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Kings hope to dash Houston's playoff hopes

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Kings hope to dash Houston's playoff hopes

April 5, 2011

KINGS (22-54) vs.
HOUSTON (41-36)

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Check out our Channel Listings for Tuesday to make sure you get all the live action involving the Giants, A's, Warriors and Kings.

Coverage begins at 5:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets know there's hardly anything they can do about the two teams they're chasing for one of the final Western Conference final playoff spots.

Right now, though, they're doing an awfully good job with what they can control.

Eight wins in 10 games have the Rockets within three games of a playoff spot, but there remains little margin for error in a final stretch that begins with a visit from the improving Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

Houston (41-36) was in 11th place in the jumbled West on March 14, but the playoff picture has become a bit clearer over the past three weeks.

Phoenix and Utah have fallen out, while the ninth-place Rockets have surged to stay within striking distance. Houston fell behind by 14 against Atlanta late in the second quarter Sunday, but rallied to win 114-109 and remain within three games of New Orleans and Memphis - the teams holding the seventh and eighth seeds.

"Ever since after the (All-Star) break, we can say what we want to say about this team and dissect wins how we want," said guard Kevin Martin, who had 35 points. "But at the end of the day, we're just a pretty (darn) good basketball team."

The Rockets play New Orleans on Wednesday, and Houston can earn a tie of that four-game season series. The Hornets, though, would win a tiebreaker, as they have a better record than Houston within the Southwest Division.

That leaves Memphis, which has won seven of eight, as the team Houston can more realistically hope to catch. The Rockets took the season series from the Grizzlies, so they'll only have to finish with the same record to win a tiebreaker.

"We just keep hanging in there," coach Rick Adelman said. "That's all we can do."

Martin's certainly been doing his part. Houston's leading scorer has averaged 28.5 points over his last eight games while getting to the free-throw line 84 times - making 80.

The Rockets are 17-8 when he scores at least 28 points.

Martin hasn't had any huge games against his former team, as he's averaging 17.0 points and shooting 33.3 percent, but Houston hasn't needed one from him. It's won its three meetings with Sacramento (22-54) by an average of 14.6 points, the most recent a 123-101 road rout March 7.

The Kings didn't have Tyreke Evans healthy for that meeting, and since he's returned after missing 19 games with plantar fasciitis, his team has looked much different. Sacramento won the final game without him and has run off four victories in six contests since his return, most recently beating Utah 106-97 on Sunday behind Evans' 24 points and 10 assists.

REWIND: Kings ride Tyreke to win over Jazz

"He has been playing great," said Marcus Thornton, who has averaged 21.6 points since becoming the starting shooting guard March 5. "He's still not all the way healthy so when we get him back to 100 percent we're going to be a dangerous team. We're just trying to bring this momentum into training camp and next season."

Houston has won eight of its last nine home games against teams currently below .500.

Draymond responds to Embiid: 'Man, I love that dude'

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AP

Draymond responds to Embiid: 'Man, I love that dude'

Draymond Green and Joel Embiid are two of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA. 

After the 76ers blew a 22-point halftime lead to the Warriors on Saturday, Embiid tweeted "we know what it feels like to blow a big lead" to take a jab at the Warriors' blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals two years ago. 

Green finally saw the tweet and it looks like it's all fun and games between the two. The Warriors' defensive star says he's "looking forward to playing against you (Embiid) for years." 

While tweeting the response, Green had even more to say. 

In the Warriors' 124-116 win over the 76ers on November 18, Green scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished eight assists. Embiid scored 21 points to go with eight rebounds.

Gameday: Bring on Lonzo Ball vs De'Aaron Fox in the NBA

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USATSI/AP

Gameday: Bring on Lonzo Ball vs De'Aaron Fox in the NBA

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings were treated rudely by the Denver Nuggets to open their three-game homestand on Monday. They’ll get another shot to pick up a win Wednesday when the upstart Los Angeles Lakers swing into Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento has struggled to find consistency this season on the road, but they’ve been able to ride their home crowd to impressive wins over Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Portland. If they can knock off the Lakers, they improve to .500 at home on the season. 

The Lakers are coming off a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday and have to play Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back. They are a young and exciting team, that present plenty of matchup issues for the Kings.

BETTING LINE 

Lakers by 1

MATCHUP TO WATCH

De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball -- Let the games begin! The drama surrounding these two dates back to college. Fox ran over Ball at the NCAA level, outscoring the former UCLA Bruin in both games last season, including a 39-point outburst during a tournament game. Ball missed the summer league matchup between the two, causing a bit of a stir on social media. Wednesday night is nothing more that a pair of 19-year-olds playing hoops against one another while hundreds of thousands of people watch intently. No pressure, kids.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 4-13, fifth place in Pacific

Lakers: 8-10, second place in Pacific

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) probable, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Lakers: PF Larry Nance Jr. (hand) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

BRIGHT LIGHTS -- The world is watching. Sacramento doesn’t draw the attention of the national media all that often, but plenty of eyes will be on the Kings/Lakers matchup on Wednesday. Will the Kings bring the defensive intensity that helped them knock off the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday or will they fade like they did against Denver last time out?   

REBOUND -- The Kings are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and they’ll face a team that knows how to hit the glass. Dave Joerger needs his guards to get involved if they hope to avoid another lopsided rebounding deficit. 

CONTAIN KUZMA -- Ball gets all the pub, but it’s the late first rounder out of Utah that is turning heads. Fresh off a 22-point performance Tuesday against the Bulls, Kyle Kuzma is posting nearly 17 points per game while starting at power forward for the Lakers. He’s a player that plenty of teams are now regretting passing on in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

SERIES HISTORY 

These two teams split the season series 2-2 last season, with each team winning one at home and one on the road. Los Angeles owns a huge 270-153 lead in the all-time series and a 92-44 advantage during the Sacramento-era 88-47. 

QUOTE

“It’s fun. Sometimes there’s too many haters out there. It is what it is. Smile and enjoy it. I think it will be a great opportunity for those two guys to begin their careers.” Dave Joerger on the Fox/Ball matchup