The Miami Heat, winners of 11 consecutive games, will play host to the listless Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
The game looks like a mismatch on paper—because, honestly, it is—but the Heat are coming off a modest four-point victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
Sacramento, to its discredit, has lost five straight and eight of its last 10, including a 15-point drubbing in New Orleans on Sunday. The Kings will need to be much, much better if they want to upset Miami.
Game Information: Sacramento Kings (19-38) vs. Miami Heat (40-14)
Start Time: Tuesday, February 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Watch: Sun Sports
Live Stream: N/A
Sacramento Kings Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PG Toney Douglas (Hip)—Questionable
Miami Heat Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
SF Mike Miller (Illness)—Probable
Key Storyline: Can Heat Hold Onto No. 1 Seed?
Okay, it's not exactly a pressing storyline, but for this potential snoozer, it's the best we can do.
The Heat are currently nursing a six-game lead over the Indiana Pacers for the top seed out East. And while winning the conference's top spot hardly guarantees a trip to the finals (just ask the Chicago Bulls), it would certainly make things easier.
Sacramento doesn't have much to play for other than the role of spoiler of lottery jostling. Whether or not the Kings choose to show up and undo Miami's campaign will be a deciding factor.
Key Matchup: Isaiah Thomas vs. Mario Chalmers
Yes, shutting down the triad of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is imperative when playing against the Heat. Without keeping them in check, any team would be severely hard-pressed to leave Miami with a W.
But forgetting about Mario Chalmers could be just as deadly.
In the teams' first meeting, at Sacramento on January 12th, the Kings chose to do exactly that, rotating coverage onto the Heat's big three whenever possible. Ten three-pointers and 34 points later, Chalmers made them regret it.
On Tuesday, Isaiah Thomas—not exactly the most adept defender—will need to be disciplined and stay with Chalmers at all times. If not, the Kings could get burned for the second time this season.
X-Factor: Tyreke Evans
The rangy, capricious Evans is always Sacramento's biggest X-factor. When he's on, he's on—the kind of player who coasted to Rookie of the Year honors in 2010.
But when he's off, he's off, barreling to the goal with his head transfixed on the hardwood and making boneheaded decisions with the ball. His consistency is notorious for its nonexistence.
If the Kings have any plans of walking away victorious against Miami, they'll need to play a near-perfect game. And for the Kings to play a near-perfect game, they almost definitely need to get good Tyreke, not the bad one.
Projected Starting Lineups
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Tyreke Evans
SF: John Salmons
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Chris Bosh
Let's call a spade a spade; this is about the biggest mismatch the NBA schedule could possibly conceive. Especially given the two teams' current trajectories.
Miami made a mess with the Cavaliers on Sunday, but it will (and always does) manage to learn from its mistakes. LeBron won't let his squad dilly-dally with an inferior clubs for the second straight game.
The Heat extend their streak to 12 with ease.
Predicted Score: Miami 102, Sacramento 84