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Kings vs. Hornets preview: Sacramento will have its hands full with Charlotte’s backcourt

Head coach Luke Walton knows it starts and ends with the defensive end.

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings continue their six-game road trip with a matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Kings are coming off a 121-106 loss to Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Atlanta Hawks.

Sacramento’s up-and-down season will only reverse course if it can begin to improve on the defensive end.

“Until we realize and until we get better at playing defense, it’s going to be hard to win...” Kings coach Luke Walton said following the defeat in Atlanta. “The message to our guys is, ‘Listen, we can’t just rely on scoring to either stay in games or win games.’ Right now, that’s kind of what we’re doing most nights out.”

Game Information

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC

When: Monday, March 15 at 4:00 p.m. PT

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

Opposing perspective: At the Hive

Projected Starting Lineups

Kings (15-23): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes

Hornets (19-18): LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Gordon Hayward, Cody Zeller

Injuries/Absences

Kings: Chimeze Metu (wrist), Hassan Whiteside (health and safety), Robert Woodard II (left hamstring) — OUT

Hornets: Grant Riller — OUT

If Sacramento wants to remain in the hunt for a play-in spot, it begins and ends with the defensive end. As Walton alluded to, the Kings can score with any team in the league but remain abysmal at protecting their own end.

That can’t happen against a Hornets squad that has won four of their last five outings. Led by Ball, Hayward and Rozier, Charlotte has climbed back over the .500 mark and will be a handful for the Kings backcourt.

The trio combines to average 57.1 points per game, so De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes will need to be on point defensively.

It has been a disastrous five weeks for Sacramento, with the team going 3-12 over that time. The silver lining is that the Kings can climb back up into the top 10 in the Western Conference standings with an extended run, similar to what we saw when they went 7-1 prior to the recent rough patch.

If Walton wants to keep the season alive, he will need to get more creative with his defensive schemes and get the players on the same page.

This is the second meeting between the two teams. Malik Monk’s three-point play with 1.4 seconds remaining gave Charlotte a 127-126 win over Sacramento on Feb. 28.