The first place Philadelphia 76ers host the 3-6 Sacramento Kings tonight, who are one of the league's most talked-about teams, for reasons they're probably not proud of. First, they made headlines when second year big man, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly demanded a trade, followed by the firing of head coach Paul Westphal just seven games into the season.
The Kings have yet to win a road game this season. As a matter of fact, they've been blown out in their three road games by an average score of 108 to 86. However; the team may be figuring things out under new head coach Keith Smart, according to our pal Aykis16 from Sactown Royalty:
The ball movement also seems much better, and while we only had 16 assists, a lot of that was due to guys just flat out missing their open shots, particularly from three. There also seemed to be much more defined roles. This is especially noticeable when you look at Tyreke, who is running the offense most of the time now, while under Westphal that duty seemed to have been split between 3 or 4 people.
Tonight's game will be the second of a back-to-back for the Sixers and the cream filling to our first back-to-back-to-back Oreo on the schedule. On paper it's a game the Sixers should win. However; once back-to-backs are involved, things become unpredictable. And make no bones about it, the Kings have some talent on their roster.
My favorite storyline for tonight surrounds Mr. DeMarcus Cousins, who we we had a lively discussion about here a short week ago. Mike argued the Sixers should attempt to trade for Cousins when it appeared he was on the move, and many disagreed – claiming he was a head case and not worth the risk. Regardless, Cousins will always have some ties to the Sixers as long as Evan Turner is around. Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, while DeMarcus was fifth. Following the draft many adamantly proclaimed the Sixers made a franchise-crippling mistake by selecting Turner, the "Bust", over a franchise center in DeMarcus Cousins. A year later, the Cousins enthusiasts have changed their tune, and Turner has done his best to put the "Bust" talk to rest. It should be fun to see the two in action against each other tonight.
Speaking of Cousins, he may be a thorn in the Sixers side tonight. Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand aren't exactly known for their interior defense and Cousins is indeed a load inside. His 20 OREB% ranks first in the entire NBA amongst qualified candidates and the Sixers rank in the bottom half of the league in defensive rebounding. If Cousins can stay out of foul trouble, his work on the offensive glass could give the Sixers fits .
Outside of a monster game from Cousins – which is very possible against the Sixers interior – I don't see many other Kings posing a major threat – Iguodala and Holiday have done well defending Tyreke Evans in the past. The one perimeter match-up to keep an eye on is Marcus Thornton vs. Jodie Meeks. We all witnessed Meeks get absolutely torched by Eric Gordon a while back, which kept the Hornets in the game late into the fourth. Thornton could have a similar night if Collins sticks with a struggling Meeks too long. Hopefully this is a night where we see a lot of Evan Turner, who is very capable of guarding Thornton or Evans.
The Kings play with the fourth fastest pace in the NBA and the Sixers like to get out and run occasionally, so a track meet could be in order.
Chuck Hayes is out with a dislocated shoulder and Tyreke Evans has a sprained ankle, but should play tonight.
Check out Sactown Royalty for more coverage of the Kings. I highly recommend adding StR to your daily reading list, whether you're interested in the Kings or not. They're a quality blog with a lot of humor. Check out this .gif I found over there, created after news broke that the Kings wanted to become a "running team".
This is a game the Sixers should win, especially at home and a game against the second place Knicks in MSG tomorrow night. Philly needs to continue to beat up bad teams. The schedule toughens next week with three straight against the Nuggets, Hawks and Heat. The line is Sixers -10 tonight, for all you gamblers; the Sixers are 7-1 against the spread this year.