Game 81 Preview: Rockets at Kings

Ah, Round 2. Remember when the Kings, Rockets, Grizzlies, and Hornets were all in the thick of the playoff hunt? Then around the All-Star break, the contenders started to pull away from the pretenders. The Hornets lost CP3 twice this season, the Rockets and Kings traded important players, and the Grizz are still the youngest team in the league.

So, though that this game means nothing, it will still mean something to these teams. I haven't watched the Kings recently, so I don't know if they're still playing with the same fire the Rockets are playing with.

The Suns game was the second time this season that I've predicted the Rockets to lose by 10 points. Both times have been exactly on the money. I will no longer be predicting the Rockets to lose by 10 points.

And, it's K-Mart's return to Sacramento, where he'll be greeted warmly, then proceed to torch his former team to the tune of 50 points. Sorry, just dreaming there.

Matchups!

 

Star-divide

 

Point Guard

Aaron Brooks vs. Beno Udrih:

Beno had been averaging 18 ppg before the Kings lost to Mavs recently and he only scored 10 points. That's not a big deal or anything. He's been playing very efficiently and has taken over more of the ball-handling duties away from Evans.

Aaron started out hot against the Suns, then kind of cooled off. He was absolutely getting attacked on those high pick-and-rolls, and the officials only called a few of them late. He was getting a shoulder in his chest on every possession, and I'm amazed that all he did was clap at the officials. I would have had some words to say. In fact, I did, but I was at home, so luckily they couldn't hear me.

Edge: Rockets

Shooting Guard

Kevin Martin vs. Tyreke Evans

How good is Tyreke Evans? Well, he needs just 24 points in his final two games to join Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies in NBA history to average 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. That's pretty good company, I'd say. I wish Shane wasn't injured so he could block Evans 8 more times tonight.

K-Mart is looking for his shot. I think he'll find it tonight.

Edge: Even

Small Forward

Trevor Ariza vs. Andres Nocioni

Nocioni missed the last game in Houston with a DUI suspension.

Trevor has been a beast in these last few games. I really like seeing him play more efficiently and aggressively. A good side effect of playing well is that his confidence is growing, so he's shooting the threes with more swagger, and they're going in because of it.

Ariza will probably guard Evans and K-Mart could slide down to face Nocioni.

Edge:  Rockets

Power Forward

Luis Scola vs. Carl Landry

That even hurt to write. I'm still coming to the grips with the reality that Ole Toothache is no longer a Rocket. Nevertheless, I'm glad to see Landry as a starter in the NBA. He deserves it, and he's got a bright future ahead of him, whether it's in Sacramento or somewhere else.  

As for the matchup, the respective skills of the dual identity that is Luis Landry has been beaten to death on the site. Landry has a better low post game, Scola is a better rebounder, etc.

Don't be surprised if Chuck ends up guarding Landry and Scola moves down to the 5 on defense.


Edge: Even-come on, what did you expect? It's Luis Landry!

Center

Chuck Hayes vs. Jason Thompson

Chuck never plays much against the Suns. He's not quick enought to guard Amare, and he isn't the kind of player who can get into a track meet. He should come out ready to play tonight, though.

At 23, Jason Thompson is a good young player. He averages 13/8, and most of his stats have improved over last year. We'll see next year what he is all about. Most players make that jump in their third year. AB and Landry are two examples, and the NBA is rife with others.

Edge: Even

Bench

Kings: Omri Casspi, Sean May, Francisco Garcia, Jon Brockman, Donte Greene, Ime Udoka.

Rockets: The usual

Edge: Rockets-they're awfully young over there on the Kings bench

Injuries

Kings: Spencer Hawes

Rockets: Shane, Yao

Prediction: Rockets take one in Sac-Town, win by 5

Rockets vs Kings coverage

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