The Kings play the New York Knicks tonight in a matchup of teams that have each lost their last two games. Here are a few things to keep an eye on when the game tips off at Power Balance Pavilion at 5 p.m.
How will the Kings respond to coach Paul Westphal's call to pull together? Westphal was upset following the Kings' loss to the Bulls partly because he felt like the Kings stopped relying on each other when the going got tough. Players tried to do it themselves on the offensive end and admitted there was little communication on defense. Westphal believes the Kings can be a competitive team right now and have the will to win games, but need to execute responsibilities as a team on both ends of the floor.
The Kings must do a better job of getting back on defense. Transition defense has been the most glaring issue in the Kings' first two losses and was particularly bad against the Bulls. Players cited effort as one factor, while Wespthal also pointed out instances where post players crashed the boards rather than getting back on defense, or wings failed to rotate back following shots. There also may have been times when players showed their frustration by not getting back on the defensive end as quickly as they could have. It was a point of emphasis in film and practice Friday and will be important against another team that likes to push the tempo in the Knicks.
Amar'e Stoudamire's ankle may test the Knicks' depth. Early reports today have the Knicks' All-Star power forward sitting out tonight to rest the left ankle that he sprained against the Lakers on Thursday. That would obviously be a blow to the Knicks' offensive firepower, and may highlight some depth issues for a team already dealing with several injuries.
Will Marcus Thornton stay hot from long range? With all the talk about Jimmer Fredette's ability to spread the floor on offense, it's possible Thornton's shooting has gone overlooked. Prior to today's action, Thornton was one of 15 players in the league who had attempted 18 or more three-pointers. Thornton is 9-for-18, joining the Celtics' Ray Allen as the only two of those players to make at least half their three-point attempts. Thornton has shown a quick release and little hesitancy to shoot when he has a decent look.
Can DeMarcus Cousins stay out of foul trouble? Cousins hasn't played more than 28 minutes in any of the Kings' first three games, but he has three double-doubles. He shot poorly from the floor against the Bulls (4-of-16), but is rebounding well and has done a good job of drawing fouls. If he can help get Knicks center Tyson Chandler into foul trouble, that will open up opportunities for the Kings in the paint. On the other hand, the Knicks have been trying to get Chandler more involved in their offense and Chandler was aggressive against the Lakers, getting to the line 14 times himself.
-- Matt Kawahara