In what continues to be a brutal stretch for Sacramento, the Kings play host to three of the top teams in the conference this week: Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Utah got off to a hot start on the season, winning several come from behind victories against top teams like the Miami Heat. But lately, they’ve been really struggling, winning just 3 of their last 12 games. Star Deron Williams has been out for the past few games but is expected to make his return tonight against Sacramento. The Kings have played the Jazz just once this season, a 94-83 loss at Utah back on Nov. 22nd.
The Kings played a much closer game against the Mavericks the last time they played on Dec. 4th (their only meeting so far), but it still ended up being a 105-103 loss after the Mavericks outscored the Kings 15-4 in the final 5 minutes. The Kings have been doing a much better job at closing out games lately though, so we’ll see if the results can be different. Tyreke Evans was suffering from Plantar Fasciitis in both the Jazz and Mavericks game, something that hasn’t been bothering him as much lately.
Sacramento hasn’t faced the Thunder yet this season. The Thunder are what the Kings hope to become: a young, successful team built around a couple stars. Oklahoma City struck gold in the draft with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, one of the most dynamic duos in the entire NBA. The Thunder have done a good job surrounding them with other solid young players like Serge Ibaka and James Harden. If Oklahoma City has one weakness though its a lack of size. The only true Centers on the roster are little used Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich. Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison take most of the Center minutes, but they’re more Power Forward size.
With the way the Kings have been playing lately, not winning at least one game during this stretch would actually be a bit of a disappointment. Also, since an even tougher 6 game road stretch occurs just after it, a win or two this week is almost a necessity to bring some momentum going into the road stretch.