Kings Blog and Q&A

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

March 22, 2012
Kings vs. Jazz: Five things to watch

Something has to give tonight when the Kings (17-29) play the Utah Jazz (24-22) at Power Balance Pavilion.

The Kings have equaled their season-high by winning three in a row and can finish their nine-game homestand at 6-3 with a win tonight.

The Jazz have won their last four games, defeating the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday and the Thunder on Tuesday, as they try to stay in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:

1. Can the Kings keep playing good defense? Yes, the Kings are averaging 118 points in their last three wins, but that number is in no small part attributable to their play on defense. The Kings have been forcing more turnovers and getting themselves into transition faster off of defensive rebounds and steals. That has led to more lay-ups in transition.

Meanwhile, of the Kings' opponents in those three games, all of have shot 47.8 percent or lower from the field. That's not astoundingly low, by any means, but in the Kings' three previous losses, their opponents had all shot 50.5 percent or better.

2. Marcus Thornton is on a hot streak. Thornton has said he was nervous about the approaching NBA trade deadline and also sick while posting back-to-back nine-point games last week. Whatever it was, something changed in the last three games. Thornton is averaging 30.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.67 assists in those games. And defensively he has been noticeably active, averaging four steals. Per the steals, he has explained that he's trusting his instincts more on defense, while head coach Keith Smart has said Thornton realized he was playing out of position and has done a better job there.

3. Does John Salmons continue to start? Salmons started at small forward Tuesday night because Tyreke Evans, returning from a sprained ankle, saw Salmons and the Kings playing well with Salmons starting. Against the Grizzlies, that meant no Evans until the second quarter, as Smart rarely takes the starters off the floor in the first quarter unless somebody gets into early foul trouble. Evans is the more explosive player in transition between the two. But will the Kings want to tinker with what's been working? Smart said the decision remains up to Evans when he will return to the lineup.

4. Is Francisco Garcia's wrist still bothering him? Garcia did not play for the third game in a row Tuesday, though his DNP-CD made no mention of his sprained right wrist. Smart said Garcia will be available tonight. If he does play, it will be interesting to see whether the wrist is ginger enough to noticeably affect his shot. Garcia was wearing a protective wrap on the wrist a few days ago while shooting at practice.

5. Will Terrence Williams get into the game? The newest member of the Kings via a 10-day contract, Williams is a 6-foot-6 swingman, so he would appear stuck behind Salmons (if he starts), Evans and Garcia (if he's healthy). Williams just joined the Kings yesterday, so he hasn't had too much time to familiarize himself with the players or the system. Should he get in, it will be interesting to see how he fits.

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