A two-day respite couldn’t have come at a better time for the Sacramento Kings, who take on a revamped Utah Jazz team this evening. With tonight being rookie Jimmer Fredette’s first professional game back in the beehive state, Jimmer-mania will surely reach hysteric levels.
Kings Probable Starters (6-13)
|Tyreke Evans||Jimmer Fredette||John Salmons||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
Kings Head Coach Keith Smart told reporters yesterday that Jimmer will start alongside Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. The decision moves swingman John Salmons back to the small forward slot. Donté Greene, who had gotten the last two starting nods at the three, moves back to the bench. Kings big man Chuck Hayes is listed out for tonight’s contest. He said after practice yesterday he would be a game-time decision. Marcus Thornton remains out of commission due to a deep bruise to his left thigh.
Jazz Probable Starters (10-7)
||Gordon Hayward||Paul Millsap||Al Jefferson|
While the Kings come to Utah rested, the Jazz return from a brief visit to the Lonestar State, where they lost by 15 to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. They come into tonight’s game riding a two-game losing streak, which has happened only one other time this season. Under head coach Tyrone Corbin (a former King), the Jazz now play a more up-tempo style of basketball, veering away from the pick-and-roll offense that had been a staple under former coach Jerry Sloan. According to mySynergySports, 15.1 percent of their offense comes in transition compared to just nine percent in screen and roll situations.
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?
Jeff Lind: Jimmer is the player to watch, but the matchup I’m most interested in is DeMarcus Cousins vs. Derrick Favors/Enes Kanter. It’ll be a fun night watching these young, athletic centers try & out-alpha dog one another.
Adam Figman: Cousins-Jefferson. With a little patience and some refinement around the edges, there’s no doubt DMC could become a player of Jefferson’s caliber, and he should be going hard against guys like Jefferson to prove that. Utah’s big man has been hobbled by an ankle injury and played last night, but hopefully he suits up so we can see these two go at it in the paint.
Jonathan Santiago: Utah’s bigs versus Sacramento’s bigs. Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers’ frontcourt that features Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, is there another frontline in the West more imposing than Utah? DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson will have to bring their A-game on defense against Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson tonight.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Jeff Lind: Turnovers. Whoever turns the ball over less will win. The Jazz are at their best when they push the ball up the court and push hardest on fast break steals. The Kings offense (or lack thereof) seems to be predicated on athleticism. In the Kings games I’ve seen, they always do better if they can score in-motion before the other team has time to get into a defensive set.
Adam Figman: Assists. If the Kings can move the ball well and earn just a few buckets off quality passes—I know, I know, easier said—they’ll be able to keep this one close. Sacramento’s currently 30th in the league in assists per game with 15.7, so let’s say they’ll need 22 dimes to have a decent chance against an occasionally sneaky-good Jazz team.
Jonathan Santiago: How many points Gordon Hayward scores. A little obscure, but know this – when the Jazz starting small forward chips in 10 points or more, Utah has posted a 5-1 record. The play at three for the Kings has been just as inconsistent, if not more so, than last year. Hayward could have a big game if John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Donté Greene aren’t prepared.
3. Does Jimmer flop or flourish in his first NBA game back in Utah?
Jeff Lind: Flop, but it won’t be his fault. Jimmer has always thrived under the pressure of big stages, and he’ll want to impress in Utah. However, if the Kings continue to use him at point guard, don’t count on him getting the open three-pointers he loves (which he WOULD get in Utah if he was playing shooting guard), or take advantage of the (much quicker) Harris matchup.
Adam Figman: Of course he flourishes! He’s returning to where he’s most comfortable. I’m guessing he’ll wind up with 25 points, with every female in Energy Solutions Arena swooning after each one of them.
Jonathan Santiago: He flourishes. In the last three games, Jimmer has found his rhythm on offense, shooting 61-percent from beyond the arc and averaging 17 points per contest. He’s become more aggressive, taking shots he passed up in prior games because he was trying to fit in.