Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Sacramento Kings

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After yet another loss, the Rockets sit at 35-16, finishing their 5 game road trip just 2-3. The Rockets are surely happy to be back at the Toyota Center, to play the Kings, after playing 29 of their first 51 games on the road. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 28.8 points, 11.5 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 20th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

After having a cup of tea with the 8th seed, the Kings have fallen back down, losing eight out of their last 10 games, sitting at 19-29, following their loss to the 76ers. The Kings will be playing on a back to back on Tuesday, as they played in Philadelphia just the day before, so they will not be well rested for their game against the Rockets. The Kings are led in scoring and rebounding by all star, DeMarcus Cousins, at 28.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, and in assists by former Rocket we try and forget about, Ty Lawson at 4.5 assists per game. The Kings rank 15th in offensive rating, 27th in defensive rating, and 25th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

Everyone was available for the Rockets in their last game, and that appears to be the case again for Tuesday. It is worth noting that the Rockets have been rotating their starters at center, starting Capela, then Nene, then Harrell in their last three games. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and one of their three centers (Clint Capela, Montrezl Harrell or Nene Hilario), with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Kings took a major hit when forward, Rudy Gay went down for the season with a torn Achilles, as he was averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for them. The Kings will likely start the game with Darren Collison at point guard, Garrett Temple at shooting guard, Arron Afflalo at small forward, Kosta Koufos at power forward, and DeMarcus Cousins at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Finally Home – After what felt like an eternity, the Rockets are finally back in Houston, and fully healthy. Watch to see if the Rockets have a little more pep in their step, now that they are back in the Toyota Center.

  • Get to the Line – The Kings are currently the 4th worst team at keeping the opposition off of the free throw line, by free throw attempt rate. Against a free throw maestro like James Harden, the Kings may be stuck watching Harden shoot 3 free throws at a time for most of the game. Watch to see if Harden and the Rockets are able to take advantage of the Kings fouling tendencies and get them in trouble with players fouling out, and getting into the penalty early.

  • HIT SOME THREES – The Rockets continue to shoot poorly in January, hitting just 33.3% of their threes, second to last in the league during that span. The good news for the Rockets is that the Kings are terrible at defending threes. The Kings allow more three point attempts per 100 possessions, at 29.7, than all but 2 other teams, and allow a blistering 37.6% on those attempts, the fourth highest percentage in the league. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to take advantage of being back at home and a soft defense and get back to their old run n' gun ways.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets should pull out a win here, quite comfortably. The Kings match up poorly with the Rockets, and are severely hampered by the Gay injury.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Indiana on Sunday, January 29th. The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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