PREVIEW: Rockets at Kings- Jan. 11

Jan 4, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) stands on the court after a foul call against the Kings during action against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Kings- Jan. 11

The Rockets will try to avoid an eighth straight loss when they open a four-game swing through California with the first of two games in Sacramento. The Rockets have won just 4-of-20 away from Toyota Center this season, ahead of only the Warriors for the NBA’s worst road record.

Eye on the Kings

Record: 21-18 (5th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 115.9 (4th)

Defensive rating (rank): 114.5 (24th)

The Kings have exceeded all expectations under first-year head coach Mike Brown and are on track to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2006. De’Aaron Fox has turned in an All-Star caliber first half, averaging 23.8 points per game on 50% shooting, while, in his first full season in Sacramento, Domantas Sabonis is putting up 19 points and 12 rebounds on 61.5% shooting. The Kings, led by former Rockets assistant general manager Monte McNair made two splashy moves over the summer, drafting Keegan Murray with the fourth pick in the draft and acquiring Kevin Huerter in a trade from the Atlanta Hawks. Murray is scoring 12 points per game while shooting 41% from behind the 3-point line, while Huerter is scoring 16 points and connecting on 42% of his 3-pointers.

Matchup to watch: Alperen Sengun vs Domantas Sabonis

The next two games will provide a major test for the Rockets center, as few players will challenge him more than the two-time All-Star. Sabonis is a threat in the post, he’s a threat in the pick and roll, he’s a threat as a cutter, he’s a threat as a shooter from the midrange, and he’s a brilliant passer to boot. Sengun’s limitations will make it difficult to slow Sabonis, so the key will be to make him work on the other end of the floor, where, like Sengun, he struggles. Because Sabonis is not a shot-blocking threat, only five teams allow a higher shooting percentage at the rim than the Kings, and expect the Rockets to involve him in a lot of pick and rolls.

What I’m watching for

How does Jalen Green bounce back from what might’ve been his worst game of the season on Sunday against the Wolves? Green failed to score in double figures for the first time all season, and he did not attempt a free throw for just the second time. It seemed like Green’s shot had started to come around after a good stretch last month, but he’s shooting just 31% over his previous five games and is down to 40.6% for the season. Green admitted Saturday that the Rockets’ constant losing has started to take its toll, but maybe a good film session on Monday and a practice on Tuesday can help get him straightened out.

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