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March 9, 2012
Kings vs. Mavericks: Five things to watch

The defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks go into tonight's game against the Kings at Power Balance Pavilion on a 2-6 skid.

The Mavericks have, however, won their last 10 games against the Kings, including a lopsided 99-60 win in January that saw the Kings set a new Sacramento-era record for the lowest shooting percentage in a game (25.6).

Here are a few things to watch when tonight's game tips off at 7 p.m.:

1. DeMarcus Cousins should be back on the court. Cousins, who missed the Kings' win over the Hornets on Wednesday with a bad bout of food poisoning, practiced Thursday but still wasn't totally himself, according to head coach Keith Smart and guard Jimmer Fredette. It remains to be seen whether Cousins will still be battling fatigue or dehydration tonight. The Kings missed his rebounding (11.4 per game, fourth in the NBA) against the Hornets. Not to mention that tonight ...

2. The Mavericks are missing two of their centers. Starting center Brendan Haywood has missed the Mavericks' last two games with an ankle injury and reportedly will not play tonight. Brandan Wright is out with a concussion. That has placed the 6-foot-11, 230-pound Ian Mahinmi in a starting role. Mahinmi is averaging 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game this season, and has gotten into some foul trouble in his two recent starts.

3. If there is a right place and time for the Kings to catch the Mavericks, this may be it. The Mavericks have lost five consecutive games on the road, and the Kings are 9-6 at home and have some of their better wins (Lakers, Pacers, Thunder) at Power Balance Pavilion. The Mavericks are also in the middle of a three-games-in-three-nights stretch, are playing their eighth game in 11 nights since the All-Star break, and must be wary of how their veteran-heavy roster is holding up under the scheduling rigors. Dallas' projected starting lineup tonight has a combined 58 seasons of NBA experience. The Kings' projected starters, combined, have eight.

4. The Kings need to shoot well. The Kings made 50 percent of their shots against the Hornets on Wednesday and need another good shooting performance against a much stouter defense in the Mavericks. Dallas is allowing opponents to shoot 42 percent (tied-3rd in the NBA) and score 91.4 points per game (3rd), so they don't give away a lot of easy looks.

5. The point guard initiation continues. Chris Paul, Derek Fisher, Steve Nash and now Jason Kidd. Throw in the Hornets' Jarrett Jack, whose strong first half Wednesday prompted Smart to put John Salmons on him instead of Thomas in the second half, and the rookie Thomas has had a trying eight days. It will be interesting to see how the energetic, hustling Thomas matches up with the grizzled veteran Kidd. At 6-foot-4, Kidd is another point guard with a significant size advantage over Thomas, so if Thomas plays fewer minutes tonight it may be to get Salmons into the game and a bigger lineup for defensive purposes.



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