For all the worry about the toughness of this stretch (guilty!), Miami actually isn't that much better than the Kings. The Heat come in 10-9, with a points differential of -0.37 and an SRS of +0.34, 14th in the league. The Heat offense is ranked 18th, the Heat defense is ranked 18th. This has been a thoroughly average team so far.
Our Kings, of course, are 9-9, with a points differential of +0.11 and an SRS of -0.30, 15th in the league. Sacramento hosts the 6th-ranked offense and the 23rd-ranked defense. This match-up is really, really even. On paper, the Kings have the advantages: ARCO Arena is the site, and starting Heat center Jermaine O'Neal is out. O'Neal has had a bit of a renaissance season, playing 32 minutes a game, and contributing 14/8/1.2 for the Heat. His back-up is Joel Anthony, who is a great shotblocker but happens to do most other things quite poorly. Miami could also use a Udonis Haslem/Michael Beasley frontcourt, considering how strong a defender Haslem has been opposite 7-footers (like Dirk Nowitzki in the 2006 Finals, for one example) in the past. For what it's worth, Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald that Jamaal Magloire could get "a dose of extended action" in Sacramento. Like Anthony, Magloire is not very good these days. (The Kings have always been good at making "not very good" opposing big men look like All-Stars, of course).
The Heat are mediocre on the offensive glass and a bit above average on the defensive glass. I think the Kings can win the rebound percentages tonight. It could be a matter of hitting shots.
THE KEY BATTLE
Dwyane Wade vs. Tyreke Evans. No word on line-up adjustments from Paul Westphal -- in the backcourt, the Heat are a bit traditional with Mario Chalmers at the point. Quentin Richardson isn't terribly undersized at small forward (especially not against the Kings), and Wade creates problems for any defender or opposing offensive player. I figure that Evans and Wade will match up some, and it'd be a joy to see them go mano a mano down the stretch. Evans has to watch his dribble, or Wade will be darting the other way on repeat.
Dwyane Wade will hit the floor at some point.
Kings by 2.
The Sunday 6PM tip-off. KHTK 1140 AM on radio and Comcast SportsNet on TV. Game thread at 6, post-game thread at 8:45, recap blinking on a gutter.