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January 4, 2012
Kings at Nuggets: Five things to watch

DENVER - Kings coach Paul Westphal sat his starters in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's loss at Memphis, so the Kings should be an energetic bunch to start tonight's game against the Denver Nuggets.

In three of their four losses the Kings fell behind big in the first quarter and at times looked like a group lacking fire.

That was the case at Memphis. If it happens again, the Kings could lose their fifth game by double digits this season.

The Nuggets won't have starting center Nene, but it remains to be seen if they can take advantage.

With that in mind, here are five things to watch for tonight when the Kings play the Nuggets.

1. Early focus
Even if their shots aren't falling (as has been the case most of the season) the Kings need to be attentive on defense to stay in the game.

2. Backcourt points
When Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas combine to outscore Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, there's a problem. That happened in Memphis and the Kings were blown out. Whoever is defended by Ty Lawson needs to exploit their size advantage over the speedy Denver guard.

3. Make the easy ones
One reason DeMarcus Cousins has struggled shooting is he has missed a lot of easy putbacks. If he gets a few of those to go in tonight, it will defintiely help Cousins' confidence.

4. Small ball
If Fredette and Thomas play together again, look for the Kings to try to play at a frenetic pace with active defense and wide-open offense. The Fredette-Thomas combination doesn't give the Kings much size in the backcourt so they have to play fast.

5. Paint problems
The Kings gave up 72 points Tuesday night to the Grizzlies. Without a big shot blocker to protect the rim, the team defense has to be stout in the halfcourt and not allow the Nuggets to break them down off the dribble for easy lay ups.

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