In their fourth game in five nights, the Sacramento Kings are in the Mile High City for a match-up against the Denver Nuggets. Tonight is the Kings’ last road game before beginning a nine-game home stand.
Kings Probable Starters (12-25)
|Isaiah Thomas||Marcus Thornton||Tyreke Evans||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
When matched-up against the Nuggets, the Kings have played some of their worst basketball this season. In their two games against Denver, Sacramento has been outscored 232 to 176 – a 56-point difference. Tonight’s game is the third and final meeting between the Kings and Nuggets this year.
Nuggets Probable Starters (21-17)
||Kenneth Faried||Timofey Mozgov|
In a win over the San Antonio Spurs yesterday, Ty Lawson finished one rebound shy of a triple-double. The Nuggets point guard scored 22 points, dished out 11 assists and pulled down nine rebounds in a 99-94 win in the Alamo. No word yet whether forwards Danilo Gallinari and Nene, who’ve missed games due to injury, will return to Denver’s’ lineup. Gallinari (left ankle sprain) and Nene (left calf strain) are listed as gametime decisions.
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?
James Ham: Clearly the match-up to watch in this game is the battle of the pint-size points. Isaiah Thomas has been a breath of fresh air since joining the Kings starting line-up eight games ago. Thomas is averaging 16 points and a hair under six assists a game as a starter, which are almost identical to Lawson’s numbers on the season.
Jared Dubin: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Kenneth Faried. Faried didn’t play much in either of the earlier games against the Kings, but since he started receiving regular playing time, he’s been a force to be reckoned with. Cousins is an excellent rebounder, especially defensively, where his 26.3 defensive rebound rate ranks 10th in the NBA. Watching him match up against Faried, whose 15.8 offensive rebound rate ranks third in the NBA (tied with Cousins, coincidentally), should be an intriguing battle.
Jonathan Santiago: Isaiah Thomas vs. Ty Lawson. Both point guards push the pace for their respective teams. When Lawson scores close to 20 points for Denver, the Nuggets usually win. So, Thomas will not only have to command the Kings’ offense, but take charge against the recently named Western Conference player of the week.
2. Stat that decides the game…
James Ham: Points in the paint. I don’t think anyone needs a reminder about what happened the last time these two teams played. The Nuggets scored all but four of their 50 hoops at the rim, on their way to an NBA record 92 points in the paint.
Jared Dubin: Rebounding. In each of the previous two Kings-Nuggets games, the Kings have lost the rebounding battle by double-digits. Unsurprisingly, they’ve also been blown out by an average of 28.5 points in those two games. If the Kings can get control of the glass, they have a better chance of keeping the game tight and giving themselves a better shot to win.
Jonathan Santiago: Points in the paint. As James pointed out, the Nuggets set an NBA season-high points in the paint in their last meeting with the Kings. Cutting off penetration and slowing down the Nuggets’ transition game are keys to keeping this stat low tonight.
3. Which of these two players will have the biggest impact on today’s game if they return to Denver’s lineup: Danilo Gallinari or Nene?
James Ham: Nene is a solid big, but the Kings have an answer for him. Gallinari, they do not. The Kings struggle with mobile, big wings. If Gallinari makes it back for this game, Keith Smart’s game plan has to change dramatically. Expect a heavy dose of Donté Greene if Gallinari plays.
Jared Dubin: Gallinari. His versatility brings another dimension to the Nuggets’ offense. Whether he’s being guarded by Tyreke Evans, John Salmons or a big man, he should have a mismatch. His can use his size to shoot over Evans or Salmons, and his speed to go by Hayes, Thompson or Cousins if they wind up guarding him when the Nuggets go small or off a switch in the pick-and-roll.
Jonathan Santiago: Gallinari, based purely on his recent track record against the Kings. The Nuggets small forward scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half of Denver’s 29-point win, and would’ve scored more if the game weren’t already in hand. Even if he doesn’t start, Gallinari”s a match-up problem for any of the forwards the Kings throw at him.