The Kings announced earlier today that guard Marcus Thornton is expected to miss 1 to 2 weeks with a significant hematoma in his left thigh. How the Kings continue to deal with his absence will be one thing to keep an eye on beginning tonight, when they play the Denver Nuggets at 7 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion.
1. What will the starting five look like? Thornton's absence leaves Kings head coach Keith Smart with options. He can start John Salmons in the backcourt with Tyreke Evans for a bigger lineup -- as he did against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday -- or have Jimmer Fredette start alongside Evans. Should Salmons move to shooting guard, it may mean another start for Donte Greene against a sizable Nuggets frontcourt.
2. Jimmer Fredette looks to be getting more comfortable. Regardless of whether or not Fredette starts tonight, he figures to get more opportunities with Thornton out. It may be coming at a good time. Fredette scored in double figures in the Kings' last two games and was a combined 6-for-10 from three-point range. Without Thornton's team-leading 16.4 points per game, Fredette's contributions on the offensive end will be key.
3. Can the Kings solve their shooting woes? The Kings remain the only NBA team shooting under 40 percent. Smart said this morning that he doesn't fault shot selection. Instead, he said, the Kings are finding open shots on the perimeter by running their offense and simply missing them, and in some cases are not finishing plays under the basket. Smart said he counted 14 missed lay-ups in the Kings' loss to Portland. Of the team's shooting, he said: "I think it'll come around."
4. The Nuggets will again test the Kings' transition defense. It certainly wasn't up to par last time the teams met on Jan. 4, when the Nuggets had 31 fast-break points. The Nuggets will run and are very adept at finding the open man -- they have six players averaging double-figure points and none averaging more than Danilo Gallinari's 17.4. The Kings need to take care of the ball, particularly at the top of the key, and rotate back on defense following missed shots. Their off-day yesterday, by the way, won't be much of an advantage. The Nuggets last played on Jan. 21.
5. The Nuggets look different this time around. Nuggets forward and leading rebounder Nene was injured when the teams last played -- and Denver won by 27 points. On the other hand, the Nuggets may be without starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo tonight.
-- Matt Kawahara