March 28, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. The Spurs defeated the Kings 117-112. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The Kings have currently dropped 4 games in a row, all of them closely contested. This losing streak began against the very same Utah Jazz that Sacramento will play tonight, when Al Jefferson tipped in a game-winning shot a week ago to end the Kings' 9-game homestand on a sour note.
The Jazz are fighting for every victory they can right now in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot. Their recent hot streak propelled them back into the race and now they are tied with Houston and Denver fighting for the 7th and 8th spot, with only a couple games separating these three teams from both the 4 and 5 seed as well as the 10 and 11 seed. The Western Conference playoff race is still wide open, so every game counts.
The Kings have no problem playing the spoiler though, and DeMarcus Cousins would like nothing better than to ruin Devin Harris' season. The Jazz currently lead the season series 2 games to 1 against the Kings, but both victories came down to the wire, with Jefferson's tip-in and Jimmer Fredette's three coming up short (despite likely being fouled) in their first matchup.
In terms of injuries, the Jazz will once again be missing swingmen Josh Howard and Raja Bell, while the Kings may be without John Salmons (hip injury). Terrence Williams will likely see more playing time as the Kings consider whether to re-up him for a 2nd 10-day contract or simply sign him for the rest of the season. His first 10-day contract ends tomorrow.
Utah's greatest strength lies in their big men, as they have one of the deepest frontcourts in the league with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but the Kings' bigs have more than held their own against these guys so far this year. Millsap in particular has really struggled, averaging just 6.7 points on 37.5% in 3 games against the Kings this year, well below his 16.2 point average. With their big men (and overall lack of great shooters), the Jazz are a team that loves taking it inside, which has become the Kings defensive strength. The Jazz are 29th in the league in 3-point shooting, but 7th in overall FG% thanks to all those points in the paint. Utah is also a top-5 team in both rebounds and blocked shots, and 6th in steals. Tyrone Corbin has these guys playing at a high level and while he probably won't be Coach of the Year, I think he deserves to be in the conversation.
Game is at 6:00 PM. Game threads at 6 and 7:30. Let's go Kings!