Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
When: 10 p.m. EST
How: FOX Sports South, WFNZ 610 AM
The Charlotte Hornets are out in California tonight playing the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have won seven of their last 10 games behind phenomenal play from DeMarcus Cousins, who's averaging 32.5 points, 14.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and one block in 37.1 minutes per game. Much like Kemba Walker in Charlotte, Cousins is beasting and the Kings are winning games they probably wouldn't have won otherwise.
The Hornets are coming off of a win against the New York Knicks on Friday that saw Walker and Jeremy Lin with 26 points a piece. Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did not play in Friday's overtime game, and that looks to be the case tonight against the Kings, too. With Batum and Zeller out, expect to see Lin and Hawes starting once again.
Things to watch for
Make Rondo a scorer?
Rajon Rondo is one of the NBA's premier passers, often to a fault. The ball sticks to Rondo, and he wanders around the court using a variety of fakes and screens until he finds an opening for a layup or easy assist, much like Lin does with the Hornets. Rondo's assist hunting is so prolific that 61.1 percent of the Kings' made field goals are assisted — the fifth highest mark in the league. His own assist percentage of 47.9 is tops in the league, too.
Rondo's a big reason why the Kings score the third most points per game in the league.
It's easy to say the key to stopping Rondo is making him a scorer, but so much harder in practice. Every team employs that strategy, and few succeed. The real key to stopping Rondo is guarding his passing lanes, which is much different (and considerably harder) than guarding actual players. The Hornets might employ more ball denial against the Kings than they would against other teams.
Cousins is King
Cousins is undoubtedly the best center in the NBA right now, and he's on quite the hot streak. I'll be honest: the Hornets do not have a player that matches up well with him. We're going to see a lot of Hawes on Cousins, and as much as I like Hawes, he stands no chance against Cousins. Cousins is bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled.
If the Hornets are going to stop Cousins, they're going to need a group effort. Dig down on post ups, deny the wings when Cousins has the ball in the high post, and occasionally hack him. Unfortunately, you can't sag off of him anymore, either. He's shooting 34.7 percent from behind the arc this season.
The minute distribution at point guard
Walker's played 41.8 minutes per game in the Hornets' last four contests. To help ease his workload, the Hornets called Aaron Harrison up from the NBA D-League a couple of days ago. Normally, the Hornets have an excellent rotation at the point with Walker and Lin splitting duties. But now that Lin's starting, the second unit needs some help.
Brian Roberts has had some success over the Hornets' last few games, but he's not a great option in the long term. If this game gets out of hand early, expect to see Kemba hanging out on the bench. His high minute totals have already affected his play; Kemba started his game against the Knicks shooting 4-of-19. Lin might need to step up in a big way like he did last game.