Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale summarized the problems the Kings have given them this season easily.
“Isaiah Thomas played downhill on us,” McHale said.
Thomas played downhill, as in got into the paint, in helping the Kings beat the Rockets twice this season. Thomas is averaging 18 points and nine assists against the Rockets.
McHale was asked about his team’s ability to “help the helper” defensively and the pressure that puts on the big men.
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“If you have to help the helper all the time that means your perimeter guys stink because that means they’re not in front of them,” McHale said. “And the more you have to help the helper the more you get broken down.”
Thomas is the primary candidate to do that for the Kings, which can create opportunities for Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins.
*Kings coach Michael Malone said focus at the end of a six-game road trip is not a concern tonight.
“I know a lot of guys are anxious to get home but I think they’ll respond knowing we’re coming off a very good road win last night,” Malone said. “And this is a team we’ve been fortunate enough to beat twice this season and knowing full well we’re going to get their best shots. They look at those two losses as losses they shouldn’t have.”
*Former King Francisco Garcia (sore left knee) will not play for Houston tonight. Starting power forward Terrence Jones (deep left thigh bruise) is also out.
Prediction time: The last game of a long road trip is never easy. The Kings will be playing their third game in four nights while the Rockets had Tuesday off. A rested Rockets team looking to finally beat the Kings this season should have an advantage.
Rockets 109, Kings 102
My record: 23-17