The Houston Rockets are red hot and will meet a Sacramento Kings team Sunday night that went absolutely nuts in a 120-109 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Credit the huge game from the struggling Kings, who had previously lost four games in a row, to an impressive shooting performance. The team was led by a strong performance from point guard Isaiah Thomas, who hit 10-of-16 shots from the field and led all scorers with 25 points.
Consistent scoring is something that has eluded the Kings this season as most of the team has hovered around the double-digit per-game average. DeMarcus Cousins has been the most dangerous and most efficient option for the team.
On the other hand, the Rockets have been riding high, winning six of their last eight contests. James Harden is fresh off of a 35-point outburst in the team's 118-103 win over Portland on Friday.
Harden's 26 PPG is the fifth-best in the NBA this season.
Let's take a look at a rundown of what to expect during tonight's action.
Time: Sunday, Feb. 10, 9:05 p.m. EST
TV: NBA League Pass, CSN-H, CSN-CA
Records: Houston Rockets (28-24, 10-16 away) vs. Sacramento Kings (18-33, 13-12 home)
Betting Line: Houston -5.5 (via Bovada)
Key Storyline: Bombs over the Sleep Train Arena?
Sacramento used excellent ball movement to nail 8-of-19 from downtown in their Saturday night win over Utah. However, it is the visitors who have had the even hotter hand from beyond the arc.
Houston tied the NBA record for most three-pointers in one game after draining 23 of them against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 5. It could have easily set the record, too, if not for some questionable coaching from Warriors head coach Mark Jackson.
As a team the Rockets are shooting 36.7 percent on deep balls, ranking them eighth in the NBA. Sacramento isn't far behind, at 16th place, with a 35 percent average.
It's all a matter of containing and contesting shots, something that will be tough for a Sacramento team that is allowing a league-worst 103.2 points per game. Teams have been successful against them from downtown, too, hitting 36 percent of their triples.
This game could get out of hand if the Rockets are able to move the ball well and find open three-pointers. They've shown they are able to knock them down when given the opportunity and they should get the chance to connect on more than a handful on Sunday night.
Key Matchup: Omer Asik vs. DeMarcus Cousins
Rockets big man Omer Asik isn't going to confuse anyone by coming out with an offensive explosion on Sunday night. His primary task will be keeping Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in check. Cousins leads the Kings with 17.1 points per game.
Besides the scoring, these two will also be crashing the boards as each leads his respective team in that department.
At 6'11" and 270 pounds, Cousins has proven to be a problem for opposing frontcourts due to his power in the paint. Asik is no pushover but may have significant problems winning those battles as his 7'0", 255-pound frame is much leaner than that of his opponent.
X-Factor: James Harden
The Houston Rockets are 12-3 when James Harden scores over 30 points this season.
He's done that in the team's last two games, too, and they are 1-1 during that span. Harden scored 36 points in a loss to the star-studded Miami Heat lineup on Wednesday. He hit 35 while dominating the game in Friday's win over Portland.
Houston's success is pretty simple. It takes a team effort, but Harden is more often than not the catalyst that sparks the rest of the team to follow suit.
The Kings will need to alternate looks and not solely focus on shutting Harden down. Harden can and will get his looks, but it is the rest of the Rockets team that has begun to ignite as well.
That makes focusing on shutting down Harden problematic and allows him the space and freedom on the court to make defenders pay.
Predicted Starting Lineups
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: James Harden
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Patrick Patterson
C: Omer Asik
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Tyreke Evans
SF: John Salmons
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Any time a team goes into hostile territory you have to imagine some of the game dynamics will shift. The Kings are coming off of a big emotional win over the Jazz on Saturday night and will have a newfound enthusiasm from the fans as a result.
However, there's also no denying the recent success of the Rockets. They are playing at a high level in all aspects of the game: sharing the rock, shooting and rebounding.
Houston has a substantial advantage in its ability to see the floor and find open teammates. It averages 23 assists per game (seventh in NBA) in comparison to the Kings' 19 per contest (29th in NBA).
Getting to the foul line will also be one of the difference makers for Houston, which averages a league third-best 19.3 made three-throws per contest.
When it's all said and done, the Rockets will escape with a decisive but highly contested victory. They have struggled on the road lately but are at least rested, while the Kings are coming off of a Saturday night game.
Sacramento will play emotional basketball in the first half but will run out of steam down the stretch, allowing the Rockets to escape with a victory.
Houston Rockets 115, Sacramento Kings 108