The Kings, you may remember, saw these Rockets about a week ago, in Sacramento's most recent win, one which took the team to a 5-4 record. The Kings have lost two straight: a disappointing slopfest against Chicago, and a resilient fight in Dallas. Houston has gone 2-2 since last Friday, beating the Lakers and Wolves on the road but losing to Phoenix at home, and suffered heartbreak in Atlanta last night.
Even though the Rockets slept in their own beds last night, the Kings should be more well-rested, having played two fewer games in the past week and having had just the short flight from Dallas last night instead of the longer journey from Atlanta. Trevor Ariza and Luis Scola each played more than 34 minutes last night; three other Rockets (Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry) played more than 30 minutes last night.
When the Rockets visitied Sacramento, as a reminder, Jason Thompson went ballistic with 27 points and 11 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end. Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans combined for 42 points. Ariza scored 17 in the first half, but got too cocksure from behind the arc and shot 4-12 from three. Houston missed a ton of open shots in the second half, but the Kings defense was pretty solid overall.
The Rockets have the No. 7 offense and No. 14 defense. The Kings have the No. 10 offense and No. 24 defense.
THE KEY BATTLE
Again, look for the Luis Scola-Jason Thompson match-up to set the tone. Thompson was an absolute beast on the offensive glass last time -- there's no understating that -- and while Scola is a good defensive rebounder, he's undersized and not athletic enough in this particular match-up. You know Elston Turner will have a gameplan to keep Thompson off putback duty, but you'd also would have thought he had a plan to keep Josh Smith from throwing down a game-winning putback dunk last night. So there you go. On the other end, Thompson needs to be wary of foul trouble -- that's Houston's best strategy against him: attack with Scola, who is crafty as a Girl Scout summer camp.
Raw points differential (plus HCA) calls a 7.6-point Houston victory. SRS calls a 7.7-point Houston victory. SSRS calls a 999,992.4-point Kings victory.
I'm eager to see how Houston will come out of the gates against the Kings. No doubt the loss in Sacramento spoiled an otherwise successful road trip. Perhaps the Rockets got their aggression out against the Lakers, but so recent a disappointing loss (and the Rockets were disappointed) should provide a nice adrenaline boost. The Kings have met almost every adrenaline challenge to date, though. The team's spirit has been commendable.
Spencer Hawes will have 17 rebounds. Not a single one more!
This game will also tip off at 5:30 PM Pacific. Game thread then, followed by GT2 at 6:30 and the post-game thread at 8:15.