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March 11, 2012
Kings vs. Hawks: Five things to watch

The Kings (14-26) will try to match their season-high three-game winning streak this evening when they play the Atlanta Hawks (23-17) at Power Balance Pavilion. Here are a few things to keep an eye on when the game tips off at 6 p.m.:

1. Who controls the pace? The Hawks are allowing the fourth-fewest points per game in the league (91.4). Like the Mavericks, they can play with a more deliberate style that means fewer possessions per game. Last week they held the Thunder and the Heat -- two of the league's highest-scoring teams -- to 90 and 89 points, respectively. The Kings were able to dictate the pace early against the Mavericks on Friday and would benefit from doing the same tonight.

2. Shooting is improving. The Kings have shot 50 percent or better from the floor in each of their last two games -- both wins -- after doing so twice in their 38 previous games this season. Head coach Keith Smart has partly credited better ball movement and cuts to the basket. While it is unlikely the Kings will continue shooting so well, they must keep from reverting to their early-season woes of 40 percent or worse.

3. Ball control is key. The Kings have committed 14 turnovers in each of their past two wins and need to keep taking care of the ball. They are 5-17 this season when they commit 15 or more turnovers. The Hawks force an average of 15.38 turnovers per game.

4. Bench contributions. Smart likes how the Kings' second unit has been playing lately with John Salmons initiating the offense, Jimmer Fredette creating space and moving off the ball, Francisco Garcia cutting off of screens and Chuck Hayes as a facilitator in the middle. Salmons is shooting 59.5 percent since the All-Star break and is averaging 12 points off the bench in the Kings' last three games. If the bench gives solid minutes it takes pressure off of players like Marcus Thornton to shoulder the scoring load.

5. Close out on the perimeter. The Hawks make 37.6 percent of their three-point attempts, which is sixth in the league. The Kings have had trouble at times this season defending teams with good perimeter shooters, leaving those shooters open in an effort to prevent easy buckets in the paint. They want teams to try to beat them from the outside, but if the Hawks get hot from three-point range, the Kings will need to work hard to close out and challenge those long-range shots.



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