Less than 24 hours after their 109-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center last night, the Kings are back home this evening to play the Houston Rockets at 6 p.m.
While the Kings have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Rockets are still fighting for a spot.
Houston (30-25) started the day in sixth place in the Western Conference but separated from the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, who are tied for ninth place, by only one and a half games.
That means the Kings can count on getting the Rockets' best. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:
1. What will the Kings' starting lineup look like? There was no team shoot-around this morning, so there have been no updates on Marcus Thornton (bruised left calf) or John Salmons (sore right hip). Plus Francisco Garcia, who has started the last two games due to those injuries, told reporters after last night's game that he suffered a concussion when clipped upside the head by Los Angeles forward Bobby Simmons.
If all three of them are out tonight, who steps in? Does Donte Greene slide in to start at small forward, as he did last time the Kings played the Rockets on March 26? (Greene is listed as a starter on the Kings' game notes.) Or might Terrence Williams make his first start for the Kings? After avoiding the injury bug for much of the season, the Kings have recently been bitten pretty good.
2. Winning the turnover margin is important. The Kings saw last night's game slip away when they committed 11 turnovers in the fourth quarter. They had 20 turnovers total, leading to 32 Clippers points and a few of those big open-court dunks the Clippers thrive on. Those are the easy baskets the Kings want to be scoring, and to get them, they need to be the ones getting deflections and forcing turnovers.
3. Can DeMarcus Cousins get going again? Cousins was neutralized on offense by the Clippers, scoring a total of 23 points on 9-of-27 shooting in the Kings' two losses to Los Angeles. The Rockets, though, may be the right opponent for Cousins to get going against. When these teams played on March 26, Cousins set a then-career high with 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting.
4. Back-to-backs have been a challenge. The Kings are just 4-11 this season in the second game of back-to-back sets. And after a pair of games against the high-profile Clippers, a quick flight and turnaround today and a tip-off tonight that's an hour earlier than normal, the ingredients are there for a potential energy lag. The Kings don't want to fall behind the Rockets early.
5. Setting themselves up for success. Another reason the Kings want to keep tonight's game in hand -- they have actually done a good job of closing out wins at home when they put themselves in a good position. They are 10-0 at Power Balance Pavilion this season when they take a lead into the fourth quarter.