Kings Vs. Grizzlies Preview: HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM

All eyes on the bench,
where Boogie and Westphal are.
Game within the game.

Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies
FedEx Forum, Memphis
5 p.m. Pacific on Comcast SportsNet California

The Kings play their second road game of the season, having lost the first go a week ago in Portland. Memphis is wounded, as Zach Randolph apparently won't play. The Grizzlies had already lost the team's top big man reserve (Darrell Arthur) for the season, and Dante Cunningham, who played with the Blazers and Bobcats last season, should start at power forward.

That would give the Kings the frontcourt advantage on paper ... if we knew whether DeMarcus Cousins will play after that weekend blow-up with Paul Westphal. As it is, J.J. Hickson will start with Chuck Hayes. I'd expect Jason Thompson to earn big minutes if Cousins doesn't play; J.T. has been stellar early this season as the fourth big man.

The backcourt battle should be interesting regardless. Tony Allen's a stud defender who will be in either Tyreke Evans' or Marcus Thornton's face; Mike Conley is a great ball hawk who can make opponents pay for loose ball-handling or soft passing. These Kings guards have been guilty of both in the recent past. The good part for the Kings is that neither is much of a scorer; Thornton's iffy defensive fundamentals can be hidden on Allen, and Evans, provided he closes hard and smart on Conley, should outperform in his matchup. (It should be noted that while Thornton deserves a lot of the defense heat he gets, he played exceptionally hard on that end on Sunday. He was a menace, for the most part.) UPDATE: Conley appears to still be out, so Ish Smith, y'all! UPDATE 2: JEEEEESUS.

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OK, how am I supposed to keep up with Ish Smith's career? He's played with three teams over 48 career games in two seasons. What a nomad!

Jeremy Pargo. He's the Memphis guard whose names I was groping for. Pargo, Jeremy.

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Rudy Gay is the problem; he's bigger, faster and more explosive than John Salmons, and looks something like a nightmare going in. If Gay goes off, the Kings need a push up front and a win in the backcourt at the least. But the worry is that Gay could really go off. We'll see how Westphal plays the defense on Gay, especially considering that Randolph is out. Conceivably, you could let Travis Outlaw or Donte Greene watch Cunningham for long stretches and give Hayes some burn on Gay. Gay is much, much faster, and could be a problem off the dribble. But of all the options to defend him, I think I'd take Hayes over anyone but Greene.

A win here could be a nice confidence boost for the club heading into Denver on Wednesday; while the New Orleans win was solid, that's not a good team and no one seemed to be focusing on the game as soon as it ended. A road win, a win against a playoff team, a good start to the back-to-back-to-back ... that's a real plus.

Game's at 5. Game threads at 5 and 6:30. Let's go Kings!

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