STARTING LINEUPS & INJURIES
The Kings will start Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, Donte Greene, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, Omri Casspi, Pooh Jeter and perhaps Francisco Garcia will receive minutes off the bench. Everyone is available, except for Hassan Whiteside, who is still hanging out with Eric Musselman and Marcus Landry.
The Heat roll with star point guard Carlos Arroyo and brilliant center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I believe Erik Spoelstra will start Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh at the other three positions, but we'll see. Legendary Juwan Howard, the two best Canadian big men of all-time -- Jamaal Magloire and Joel Anthony, Kansan hero Mario Chalmers, electric James Jones, champion Eddie House and mountain of love Erick Dampier all fill in off the bench.
The Heat are not the Wizards. Miami has reeled off seven straight ... by double-digits. On the road, the Heat are outscoring opponents by 6.6 points a game. In six December games, the Heat are outscoring opponents by 18.3 points a game. (Friday's mammoth win over Golden State boosted that number considerably.) The Heat have the league's No. 2 defense and No. 4 offense.
The Heat have been fantastic in the third quarter lately; in Oakland, the Heat outscored the Warriors 36-20 in the third, and that included a sharp 9-0 Golden State run once Louis Amundson came in off the bench. These dudes are not to be trifled with, and they can decide the game in a blink of an eye. With the way Miami's playing right now, Sacramento is depending on the plague, widespread food-borne illness, or preferably both.
Evans vs. Wade. Flash dropped 34 last night; he's up to about nine free throws a game, his sweet spot. He's one the few two-guards in the NBA as physical and fearless as Tyreke. But -- like I need to tell you -- the great thing about Wade is that he has other tools: he's a phenomenal passer (seven assists Friday) and pull-up shooter. He is a problem. He's also a top-drawer defender, the best shotblocking guard since Dennis Johnson. Problem.
Evans hasn't been on consistently, but we tend to forget he had a killer game (25/8/5) against the Mavericks, even if Dallas limited his production in the second half. The entire team is gunned up for this game, and unless the Heat break Sacramento's spirit early, Evans could gin up an inspired performance.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Pooh Jeter. It's easy to forget that a long line of intriguing back-up point guards in recent Kings history have had great break-out games only to sputter eventually: Ronnie Price, Bobby Brown, Sergio Rodriguez. (In fairness, Price has found a solid role in Utah, and Sergio never really sputtered as a King before being traded.) It's up to Jeter to keep himself in Westphal's rotation, and to make sure he can't be forgotten. Given Miami's point guard deficit, that shouldn't be a problem. I hope.
No Giveaway Game entry today.
7 PM PT tip. KHTK 1140 AM and Comcast SportsNet. (Sorry, Dishies.) Some tickets available! (Unbelievably.) Game threads at 7 and 8:30. Let's go Kings.