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Kings vs. Rockets Preview: No Cousins, Lots of Problems

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Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings are in serious danger of starting off the season 1-7.  With DeMarcus Cousins out this weekend and two straight bad losses, the Kings are 1-4 and now have to face a murderer's row of Houston tonight, Golden State tomorrow and San Antonio on Monday.  Tonight might actually be the most winnable game, as Houston is pretty banged up themselves.  Today's action tips off at 7:30 pm on ESPN and on KHTK 1140.

3 Questions

1. Will the defense show up?  Sacramento has been pretty abysmal on the defensive side of the floor to start this year.  They're currently 25th in defensive rating and are allowing opponents to shoot a league leading 50.4% from the field.  They're also allowing the 4th most opponent FTAs.  The Kings have to step up on this end or they are going to continue to struggle mightily even if they're hitting plenty of their own shots.

2. Will Dwight Howard play?  Howard has been dealing with some nagging injuries but he's played the last two games for the Rockets and he's a big difference maker for them.  Early indications are that he will in fact play, and that's bad news for a Kings team that has struggled establish anything around the basket with DeMarcus Cousins gone.

3. Can Rudy Gay take over?  The Kings have struggled to find any consistent go-to options in Cousins' absence.  That guy should be Rudy Gay, and yet Rudy has probably played worse without Cousins than with him.  The Kings need him to get going if they hope to have a chance to win, and he'll have to do his part to get easy shots in the mid-range and near the rim instead of settling for long jumpers with little ball movement.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME

Whoever's guarding James Harden vs. James Harden

Harden loves playing the Kings because the Kings haven't had a way to stop him for years now.  In three games last year (all Houston wins), Harden averaged 40.3 points on 45.5% from the field and 46.4% from three.  Those are absurd numbers and big reasons why the Kings lost considering they hung tight in two of the three matchups.  James Anderson will likely get the first chance tonight but we'll also probably see the Kings throwing different looks at him throughout the night.  Harden hasn't had the best start to his season but don't be fooled; He's the most dangerous weapon Houston has on the floor whenever he's on it.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

PREDICTION

Kings 109, Houston 103 after James Harden decides to retire midway through the game to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a chef.