The Kings know no opponent better than the Hornets, because the teams have already faced off twice. This will be the Kings' second foray into New Orleans Arena. In the first match, the Hornets pulled out a narrow victory with both Chris Paul and Kevin Martin. The Kings knocked out the Hornets minus Paul in Sacramento during the last homestand. Paul has since returned.
New Orleans has played only once in the past week: Friday's home win over Minnesota in Paul's re-entry. Paul played lovely, with 16 points, 15 assists and eight steals. (Yes, eight steals. New Orleans gained nine steals, and Paul had eight of them. Good grief.) Each of Devin Brown, David West and Emeka Okafor scored at least 17 points in that win, too. Al Jefferson was the only Wolf who got off (20 points).
The key question in Paul's return was how the minutes of surprising rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton would be affected. Collison played 18 minutes off the bench, occasionally playing in the same unit as Paul. Thornton tallied only 12 minutes. Upon taking over the team, Jeff Bower made it a point to insist Collison and Thornton would get playing time. We'll see if that increases tonight, especially considering the Hornets play tomorrow on the road, and again at home Friday.
THE KEY BATTLE
Paul vs. Tyreke Evans. This was a dandy of a knife fight the first time around, and I expect nothing less. Paul's quickness versus Reke's strength versus Paul's passing ability versus Reke's penetration ... a bevy of weapons.
Given how out-of-control and manic Sergio Rodriguez was during his 12 minutes Sunday, I'll be interested to see whether a) he plays much better, like Sergio! and not Sergio?!?, and b) how short of a leash Paul Westphal puts on him otherwise. I mean, the Kings have a great starting point guard, and a back-up point guard who has played phenomenally this year. If Sergio were, say, a player like Bobby Brown, there'd be no reason to play him ever, except in cases of foul trouble and injury. Third-string point guards get little play around the league. The reason you play Sergio is because he's awesome. If he's not, you can hide him.
Donte Greene will outscore Devin Brown.
Kings by 1. And New Orleans will never forget the name Bron Jockman.
5 PM Pacific tip-off. Game thread at 5 PM. Game thread No. 2 at 6 PM. Post-game thread at 7:45 PM. Recap at beer-thirty.