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Kings vs Jazz Preview: Kings Trying to Carry Some Momentum into Salt Lake City

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After a wild win in Sacramento, the Kings will face a division leading Utah Jazz team with both teams on their second night of a back to back.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers was some really bad Sacramento Kings fan fiction. Boogie scores 54, spits a mouth guard out, gets ejected, comes back out like Willis Reed meets WWE Wrestling, hits a clinching free throw and blocks a desperation shot, then rants his way out of the building. Whoever wrote this season for the Kings is a hack, a fraud, and possibly a bit unbalanced, and this game will be evidence used at your eventual court appointment. In the meantime, the Kings have more games to play, more centers to wreck and more win columns to fill and so Wednesday night, the Kings are in Utah to take on the Jazz, who went up against the first place Warriors squad and found themselves whooped by thirty. This will be the second night in the row the Kings should run up against the narrative of an extra motivated team, though Tuesday night’s Blazer team and Wednesday night’s Jazz team couldn’t be put any further apart on the NBA spectrum if you tried. Hey, anyone know if they make Poligrip® for mouth guards? Asking for a friend of mine! Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: Wednesday, December 21st: 6:00pm PST

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Best Center in the NBA: When asked recently who he thought the best center in the game was, Jazz big man Rudy Gobert offered up himself as the obvious answer. Tim McMahon of ESPN interviewed Gobert on Monday:

Gobert has a pretty good idea of how well he has been playing for the sizzling Jazz, who have won 11 of 13 games despite playing without point guard George Hill for most of that stretch. If you don't believe me, just ask Gobert who he believes is the best center in the NBA.

"To be honest, right now, I think it's me," Gobert told ESPN, before following up in a fashion his coach would approve of. "But it's a long season. I just try to take every game as a challenge. The hardest thing is to do it [for] the full season."

During Utah's 11-2 run, Gobert has averaged 15.1 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks while shooting 76.5 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the line. The Jazz have outscored opponents by 130 points with Gobert on the floor in those 13 games.

Over the course of this season, Gobert has lead the league in field goal percentage at 69.9% from the field, and second in the league in blocks at 2.7 a contest. He’s also averaging career bests in points per game (12.3), rebounds (11.8) free throw percentage (67.1%), as well as the aforementioned blocks.

In a profession as competitive and ego driven as it is, any player worth being a rotational player in the league has got to have the confidence to go out every night and believe he can beat his match-up, and Rudy Gobert does it better than most. He’s frustrated the hell out of DeMarcus in recent seasons with his length, and has also become an excellent roll man out of the pick-and-roll for the Jazz. He’s perfect for Quin Snyder and maybe in that regard, he’s the best center in the league for this offense.

Tales from the Tape/ Kings Focus: The Kings rolled into Utah just 10 days ago, looking to find some momentum after the Knicks edged them out the day before, and the Jazz walked all over the Kings in route to a 20 point victory. Rudy Gobert had six blocks and completely threw Boogie Cousins out of wack offensively, where he scored on 16 points on 7-22 shooting. This is also the game where the Kings started 11-0 and then handed it back to Utah in a matter of about a minute, the same game where we entered the fourth quarter down by four, and proceeded to score eight points in the fourth quarter. Eight. So close, yet so, so very far.

Wednesday night’s game will feature a Utah team with some key players still sidelined from injuries; an advantage the Kings had in the previous match-up and did nothing to exploit. George Hill, still out with a sprained toe. Alec Burks, surgery on every joint on his body apparently. Rodney Hood, is probably out with the ever-messy gastric distress. The Kings have to find a way to exploit the weaknesses that become present when a guy like Joe Ingles or Raul Neto are in the game. A little luck in that department might also be helpful for the Kings chances, and as of today Rudy Gay has said he was hopeful to return from a hip flexor injury that has helped him to miss the last few games. Gay was big in the previous game in Utah where he scored 20 on 7-15 shooting, 3-4 from three while also grabbing 5 boards and 2 steals.

The Jazz are first in the league in opponents points per game, where they allow under 95 a game. They’re also coming up the court at the slowest pace in the league and are last in the league in steals. They’re composed, don’t take any defensive risks and in that methodical game plan, the Kings can find their weak point. Teams that move the ball around quickly have a chance to keep the Jazz defense off balance, but if they find themselves slowing the movement down with a DeMarcus post-up-and-wait-till-someone-works-free, the Jazz will kindly thank them with the NBA’s version of a pillow pressed firmly against the face.

In their previous match-up, the Kings forced 22 turnovers out of the Jazz, a team that averages 15 a game. Every player on the Jazz who played over 15 minutes had a turnover, and only two of those players had less than three turnovers. If the Kings can replicate that level of defense, they’ll set themselves up nicely for a shot at a victory come the fourth quarter. From there, the Kings will just have to decide whether or not they want to sub in Utah Jazz fans in the final quarter, and allow those fans to only score 8 points to the Utah’s 26.

So, capitalize on turnovers, take advantage when their bench rolls in, move the ball quickly and don’t draft elderly Jazz fan’s to play the fourth. Easy, right?

Prediction: The Kings will hold the Jazz, keeping pace with their quick-as-snails offense and leading in the game by ten or so, until the fourth when Dave Joerger will look into the stands at a man wearing a black suit and fedora and dark sunglasses. The man will nod, and Dave will nod and begin subbing out Kings players; electing instead to ask for an elderly woman sitting courtside to check in the game, then a rather rotund man from the fifth row, then the Jazz Bear, and then George Karl, who will just happen to show up and whoa, there’s Pete D’Allesandro with his King’s jersey already ready to go. This Kings line-up will immediately give up a run to the Jazz. Old Lady from courtside tries her hardest, but that arthritic knee just doesn’t allow for good height on her jumper. George Karl, just punts the ball into the stands every time he gets the ball, complaining all the while that he didn’t have to stand this much all of last season. Thanks to the pace of the game, the Kings will be down only one point with 4 seconds left and the ball. Dave Joerger will draw up a play for Pete, the only player not using an oxygen tank during timeouts. Pete will see that Joerger has told him to just kneel and lose the game with dignity. Pete will snicker to himself, and immediate catch, turn and fire as soon as the ball comes into the game. It’ll go in. The Kings will win the game and while the fans yell in shock, and four of the five Kings players are rushed to the hospital, Joerger will look hurriedly to the stands for the man in the hat.

He’s not there.

Kings: 97, Jazz: 96