Programming note: Spurs-Kings coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Plus with Kings Pregame Live (territorial restrictions apply)
Sacramento -- The Kings (5-4) return home after a 1-3 road trip to host the San Antonio Spurs (5-3) in the first game of a three game home stand.
Sacramento will attempt to bounce back from disappointing back-to-back road losses after squandering leads of 24 and 26 points in Dallas and Memphis, respectively.
The loss to the Grizzlies was especially brutal as the Kings gave up the game winning hoop with 0.3 seconds left on the clock via an alley-oop inbounds pass from Vince Carter that Courtney Lee converted into a lay in.
The Kings are getting the Spurs on the second half of a back-to-back, and the final game of San Antonio’s four-game road trip.
The reigning NBA champs are surging, having won three straight -- defeating the Lakers on Friday and the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back fashion earlier in the week.
For Sacramento, taking care of its own business must be predominant and the opponent is only significant in relation to the Kings ability to “KYP” (or know your personnel).
“Game plan discipline," Kings coach Michael Malone told reporters in Memphis. "Earlier in the season we had that discipline.”
“Tonight (Thursday) there was some confusion at times … Memphis, they out executed us down the stretch. They out-played us,” Malone concluded after Thursday’s crushing defeat to the Grizzlies.
Notwithstanding the Dallas and Memphis debacles, Sacramento has shown flashes of brilliance:
- Five game winning streak including three straight road wins.
- Stellar defensive quarters allowing: 11 points in the fourth quarter at Phoenix, 14 points in the first stanza in Dallas and 16 points in the initial 12 minutes in Memphis.
However, after keeping their first three opponents of the season under 100 points, the Kings have allowed the next six teams to reach triple digits.
The Kings changed the dialogue and expectations with the aforementioned five-game winning streak. And while 5-4 is respectable, it’s a far cry from the 7-2 start that the Kings let slip through their hands versus the Mavs and Grizzlies.
Expect Malone and his staff to attack the defensive breakdowns.
The question is whether the Kings can regroup and regain the form of their unexpected 5-1 start to the campaign.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Tim Duncan -- classic “Old School versus New School."
Cousins is one of the best big men in the NBA and Duncan just surpassed the 25,000-point mark in Friday’s 93-80 win over the Lakers.
Duncan, with greater than 25,000 points and more than 14,000 rebounds and 2,500 blocks, joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only two players in league history to reach those thresholds.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Defend: In their past two games, Sacramento has allowed 92 and 95 points, respectively – in the final three quarters.
Even though the Spurs are only scoring 94.9 points per game – without defending the Kings are in trouble.
2. DeMarcus Cousins: The trend of opponent runs when Cousins isn’t on the floor due to foul trouble continued in Memphis:
- 10-5 in the third quarter (10-2 if not for a circus 3-pointer by Darren Collison)
- 10-0 in the fourth quarter
Cousins must avoid picking up unnecessary fouls and when without the big man on the floor, the Kings must find a way to play with poise.
3. 48-minutes: The collapses in Dallas and Memphis provide vivid reminders that the Kings must finish.
Sacramento must maintain its focus, demonstrate “game plan discipline” and weather the inevitable runs of the NBA.
INJURY UPDATE: Sacramento – None to report.
San Antonio – F/C Tiago Splitter (calf, out); G Patty Mills (shoulder, out); G Marco Belinelli (groin, out).
SERIES HISTORY: This is the first of four meetings this season between Sacramento and San Antonio.
The Kings were swept 3-0 in 2013-14 by the Spurs and have lost nine consecutive games versus San Antonio.
The Spurs lead the overall series 106-54, including 78-38 in the Sacramento era.