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Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings game preview

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The Rockets look to return to a .500 record when they take on the Kings in Sacramento.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to life as a Houston Rockets follower.

Struggling to tread water while dealing with injuries has become a staple of the Rockets over the last, oh, 20 years. Every team deals with injuries, but the amount and severity that Houston deals with on a consistent basis makes watching Rockets games akin to having teeth pulled.

Last season was filled with close wins because James Harden dragged an ailing squad across the finish line time and time again. Houston rarely blew teams out in the second half of the season. In fact, after the All-Star Break the Rockets won a grand total of two games by more than 20 points.

So those hoping for a miraculous jump in ability by this team and a string of blowout wins are kidding themselves. Until the Rockets return to full health, they won't be the world-beaters that we think they can be.

Tonight, the Rockets take on a Kings squad that is missing their starting center. Still, a game on national television usually brings the stars out. And last season it took overtime for the Rockets to beat the Kings on national television.

Tip off is at 9:30pm CST on ESPN.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Ty Lawson vs. Rajon Rondo

This will be a fun matchup. For the first time in Rondo's career, he's playing on a team where there's more than one other player that needs the ball in their hands. That means that he won't be putting up huge assist numbers like he did in Boston, but he's still capable of great things on any given night.

He probably has a bit of a grudge against the Rockets since it was in the first round of the playoffs that Rondo and Dallas had their falling out.

Lawson has to keep doing what he's doing. He's still not as aggressive every time as I would like, but he's learning his role and he's improved dramatically at it over the course of these five games.

Advantage: Even

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Darren Collison

Remember that overtime game from last year I was talking about? Here's Harden's highlights. The dude was absolutely filthy in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Collison usually plays well against the Rockets, but Harden will be happy not to see Ben McLemore starting since McLemore gave him fits last season on both ends of the court. Still, if I post the Harden video then I have to post the McLemore gif.

McLemore dancing gif

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. James Anderson

Once again, Ariza had his best game of the season in the last matchup for Houston, going 4-7 from deep and grabbing 7 boards to go with 3 steals.

Anderson didn't play last season, but in the previous year while in Philadelphia he killed the Rockets to the tune of a 33 points per game average. So yeah, he's a little scary.

Advantage: Kings

Power Forward: Marcus Thornton vs. Rudy Gay

Just a guess: Thornton won't be guarding Gay much tonight. More than likely he'll switch down with Ariza and Trevor will take the responsibility of defending the mercurial small forward for the Kings. Gay has taken on the role of a stretch four as George Karl is tinkering with lineups and working with some injuries.

The Rockets' draft pick back in 2006, Gay is averaging 17/7/3 early in the season and shooting the three ball to the tune of 38%.

Advantage: Kings

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

We're still not sure whether Howard will play in one of these two games or both. Furthermore, we don't know which game he will play in if he does play in one.

DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury (soreness, not a tear), so Cauley-Stein will get the call for the Kings. The rookie is averaging 7/6 early in the season and he's going to get tons of minutes playing on this Kings teams so look for his production to improve on both ends. He's already athletic enough to guard anyone.

With Cousins out, it might make sense for the Rockets to sit Howard tonight and save him for the Clippers game on Saturday. But we'll see.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Jason Terry, Corey Brewer, Montrezl Harrell, Clint Capela

Kings: Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore

Advantage: Kings

Prediction:

Rockets vs Kings coverage

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