With DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay both out with injuries, Kings head coach Michael Malone said Aaron Gray will start at center and Derrick Williams at small forward tonight against the NBA-best Indiana Pacers.
It will be the first start of the season for Gray, who has averaged 1.3 points in 15 games with the Kings. Williams, who scored 22 points in the loss to Houston in which Cousins and Gay were injured, will be starting his eighth game.
Malone sounded cautiously optimistic on the status of Cousins (sprained left ankle) and Gay (left Achilles strain), saying: “Hopefully we’ll have Rudy or DeMarcus back in the next day or so.”
“It’s honestly too early to tell,” Malone continued. “I know DeMarcus is dying to play. The good thing is both MRIs didn’t reveal anything serious. So I’m hoping in the next day or so, but it could be a couple games. We’ll have to re-evaluate tomorrow with our training staff.”
The Kings are off Saturday before playing the Denver Nuggets at home on Sunday and Utah Jazz on the road Monday.
As for the prospect of playing the 33-8 Pacers without two of their top scorers, Malone acknowledged it will be a challenge.
“Obviously anytime you lose 40-plus points, we’re starting off in a little bit of a hole,” he said. “But I told all the guys on our team, no matter who’s playing for us we have enough talent in that room to compete, to play hard and to come out here and give us a chance to win.”
Malone said it’s important for the Kings to establish the pace they want to play at against Indiana, which prefers a half-court game in which they can clamp down on opponents on defense. The Pacers are coming off a 124-100 loss to Phoenix in which the Suns managed to play at a fast tempo -- a template for the Kings tonight.
“Phoenix did a great job of saying, ‘You’re in our building, we’re going to make you play at our pace,’” Malone said. “For us to do that we have to defend and rebound. If we don’t defend and don’t rebound … now we’re taking the ball out of the net all night, they’re going to set their defense and it could be a long night.”
Prediction time: This will be a tough one for the Kings. The Pacers are coming off a bad loss at Phoenix and will be looking to get back on track with their defense.
Pacers 103, Kings 88
My record: 24-17