Feb 6, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) looses control of the ball against Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
PREVIEW: Kings at Rockets- Feb. 8
The Rockets will try to redeem themselves from Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Kings in a rematch on Wednesday night at Toyota Center. Two nights after giving up 153 in Oklahoma City, the Rockets saw their defense get lit up for 140 against Sacramento, prompting head coach Stephen Silas to call out the team’s effort during his postgame press conference.
Eye on the Kings
Record: 30-23 (3rd in Western Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 117.2 (2nd)
Defensive rating (rank): 114.7 (23rd)
Under first-year head coach Mike Brown, the Kings are primed to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2006. They are third in the West with just 29 games to play, but the West is so bunched up that they are just five games up on 11th place Oklahoma City, so one bad week could seriously damage their playoff hopes. Domantas Sabonis was named an All-Star in his first full season with Sacramento. The 26-year-old is averaging 18.6 points on 61% shooting, 12.3 rebounds, and a career-high seven assists. The Kings have gotten strong contributions from two other first-year players, Kevin Huerter, acquired in a trade with Atlanta last summer, and Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick of the 2022 draft.
Matchup to watch: Jalen Green vs. De’Aaron Fox
With Kevin Porter Jr. set to miss his 14th straight game, Green will draw the assignment on Fox, and while the Kings’ guard didn’t put up big numbers against the Rockets on Monday, he impacted the game without putting the ball in the basket. The Rockets cut a 17-point halftime lead to six in the final minute of the third quarter, but Fox orchestrated a quick 5-0 burst to push Sacramento’s lead back to double digits. He pushed tempo and took advantage of the Rockets’ porous transition defense by finding Trey Lyles for a dunk, and then the Rockets over-helped on a drive to the left and Fox kicked the ball out to Malik Monk for an easy 3 with two seconds left on the clock. The pressure Fox puts on a defense is an incredibly effective weapon.
What I’m watching for
The Rockets have played the Kings three times this season, and they’ve lost all three games by at least 20 points. Will they come out and play with some urgency and pride in their final meeting this season? The Rockets have also allowed 293 points over the last two games. Again, will the Rockets play with some pride on that end of the floor? The Kings are a good offensive team, but the Rockets provided zero resistance on Monday, and while the acknowledgment of such after the game and after Tuesday’s practice is a step in the right direction, it means nothing if they go out and repeat the same effort on Wednesday.