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Kings vs. Bucks Preview: Can Sacramento ever win without DeMarcus Cousins?

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Monday's loss against the Hornets was epic in its failure.  Not only did the Kings give away a 22 point second-half lead and lose, they also lost DeMarcus Cousins to a lower back strain.  Tonight will likely mark the 6th game of the season that Cousins has missed, and the Kings have yet to win a game without him. Today's action tips off at 5:00 pm on CSN California and on KHTK 1140.

3 Questions

1. Where did the Milwaukee's defense go?  The Bucks made huge strides last year thanks to their improvement on the defensive end.  They finished 4th in the league in defensive rating.  This year, that has all disappeared as they've gone back to 30th and they only really lost a couple of veteran guys like Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley.  They did however add in Greg Monroe, a very skilled offensive player who doesn't play much defense.  Even without DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings should be able to put up some points on this Bucks team.

2. Will we see Rudy Gay play well without Cousins? Rudy tends to go into iso-Rudy when DeMarcus Cousins is out.  The defense focuses in on him and he reverts to bad habits and long jumpers.  The Kings can't afford that tonight.  We can't afford haphazard drives into traffic and contested 20 footers.  Use the Rondo-Rudy chemistry in the pick-and-roll and get some stuff going to the basket.

3. Can the Kings defense get any stops?  We've seen this defense do well at times, really well even, but it's never been for any consistent period of time.  Charlotte forced overtime on Monday by scoring a season-high 38 points in the fourth quarter.  That's simply unacceptable.  The players need to do a better job on that end, and the coaches need to do a better job of setting the players up to succeed with adjustments.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME

Rudy Gay vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jerry Reynolds made the point during Monday's broadcast that Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the most athletically gifted player in the NBA, and it's hard to argue against him.  He's got the height and length of a center with the quickness of a guard.  He's having a hell of a third season, starting to connect more consistently from long range, and using his quickness to get to the rim.  This is going to be a very tough matchup for Rudy Gay and whoever else has to guard him.  Rudy will have to make him work on the other end, and that means no isolation, which plays into Antetokounmpo's strengths as a defender.

PREDICTION

These predictions typically feature a joke and a guaranteed Kings victory but until the Kings show me they can win a game without DeMarcus Cousins, I'm penciling each such game as an automatic loss.  Bucks 109, Kings 98.