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Kings vs. Rockets preview and game thread: Can Sacramento continue its hot start?

The Kings are looking to improve to 4-1.

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the 2020-21 NBA season began, the Sacramento Kings’ early schedule seemed like an impossible gauntlet.

Instead, the team has silenced the critics, winning three out of their first four contests. The Kings have beaten last year’s Western Conference finalists — the Denver Nuggets — twice and split a pair of games against the vastly improved Phoenix Suns.

Game Information

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

When: Thursday, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. PT

How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM


Kings: DaQuan Jeffries (ankle) — OUT

Rockets: Chris Clemons (Achilles) — OUT, Mason Jones (ankle) — OUT, KJ Martin (Self-Isolating) — OUT, Ben McLemore (Self-Isolating) — OUT

Sacramento is coming off a 125-115 win over the Nuggets. Rookie Tyrese Haliburton continued his strong play. He scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Kings seal the victory.

Haliburton is averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 assists over his first four NBA games and will be a contender for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. The 20-year-old has been a part of head coach Luke Walton’s nine-man rotation that has outperformed expectations.

The Kings are using a balanced attack to keep opponents on their toes, with at least six players scoring in double-figures in their three wins.

Defensively, Sacramento has shown improvement compared to last season. The team ranks fourth in fast-break points allowed per game and isn’t giving up too many second-chance opportunities to opponents.

The Kings are gobbling up 77.3 of their defensive rebounds — fourth-best in the NBA — and their defensive rating has improved by 1.8 points per 100 possessions compared to last season.

Houston comes into tonight’s matchup winless over its first two games. The Rockets are dealing with off-court drama involving former league MVP James Harden, and they also were without several players due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.

As usual, Harden has been the primary scorer for Houston, averaging 39 points over the first two contests. Big man Christian Wood has been a great addition as well. He’s putting up 27 points and eight boards per game early in the season.

The Rockets haven’t gotten much from the rest of their depleted squad, but help is on the way. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon and Mason Jones have cleared the league’s quarantine guidelines and will be available to play tonight. It will be interesting to see how many minutes head coach Stephen Silas plays each of them.

Even with the returning players, Sacramento has a great opportunity to improve to 4-1. The Kings have been playing inspired basketball to start the year and should test Houston’s conditioning by pushing the pace.

It should be a good one!

Enjoy the game and Happy New Year!