PREVIEW: Kings at Rockets- Feb. 6

Jan 13, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Houston Rockets guard Garrison Mathews (25) and Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk (0) confront each other during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Kings at Rockets- Feb. 6

The Rockets should be close to full strength when they host the Sacramento Kings in the first of two games between the two teams this week. Kevin Porter Jr. will miss his 13th straight game with left foot soreness, but on Saturday, Jalen Green returned from the right calf injury that kept him out of three games, while Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate will be back after missing Saturday’s game in Oklahoma City.

Eye on the Kings

Record: 29-23 (3rd in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 116.7 (2nd)

Defensive rating (rank): 114.6 (22nd)

The Kings arrive at Toyota Center having lost their last two games, including a 136-104 drubbing on Sunday night in New Orleans. De’Aaron Fox missed both games for personal reasons, and the Kings have not said if he’ll play on Monday night. Sitting in third place in the Western Conference standings with 30 games to play, the Kings are in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but with as bunched together as the West is, Sacramento is only two games clear of Minnesota for seventh in the conference and four games in the loss column ahead of Portland for 11th, which would knock them out of the play-in tournament.

Matchup to watch: Alperen Sengun vs. Domantas Sabonis

Sabonis, selected to his third All-Star Game in his first full season with the Kings, torched the Rockets during the two games in Sacramento last month, averaging 22 points on 58% shooting, 15.5 rebounds, and 12.5 assists while attempting 19 free throws. Sabonis becomes even more important to what the Kings do offensively if Fox doesn’t rejoin them for Monday’s game, so this matchup could be a deciding factor once again. Sengun held his own against Sabonis in Sacramento, finishing with a 10-10-10 triple-double in the first game, followed by 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists in the second, but he only averaged 28 minutes. The Rockets need him on the floor, and they need him forcing the Kings center to exert some of his energy on the defensive end.

What I’m watching for

There was bad blood between these two teams when they met in Sacramento. Malik Monk committed a flagrant that led to the foot injury that has kept Porter off the floor the last 12 games, and Garrison Mathews was whistled for a flagrant foul on Keegan Murray. Two nights later, Mathews and Monk were ejected after a fourth-quarter altercation that led to suspensions for Green and Tate for leaving the bench area. Mathews is questionable to play Monday due to a left big toe injury, but whether or not he’s able to play, it should be interesting to see if there is any lingering tension between the teams.

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