Houston used a 42-point final quarter to propel themselves to a 126-108 victory in Minnesota yesterday. James Harden continued to stake his claim for a maiden MVP, putting up 34 points and 13 assists in the win. They moved to within half a game of Golden State atop the Western Conference standings with the victory, and are 9.5 games ahead of the Spurs in third.
The Rockets will be expecting an easy victory when they host a Kings side coming off a 114-109 win in Dallas. Zach Randolph had a solid game with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Bogdan Bogdanovic had 19 points and four assists. The win moved the Kings off bottom spot in the west. They are now in 13th place with a record of 18-38.
Three keys to the game
Who deals with back-to-backs better? - This will be the second game in two days for both teams. Houston have been involved in seven back-to-backs, splitting the second leg 4-3, while the Kings are 3-6 in the same situation.
History - Historically, Houston have had the wood over the Kings. They have beaten them five times out of five in the past two years, and are 11-1 against them in the past four years. The Kings will have their work cut out turning things around in this game.
Can the Kings stop Houston’s offense? - Quite simply, the answer to this is probably not. Houston’s offensive rating of 113.4 is just 0.4 behind Golden State, widely renowned as the best offensive team in the NBA’s history. The Kings concede 110 points per game this season, worse than every team in the league except for the woeful Suns. This could get ugly for Sacramento.
Matchup to watch
De’Aaron Fox vs Chris Paul - The master vs the apprentice. Paul’s illustrious career now spans 13 years, and at 32 years of age, he has proven this season that he is still a highly capable point guard. In 31.9 minutes a night he is scoring 19.2 points on 46.9% shooting, while also adding 5.7 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.8 steals.
Fox is just 49 games into his career, but already there have been some impressive signs and significant development from the number five pick. He averages 11.3 points and 4.3 assists in 27.2 minutes, but in recent games has been playing more and producing more. In his past nine games he is averaging 15.3 points and 4.6 assists, rewarding coaching staff for giving him a place in the starting lineup.
Houston Rockets predicted starting lineup
PG - Chris Paul | SG - James Harden | SF - Luc Mbah a Moute | PF - P. J. Tucker | C - Clint Capela
Sacramento Kings predicted starting lineup
PG - De’Aaron Fox | SG - Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF - Justin Jackson | PF - Zach Randolph | C - Willie Cauley-Stein
Clint Capela was a driving force behind the Rockets’ narrow victory when these sides met in the Kings’ first game of the season. He went 10-for-12 from the field on his way to 22 points, grabbed five offensive rebounds on the way to 17 total boards, and also contributed three steals and a block.
Paul averages a career double-double in points and assists against the Kings. In 42 games he averages 18.8 points, shoots 47.6% from the floor and 42.6% from 3-point range, dishes out 10.5 assists, all while turning it over just 2.4 times.
As expected, Sacramento have been given a sizeable handicap in this game. The line is set at 14.5 points, and incredibly this may not be enough. Houston tend to win big as a result of their high-scoring playing style and willingness to play their best players in the final quarter even when they have an unassailable lead. Back them to cover this line.
This will be a massacre. The Kings are woeful. Added to that, they have no reason to win games as they are locked in an eight-way battle for prime position in the lottery.
In contrast, Houston have been beating anyone and everyone in their path this season, and doing so handsomely. Harden rarely scores below 30 points, and he and Paul are averaging close to 20 combined assists a night. Meanwhile, Capela is having the best season of his career.
Along with the rest of their supporting cast, they will send Sacramento home with a big loss. Houston will win this one 124-101.
The game will be broadcast locally on ATTSN-SW and NBCSCA. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.