Kings vs. Grizzlies Preview: Back at full strength?

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

The Kings have been without Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins for 3 and a half games now and have lost four in a row. Both players could be back for tonight's matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Kings aren't getting much rest this week as they play 5 games in 7 nights. Tonight (7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California and KHTK 1140) they face the Memphis Grizzlies, a team they almost beat a couple weeks ago but couldn't hold onto a late 7 point lead. Rudy Gay is expected back and DeMarcus Cousins may join him after both have been out the last three games nursing their injuries.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME

Isaiah Thomas vs. Mike Conley

With Zach Randolph declining (but still very good) and Marc Gasol ailing, Mike Conley has emerged as the star for the Grizzlies and is probably deserving of an All-Star nod himself thanks to his all-around game. Two weeks ago, he led a last minute comeback in Memphis to beat the Kings and nobody on Sacramento could answer him. He thoroughly outplayed Isaiah Thomas, who has been in a bit of a shooting slump. Thomas left last game early due to the stomach flu but should be healthy for tonight. It's essential for Thomas to keep Conley in check if Sacramento is to have a fighting chance.

3 THINGS

1. The Grizzlies are on a roll as of late, winning 7 of their last 8 and 8 of their last 10 as they try to claw their way back into the playoff race. Since Marc Gasol's return six games ago, the Grizzlies have held their opponents to an offensive rating of less than 100 in all games but one, including holding the best offense in the NBA (Portland) to an offensive rating of just 88.8 and 34.5% from the field last night. That's a fantastic defensive number and it shows just how big of a difference a guy like Gasol can make. If Cousins plays, he'll have his work cut out for him; Gasol forced Cousins to shoot just 6-22 the last time the two met.

2. If Cousins and Gay are both back tonight, I will be keeping my eye on both Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore. Thornton played very well in two of the last three games, but hasn't shown that he's been able to do it when he's not a featured part of the offense. McLemore meanwhile hasn't been able to show consistency for multiple games in a row, but has been good the last two games. Hopefully he can keep it going.

3. Sacramento's own defense has been atrocious lately, allowing way too much penetration and points in the paint. The Grizzlies like to play slow (they're 30th in pace) because they're an excellent halfcourt team on both ends. The Kings need to push the tempo and win the fastbreak battle so they can score easy points without having to deal with Memphis' full defensive coverage.

PRE-GAME HAIKU

Michael Malone prays:
"No cowardly refs this time,
some defense too please."

PREDICTION

Kings 104, Grizzlies 63 after Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley forget to arrive to the game. Later, all three are found in their hotel room around a laptop enraptured by Sacramento's recently released arena renderings.

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