• A win against Draymond Green and the Warriors in Oakland will surely have the Kings excited heading into their next game, but with the red-hot Jazz on the other side of that battle the team should expect a tough game.

    The Kings and Jazz last faced each other earlier in March with the final result being a relatively easy win for Utah.  A final score of 98-91 makes the game seem somewhat close in retrospect, but that night it was clear that the Jazz were in the driver’s seat.  Donavan Mtichell was able to get to the line at will, and the Kings couldn’t get an easy baskets.

    The key in this matchup will be the Kings’ ability to generate offense.  Utah has been an elite defensive team since Rudy Gobert re-entered the starting lineup in mid-January, registering the top defensive rating (96.3) in the NBA over that span.  Gobert’s presence in the paint makes it tough to get easy looks at the rim, and his rebounding ability keeps teams from generating extra possessions.

    Willie Cauley-Stein is likely to draw the start at center opposite Gobert, and an active and engaged performance from him would make the Kings a decent threat.  Cauley-Stein’s athletic ability can cause problems on the offensive glass, and defensively he can provide a boost (on his best nights) that could help keep the Jazz from opening up a lead on the other end.

    Utah’s offense hasn’t been nearly as impressive as their defense in the second half of the season, but there are still dangerous players on the roster.  Donovan Mitchell generally takes on the responsibility of being the team’s top option and he can be incredibly hard to stop when he’s locked in.  All rookies will have some level of variance to their game, but Mitchell is able to make an impact most nights.

    De’Aaron Fox will likely serve as the primary option to stop Mitchell for the Kings.  He struggled on both ends of the floor against Golden State, but he has the ability to be an active and disruptive defender.  the Kings will need Fox to keep Mitchell from getting in the paint and collapsing the defense.

    With that said, Utah doesn’t live and die by the performance of their star rookie.  The team generally does a good job of sharing the ball, and players like Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors are capable of taking over a game when they’re at their best.  This will need to be a team-wide effort on defense to keep this team from opening up a big lead.

    Generally speaking, heading into Utah on the second night of back-to-back games will always be a tough matchup, but with a roster this talented that’ll be an even tougher task for the Kings.  Sacramento has the players that they need to make this game competitive, but it will take a great team performance to get the job done.

    PROJECTED STARTERS

    PG – De’Aaron Fox
    SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic
    SF – Justin Jackson
    PF – Zach Randolph
    C – Willie Cauley-Stein

    INJURY REPORT

    Iman Shumpert (knee) – OUT

    HOW TO WATCH

    When: 6:00 p.m. PST (9:00 ET)
    Where: NBCS California

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