The Sacramento Kings hope to get on the right track and gain ground in the Western Conference standings Thursday as they host one of the hottest teams in the NBA and the current eighth-placed Memphis Grizzlies.
The Kings are coming off a Feb. 12 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and although they protected the ball and only committed five turnovers, their poor shooting and inability to play consistent defense was the deciding factor.
Sacramento shot 41.4 percent to Dallas' 56.5 percent and a dismal 30.8 percent from 3-point range.
"For some reason, we didn't feel the need to try to play much defense tonight," said coach Luke Walton after the loss. "We couldn't stop their top guys and when we did, it just didn't feel like we had the passion and desire that it takes to win, especially on the road, in this league."
Memphis hopes to stay the course with its winning ways. The Grizzlies are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and rookie sensation Ja Morant has scored 20 or more points in three of the last four games, including a 27-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double Feb. 9 vs. the Washington Wizards.
The Grizzlies posted a 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers right before All-Star break.
In the win over Portland, rookie forward Brandon Clarke had a career-high-tying and game-high 27 points off the bench while shooting a remarkable 12-of-14 from the field.
"That's my job really: try to find a way to come in and help us out," said Clarke. "Running the floor, getting stops, and that's what the bench came in and did tonight."
This will be the third game of the four-game season series between the Kings and Grizzlies. They are currently tied at 1-1, with each team winning on their homecourt.
The Kings edged the Grizzlies 128-123 in their previous Jan. 2 matchup.
Sacramento overcame a 20-point deficit, led by De'Aaron Fox's 27 points, and newly crowned 3-Point Shootout champion Buddy Hield added 26 points while shooting 5-for-9 from distance.
On the other side, the Grizzlies had six players score in double digits, led by Morant's 23.
After that matchup, both franchises sat at 13-22, but since then, the Grizzlies have gone 15-4 and turned into a competitive force. The Kings, however, have stayed even keel, going 8-11.
On the Grizzlies injury front, Justise Winslow (back) has only played 11 games all season and has yet to make his Grizzlies debut since being acquired from the Miami Heat earlier this month. Winslow is expected to return this season.
Meanwhile, Grayson Allen (hip) is still out and possibly could miss the remainder of the season.
For the Kings, Jabari Parker (shoulder) is expected to make his team debut Thursday after being a full participant at practice Wednesday. Also acquired in a trade earlier this month, Parker last played Jan. 3 while still with the Atlanta Hawks.
Alex Len (hip) has been ruled out despite being a full participant Wednesday. Len, also acquired from the Hawks, last played Jan. 24. Richaun Holmes (shoulder) is out and will be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks.
--Field Level Media