PREVIEW: Rockets at Kings- Jan. 13

Jan 11, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (10) controls the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Kings- Jan. 13

The Rockets will try to avoid a ninth straight loss when they play the second game of a four-game swing through California with the last of two games in Sacramento. The Rockets were outscored 41-20 in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Kings, their 13th in 14 games.

Eye on the Kings

Record: 22-18 (5th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 116.3 (3rd)

Defensive rating (rank): 114.3 (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 62% 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

This was the matchup to watch on Wednesday night, and while Sengun finished with the first triple-double of his career, he was thoroughly outplayed by Sabonis, who finished with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds, and nine assists. Sabonis’ first shot of the game was a nine-foot turnaround hook shot that Sengun defended well, but the 11 field goal attempts that followed all came within four feet of the rim. The Rockets did a decent job defending Sabonis on his four post-ups, but they could do nothing to slow him down when he was on the move. The Rockets must make life tougher on Sabonis if they want a different result on Friday, and that means being more physical. Another key will be keeping Sengun out of foul trouble so Sabonis has to give a little more effort on the defensive end of the floor.

What I’m watching for

Kevin Porter Jr. will miss Friday’s game due to the left foot contusion he suffered in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game, so I’m looking to see how Stephen Silas shuffles his rotation without him. K.J. Martin started the last time Porter missed a contest, with Eric Gordon moving into the backcourt, and Martin started the second half on Wednesday, but Jae’Sean Tate has essentially been serving as the Rockets’ backup point guard since his return last weekend, so Silas may want his steadiness in there to start the game. It will also be interesting to see if the Rockets recall TyTy Washington from their G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley. It could be a sign they don’t view this injury as anything long-term if they don’t.

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