The Kings try to snap a three-game losing streak tonight against the San Antonio Spurs, whom they surprised in San Antonio earlier this season. Here are a few things to keep an eye during the game:
1. DeMarcus Cousins has been near dominant on the offensive end. Cousins has averaged 29.3 points and 16.7 rebounds in his last three games. More promising perhaps have been Cousins' shooting numbers in the last two games - a combined 24-for-46 (52.2 percent) and 18-of-23 from the free-throw line. His shooting percentage is bound to increase as he converts more of the second-chance opportunities he gets from offensive rebounds and put-backs.
The Kings, though, have been denied from getting Cousins the ball late in their past two games (in regulation against the Warriors and overtime against the Rockets) by well-executed defensive schemes. If Cousins gets going, it's likely the veteran Spurs will devise some way to try to take Cousins out of his element. It will be up to the Kings to keep finding him, and for Cousins to work to get to spots where he can receive the ball.
2. How healthy is Jason Thompson? Thompson took part in the Kings' shootaround this morning and head coach Keith Smart said he expects Thompson will play. Whether his sprained left ankle will limit his minutes or productivity remains to be seen. The Kings have missed his reliable shooting from the low post, and he finishes a lot of plays in transition off misses or passes. He also provides more of a rebounding presence against a Spurs frontcourt, led by Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair, that allows the fewest offensive rebounds per game in the league.
3. John Salmons is likely out. Salmons aggravated his right hip against the Rockets and is not expected to play tonight. ThatÂ likely means Tyreke Evans will run the offense more when Isaiah Thomas is out, and could translate into more minutes for Jimmer Fredette, who has played a total of 18 minutes in the Kings' last four games including one DNP-CD.Â
Or it may open the door for Terrence Williams to play more minutes earlier in the game.Â Williams, on a 10-day contract with the Kings, has appeared in just two games, but has made an impression with his playmaking ability. Smart has had him on the court in crunch time in both games. Williams had 10 points, three rebounds and two steals against the Rockets, and Smart told reporters after the game that Williams is "moving up the charts."
4. Scoring is definitely up. The Kings are averaging 111.7 points in their last seven games. They have averaged 27.1 fast-break points per game and 61.7 points in the paint, averages that would far and away lead the league if projected out over the entire season.
However, the Kings went 3-4 in those games. In the four losses, they allowed opponents to shoot 47.3 percent from the field or better, while committing the same number of turnovers (14.5 a game). The Kings can score with just about anyone, but they need to defend as well.
5. The Spurs make threes. Good perimeter-shooting teams have given the Kings trouble this season, and the Spurs definitely fall in that category. San Antonio leads the league in three-point shooting percentage at 38.5 percent, and attempts more than 21 three-point shots per game. That means it's important for the Kings to give what Smart has termed "multiple efforts" on defense -- deny scoring in the paint and collapse on penetration, but also make the effort to close out on long-range shots late in the possession.