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Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings game preview

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

After spending most of the season on the road during November, December, and every other month of the season, the Rockets have their final two games on the road this week as part of their final back-to-back of the season.

For Houston, Nene will be out after hurting his fingers, but it doesn’t sound too serious for the Rockets’ big man. The Brazilian will be key for Houston against the size of the Oklahoma City Thunder, so giving him time off is only beneficial.

As for the rest of the Rockets, Friday’s game showed that the Rockets aren’t mentally ready for the playoffs. While James Harden continued his MVP campaign by carrying the burden for much of the night, the rest (sans a couple of guys) of the team decided that the Detroit game was basically a bye week. Lou Williams hasn’t been what Houston expected him to be, but if he figures it out soon the conversation changes.

Williams wasn’t the only poor spot, but this isn’t a recap. The point to be made is that Houston has its work cut out for them moving forward. The rotation will be missing Sam Dekker against OKC and Montrezl Harrell will be unusable for most games due to OKC’s incredible inside presence and rebounding ability. The Rockets will have to get grimy and dirty to win in the playoffs, and Friday they didn’t show an ability to win via grit.

The Kings have to keep losing to get keep their lottery pick high. As has been said by everyone everywhere, the Sixers have swap rights with the Kings. Currently, the Kings are tied for the seventh-worst record and also have a couple of teams trying to tank to pass them. With Philly a few spots ahead, the Kings can reasonably tank without worrying about much.

That will be done by playing the youngsters. Sacramento obviously looks different than the last time these teams met. Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein are looking more and more like their frontcourt of the future. Buddy Hield has received a new chance in Sacramento and has taken his shot. He’s playing more minutes and shooting much better now that he’s a focal point of the offense. Finally, Georgios Papagiannis has given the Kings some decent production off the bench lately. For a 19-year-old there’s some real potential there.

Tip-off is at 5pm CT on NBA TV.