Sacramento (17-23) at New Orleans/OklaCity (16-25)

Partly Cloudy Currently: New Orleans, LA, US
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Jan 26, 2007
  • TV: CSCA
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A year after acquiring Ron Artest, the Sacramento Kings hope he can help lift them to another second-half playoff run.

A day after the anniversary of the trade that landed him in Sacramento, Artest and the Kings start a four-game road trip against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday at New Orleans Arena.

Artest’s arrival in Sacramento last season helped turn around a team that was 18-24 until acquiring him from Indiana for Peja Stojakovic.

The Pacers later traded Stojakovic to New Orleans in the offseason.

Artest averaged 16.9 points and 5.2 rebounds with Sacramento in 2005-06, and his defensive play helped the Kings turn the season around and go 26-14 en route to a playoff berth.

This season the Kings are 17-23, as back and knee injuries have hampered the former All-Star small forward.

“We had a similar record last year and hopefully we’ll have another Cinderella run,” said Artest. “My legs feel better, my back is doing well, everything is coming along.”

Artest appeared to validate his claims of health after scoring 36 points in Sacramento’s 114-106 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday. He came just three points shy of his season high of 39, set in a Jan. 2 victory over New York.

“You’re supposed to win games like this, so you can’t make a big deal about it,” Artest said. “I’m sure we’ll be ready for the road (trip). Everyone is fed up with the losses and we know we need to turn things around.”

The Kings have won three of their last four games overall, but have dropped five of their last six away from home and are 5-12 on the road this season.

Sacramento looks to reverse that trend and take advantage of a New Orleans (16-25) club which is scoring a league-low 90.6 points per game.

The Hornets squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead and lost 90-88 at Toronto on Wednesday, their second defeat in as many days.

“We were just soft,” said New Orleans coach Byron Scott, whose team lost 102-96 at Philadelphia on Tuesday. “We took the bail out, just long jump shots, and that’s a sign of a team on the road that just doesn’t have a lot of confidence.”

The Hornets are still without their starting backcourt, as point guard Chris Paul (right ankle) is out until February and Stojakovic (back surgery) is sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

Scott has used Rasual Butler and Devin Brown in their place for six consecutive games. The tandem is averaging 31.0 points per game in that span, as the team has posted a 3-3 record.

The Hornets are 2-4 at New Orleans Arena since being relocated to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in August 2005.

New Orleans and Sacramento split four meetings in 2005-06, with the home team winning each game. They meet again at Sacramento on Feb. 5.

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