It's a meeting of the teams with the two worst records in the Western Conference when the Kings (12-26) play the New Orleans Hornets (9-29)Â tonight at Power Balance Pavilion.
The Kings have beaten the Hornets both times they've played this season. Here are a few things to keep an eye on when the game tips off at 7 p.m.:
1. Can Marcus Thornton carry over his good shooting? Thornton is usually thought of as a streaky shooter, but his scoring of late has been consistent. He has scored 20 or more points in seven of the Kings' last nine games. Perhaps more promising, in his last five games, he has made 48.1 percent of his shots (39-for-81). After he tied a career high with six three-pointers in the Kings' loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, it will be interesting to see if Thornton can respond with another efficient game tonight. It's a boost for the Kings when they can count on his production.
2. Can DeMarcus Cousins get going on offense? Cousins had a rough game against the Nuggets after getting into early foul trouble, sitting out much of the first half and finishing with five points and five rebounds. He did not attempt a shot in overtime despite playing the entire five-minute extra period. So how early will the Kings go to Cousins on offense tonight? He had a dominating performance against the Hornets in February, with 28 points and 19 rebounds. Cousins has only been to the free-throw line 10 times in the Kings' last four games, so he may try to get back into a rhythm by getting himself to the line.
3. A strong start may be key. Last time these teams met, the Hornets built an 18-point lead in the second quarter and led by 13 points at halftime. The Kings came back to win by shooting 63.2 percent in the second half. The chances of the Kings putting together another shooting half like that are slim. The Hornets don't score many points off the break, but do give up quite a few points off turnovers. The Kings should come out of the gate playing aggressive defense and try to establish a fast pace when they have the ball.
4. Will Hassan Whiteside play more meaningful minutes? Whiteside, the second-year center, played 14 minutes against the Nuggets, finishing with five points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Whiteside saw more time with J.J. Hickson's hip injury shrinking the Kings' rotation of bigs. Hickson is not expected to play tonight, so one thing to watch will be whether Whiteside gets more time off the bench and, if so, what kind of impact he can make as a rebounder and shot-blocker.
5. The Kings hope to continue to play better at home. The Kings suffered no double-digit blowout losses on their recent three-game road trip, but they didn't win any games either. Lapses like the last-second foul on a three-point shooter in Denver and allowing a 15-3 Suns run to start the fourth quarter in Phoenix were crippling. Head coach Keith Smart said he hopes those are the kind of mistakes the Kings can avoid making at home, where they are 8-6 this season. If so, they may be able to pull out some of their closer games.