Two opposite ends of the spectrum will take the floor on Sunday night, as the Houston Rockets have already punched their ticket to the 2013 NBA playoffs while the Sacramento Kings are already looking ahead to next season.
The Rockets enter Sunday's matchup coming off an 82-78 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that saw the team shoot just 31 percent from the field and commit 20 turnovers—eight of them coming from shooting guard James Harden.
The Kings will come into Sunday fresh off a close 108-101 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in which three members of Sacramento's bench logged at least 24 minutes and scored in double figures.
With Houston still jockeying for a better seed in the playoffs, this matchup has more intrigue to it than meets the eye.
When: Sunday, Apr. 14 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Team Records: Sacramento: 28-51, Houston: 44-35
TV Info: CSAC (Kings) and CSN Houston (Rockets)
Kings Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
No injuries to report
Rockets Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
SF Chandler Parsons—Calf—Questionable
Key Storyline: Houston Battling for Playoff Seed
As I noted before, the Rockets have already locked in their playoff chances for the 2012-13 campaign but still have an opportunity to improve their seeding in their remaining three games of the season.
Houston currently owns the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, but trails the sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors by just a half game in the West, which could be a potential difference in playing the San Antonio Spurs or Denver Nuggets in the postseason (assuming the Spurs clinch the second seed and the Nuggets get the third).
With only two games remaining on the Warriors' schedule, this is an extremely crucial matchup for the Rockets at home.
Key Matchup: Tyreke Evans vs. James Harden
In two meetings this season, James Harden is averaging 25 points and six rebounds per game against the Kings while cementing himself as the NBA's fifth-leading scorer, with 26 points a game.
In Harden's last game against Sacramento—a 117-111 loss—the shooting guard dropped 30 points while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Tyreke Evans is the second-leading scorer for Sacramento, averaging better than 15 points per game, including 21 20-plus point efforts. In their first meeting this season, Evans went for 22 points, including 3-for-5 from three-point territory in a 112-102 losing effort.
All eyes should be on Harden any time he takes the floor, and with another scoring guard in Evans in the game, the shooting guard matchup is what you should be watching on Sunday.
X-Factor: Omer Asik, C
Double-double machine Omer Asik will be the ultimate X-factor for the Rockets against the Kings on Sunday.
The 7-foot center is averaging 10 points and 11 rebounds per game and sports 32 double-doubles on the season, which is more than notable big men Josh Smith, Blake Griffin, Roy Hibbert and Kevin Garnett.
Asik will be the key in containing Sacramento's leading scorer, DeMarcus Cousins, who's averaging 20 points per game against the Rockets this season. As the leading shot-blocker for Houston, Asik's role will be important on both sides of the basketball vs. the Kings.
Who will the Rockets play in the first round of the playoffs?
With playoff seeding on the line, I think Houston gets a win at home against a far inferior Kings squad.
Although they've split the season series thus far, the Rockets are 28-12 at home and have that extra drive to fight for the sixth seed in the West. Jeremy Lin has been playing much better basketball since the All-Star break and I think he and Harden find success against the Kings' young guards.
If this game had little meaning, I may be inclined to roll with the Kings, but I think there's too much on the line for Houston, and it gets it done.
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