STARTING LINEUPS & INJURIES
Tyreke Evans is back for the Kings, meaning that Francisco Garcia will come off the bench behind the reigning ROY and Beno Udrih. The frontcourt starting unit for Sacramento -- Donte Greene, Carl Landry and DeMarcus Cousins -- should remain the same. Samuel Dalembert may be available; this preview was written early, and Paul Westphal said the medical staff would determine Dalembert's status early Friday. If Dalembert is active, expect Darnell Jackson or Pooh Jeter to join Antoine Wright on the inactive list.
On Wednesday, the Nets started Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Joe Smith and Brook Lopez, and I don't expect that to change. Troy Murphy (a Kings killer) remains out.
The Nets beat Detroit on the strength of shooting (50% on twos, 43% on threes) and limiting turnovers. New Jersey's defense was just good enough, and allowed the Nets to win the offensive rebounding battle. Detroit only coughed up the ball six times all game; given that turnovers are a concern for the Kings, the Nets' inability to cajole the Pistons into giveaways provides some hope there. (The Kings had only 11 turnovers against the Wolves, who didn't take any risks in passing lanes and pressed only Luther Head, and only a bit.)
The Nets are led by Brook Lopez, a skilled, high-usage center. He's a smooth monster, and Cousins and (if he plays) Dalembert will have their hands full. In eight career games against the 76ers, of which Dalembert was the starting center in those games, Lopez averaged 15.6 points on .460 shooting with 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. For his career, Lopez averages 16 points a game on .513 shooting ... so the small sample size indicates Dalembert may make him a bit less efficient.
Harris is the other Nets key. He's of a similar strain of the modern point guard as Tyreke -- he creates plays, usually for himself but frequently for others. Harris doesn't quite shoot the long-ball comfortably, but has traditionally been great finishing at the rim and in the short jumper (10-15 feet) region. He's very much a player who will create his own jumpshot opportunities as opposed to playing off others, Lopez included.
Off the bench, the big Nets are Terrence Williams (who played 32 minutes behind Outlaw on Wednesday) and Derrick Favors. Williams is versatile session player who will rebound well for his size and make plays for others; Favors is a big rebounder, high-potential defender and should be a good finisher. You may recall that he and Cousins have a little beef.
Morrow may be the deadliest Net; he beat the Pistons with a late three, and shoots as well from distance as anyone in the world.
MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Cousins vs. Lopez. The Kings need to hold Bro-pez at bay to come away with a good shot at victory; if Lopez gets going, that theoretically opens up everything for Harris' penetration and Morrow's shooting. A good way to keep Lopez tame is to make him work hard at the other end. Lopez is a plus shotblocker, but Cousins' heft could push him off his game. If Dalembert matches up with Lopez for substantial minutes, getting Lopez on the move on defense via the pick-and-roll could be smart.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Carl Landry. How Landry meshes with Cousins and Evans in a real game could begin to define Carl's future with the club. He did extraordinarily well on Wednesday, but that was in a vaccuum of creation without Evans. Landry needs to score to justify a big payday, and it's still unclear where those shots will come from with Evans and Cousins in the line-up. We'll see, beginning tonight.
It's a 4 PM PT start on Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140 AM. There are free previews for League Pass and League Pass Broadband running through next Tuesday. Game thread at 4, second one 90 minutes later at 5:30.