Houston is currently 11th in the West with a record of 9-14. The started the season poorly going 3-10, but are 6-4 in the last 10 games, and are 6-4 at home. Of their last 10 game, the wins against Golden State, the Thunder, the Lakers, the Pistons and the Cav’s came at home. And their losses to the Bobcats, the Mavs, the Bucks, and the Bulls came on the road. Their lone road win came against the Grizzlies. So, they definitely are playing better at home.
The last time Houston and Sacramento met it was April 12th at Arco, with Houston prevailing 117-107. After the Feb 18th trade that sent Martin to Houston and Landry to Sacramento, the two teams split the series with each getting winning one game on the others home court. But, this was the game that rekindled the debate on who got the best end of the trade. Martin was the leading scorer with 39pts on 20 FGA’s and 16 for 16 at the FT line. Carl was the 2nd leading scorer for the Kings with 19 pts / 5 rebs on 8-15 shooting.
There have been some changes in Houston since then, although Yao being hurt isn’t one of them. Trevor Ariza who scored 29pt with 5 rebs, was traded to the Hornets in a 3-way deal that brought Courtney Lee to Houston from the Nets. The Rockets also signed FA Brad Miller and drafted Patrick Patterson with the 14th pick in the 2010 draft.
But, basically the Kings will be facing the same team that they played at the end of last season. The extremely undersized Chuck Hayes is their center. Louis Scola the 6-9 forward from Argentina is their PF and leading rebounder. Shane Battier the 6-8 forward out of Duke who’s in his 10th season, is their SF and defensive stopper. With Aaron Brooks out since Nov 6th with an injured ankle, six foot guard Kyle Lowry has taken over the starting PG role. Lowry isn’t quite the scorer that Brooks is, but he does average better assist numbers, 6.8 for Kyle and 5.4 for Aaron. And Kevin Martin who leads the team in scoring at 22 ppg is at SG.
JT was our lone big last game because Spencer was out with a back injury. And, Houston took advantage of our interior defense, with Martin, Scola, Ariza, Lowry and Budinger going 16 for 19 at the rim. This helped Houston shoot 51.9% from the field in spite of going 8-24 from three. That’s not likely to happen again since we added Cousins and Dalembert to the frontcourt. Of course the other big difference will be that the Kings will be without Tyreke who was our leading scorer with 24 pts although it took him 23 shots to get them. Tyreke is expected to travel with the team, but he’s listed as day-to-day, and I don’t expect him to play.
As far as this season goes, like the Knicks, Suns, Mavs, and Lakers who have already beaten the Kings. The Rockets are one of the better shooting teams in the league with a TS% of 55.5% compared to the Kings 2nd worst 50.3%. The Rockets are a smart shooting team. The take the 4th fewest long 2’s, and instead take the 3rd highest number of shots inside 10 ft and are above average in the number of shots taken at the rim.
But, as good as their offense is, their defense has been just as bad as the Kings, with both teams having a defensive rating of 106. Turnovers are about equal, the Kings have the advantage on the offensive boards ranked 3rd, but the two teams are almost even on the defensive boards.
The Kings should definitely have the height advantage inside. And, since Houston gives up the 7th highest number of shots and made baskets at the rim, along with the 8th highest completion percentage of 64%. The Kings should have the scoring advantage at the rim, if they choose to go there instead of having Cousins and Landry taking all those perimeter shots. Actually, with the Kings length and athleticism, they should dominate the Rockets frontcourt with the exception of maybe Scola.
The dilemma for the Kings will be the backcourt rotation. Who do they use to defend Lowry and Martin? Jeter is quick and won’t be at a size disadvantage against Lowry, but can Beno defend Martin? Cisco knows Martins game and has the size to match, but can Beno keep Lowry from going off for 20pts/15assts. Omri probably isn’t needed to defend Budinger, so maybe we’d be better off playing Cisco on Budinger and Omri on Martin. Lots of choices for PW, this one will be tough.
I think the bigs rotation is set, with JT and Cousins starting and Dalembert the first big off the bench. I don’t see DeMarcus getting into any real foul trouble against Houston’s bigs, but their guards score almost as often inside as Scola and Hayes do. And, that could pose a problem for Cousins. Donte has done a great job staying with his man, so I like him on Battier, and unless Budinger has an unusually good day, Casspi has him covered.
I’m guessing that PW is going to go with his veterans in the backcourt and start Beno & Cisco. Beno might need some help defending Lowery but don’t expect him to lose his minutes to Pooh. But, if Cisco has a hard time defending Martin, I imagine PW will start looking for answers on the bench, and we could see Casspi and then Head playing SG and Cisco moving to backup SF.
This game is all about match-ups, and taking high percentage shots. We have the advantage inside and Houston has the advantage in the backcourt. The team that hits the most high percentage shots will probably prevail. I think we have a better chance winning the game next week at Arco, but we beat them last time we played in Houston, so who knows? I’m predicting Beno has a double-double in points and assists, and the game goes down to the wire. Go Kings.