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Kings vs. Jazz Preview: Another ascent up the Stifle Tower

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Rudy Gobert was the biggest difference maker the last time these two teams matched up.

Kimani Okearah

The Kings and Jazz face off in Sacramento again tonight for the second time this month and in all honesty, the Kings should have won. We know because the NBA told us so.

But the Kings didn’t win, and Rudy Gobert was definitely the deciding factor. Not only did Gobert have the game-winning tip in at the buzzer, he was a force on both ends of the court. He finished with 16 points, 23 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. In a game that was decided by a single possession, he was a +11. His mere presence in the middle caused issues for the Kings who were tentative in trying to go to the paint when he was waiting.

For the Kings, they’ll probably have even less size to throw at Gobert than they did last time. According to Dave Joerger, Monday’s game against the Grizzlies was really the “last stand” for the vets this season, and he’s going to be alternating rest days for those guys as the season winds down to give the young guys more time. That means more Skal and more Papa G. In that last matchup, Skal only played 2 minutes and Papa didn’t enter the game. Tonight they’ll have much bigger roles.

For Utah, this is an important game as they’re trying to create some separation between themselves and the 5th place L.A. Clippers, who the Kings knocked off on Sunday. But the Kings have been playing incredibly hard as of late and have two straight victories against teams in the playoff race. Even without the vets, this Kings team plays hard each night.

Gordon Hayward and George Hill are both also big problems for the Kings and were also crucial to Utah’s overtime win early in March. Hayward started off slow but heated up in the fourth quarter and hit some big shots and Hill kept the Jazz attack going at full speed. Hill’s been a big addition for the Jazz this year.

For the Kings to have a chance to win this one, they’re going to have to try to limit Gobert’s impact and it will help if they can get some outside shots going in. Thankfully the Kings have plenty of shooters, led by rookie Buddy Hield.

Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. Go Kings!