The Sacramento Kings (17-38) gave it a good shot, but they couldn’t hold on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road. They were outscored 36-26 in the fourth quarter en route to a 111-106 defeat. The Kings have now dropped four of their last five games. De’Aaron Fox had another impressive outing, dropping 23 points with three steals. Buddy Hield added 16 points in just 19 minutes off the bench, while big men Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos added 12 points apiece.
The Kings now face fellow strugglers in the Dallas Mavericks (18-39), who suffered a 104-97 defeat to the Houston Rockets the night after beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 130-123. The team gave the Rockets a run for their money despite the absence of veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Barea. Yogi Ferrell had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. added a stellar 16-point, 11-assist double-double. Dwight Powell also continued his strong play of late with 18 points and 12 boards of his own.
Three keys to the game
Return of Mavs stars – Dallas impressively showed how competitive they could be against the Rockets even without three top rotation players. They could probably give the Kings a run for their money as well with that shorthanded lineup. However, they likely won’t need to, as the likes of Dirk, Matthews, and Barea are set to return.
Frontcourt battle – Nowitzki should be fully rested and refreshed after his game off against the Rockets. The 39-year-old will lead a Mavs frontcourt along with Dwight Powell and Harrison Barnes has played very well of late. Those three combined for 50 points in their 106-99 win over the Kings at Sacramento a couple weeks ago. Zach Randolph and the Kings frontcourt will have to do a better job of matching their Mavs counterparts’ offensive production if they want to return the favor in Dallas.
Bench production – The reserves will also be a key factor for both teams, who generally rely on scoring by committee. The Kings’ bench took a blow with the departure of George Hill, but Buddy Hield has popped up with three 16-point games in his first five contests this February. As for the Mavs, the return of Barea and Ferrell to the bench to make way for Nowitzki and Matthews will only strengthen their second unit.
Matchup to watch
De’Aaron Fox vs Dennis Smith Jr. – Fox and Smith were two of the top point guard prospects of this year’s draft, and they have lived up to the hype thus far in the NBA. Fox has taken more offensive responsibility over the last few weeks, while Smith has continued to show flashes of stardom amid some understandable inconsistency. The two were fairly evenly-matched in their first encounter earlier in the month, and it’ll be fascinating to see if anyone can get the edge this time around.
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – De’Aaron Fox | SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF – Justin Jackson | PF – Zach Randolph | C – Willie Cauley-Stein
Mavs projected starting lineup
PG – Dennis Smith Jr. | SG – Wesley Matthews | SF – Harrison Barnes | PF – Dwight Powell | C – Dirk Nowitzki
Fox is coming off one of the best games of his young NBA career against the Timberwolves as he went off for 23 points. He has been averaging 14 points and around five assists with a steal for well over a month. He has the keys to the team now that Hill’s out of town, and he’ll look to get the better of his draft mate Smith.
Speaking of Smith, he’s coming off a strong outing of 16 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds against the Rockets. But he’s hardly been the Mavs’ most impressive fantasy player of late. That distinction has to go to Dwight Powell, who is putting up 16 points and nine rebounds over his last five games. He started that streak with 17 points, nine boards, and a steal against Sacramento.
The Mavs just about had enough to top the Kings on the road a couple of weeks ago, and they should be able to do the same with their full complement of players back. Their offense has simply been that little bit more reliable than the Kings, who have often found it tough to get baskets consistently with no go-to scorer.
The Mavs take care of business – and the Kings – with a 108-101 home win.
this game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest and NBC Sports California. Tip-off is at 8:30 pm Eastern.
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