Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

January 8, 2012
Kings-Magic: Five things to watch

The Kings (3-5) try to improve to 2-0 under head coach Keith Smart today when they play the Orlando Magic (5-3) at 3 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:

1. The Kings want to push the pace on offense. Having had only a few days to start introducing his offense, Smart said he wants to keep things simple in games for the time being and give his players some freedom to trust their instincts and athleticism on the offensive end. The Kings' players seem to like that. DeMarcus Cousins said he had "fun" in the Kings' win over Milwaukee on Thursday, and Marcus Thornton describes it as the Kings are "just playing." They will likely try to push the pace, as Smart believes the Kings can and should run more to create easy scoring opportunities.

2. Does J.J. Hickson start at power forward with Chuck Hayes out? Hickson is a good bet to start alongside DeMarcus Cousins with Jason Thompson needed to back up Cousins at center. Hickson (6-9) brings energy on defense and in rebounding, and has done a good job of getting to the free-throw line on offense, where his shooting has improved along with the team's over the past few games. If Hickson does start, he will likely draw the tough task of guarding 6-foot-10 Magic power forward Ryan Anderson, who is the Magic's second-leading scorer and most frequent 3-point shooter.

3. The Kings need production from the backcourt.  The first half against Milwaukee was another indication that when Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton (combined 16 points) are not clicking on offense, the Kings get into trouble. The second half (combined 37 points) showed what can happen when they get going. Either Evans or Thornton will have a size mismatch today on offense against 6-foot Magic guard Jameer Nelson.

4. DeMarcus Cousins vs. Dwight Howard. If the Magic try to feed Howard early with the hopes of getting Cousins into early foul trouble, Cousins will need to play smart. The Kings need his size and rebounding ability in the paint.

5. Can the Kings keep from falling behind early? Although the Kings managed to overcome their 21-point halftime deficit against Milwaukee, it was another case of the team stumbling out of the gate while their opponent puts up gaudy offensive numbers early in the game. The Kings do not want to keep falling behind against good teams.

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