Two teams that have floundered out of playoff position after promising starts look to get headed back in a positive direction at the other's expense Thursday night when the Detroit Pistons visit the Sacramento Kings.
The Pistons headed west earlier this week having lost five of six, and they got an earful from first-year coach Dwane Casey after losing 119-107 at home to San Antonio on Monday night.
"I came here to get us back into the playoffs, to build this program to where it was," he said. "Believe me, we're nowhere near throwing in the towel. We're not out of the playoff race by any means."
The Pistons didn't respond in the manner their coach had hoped in the trip opener Wednesday at in Los Angeles, getting blown out by the LeBron James-less Lakers 113-100.
It was another poor defensive effort, which has become the norm for the Pistons in their slide from a team that is 4-15 since a 13-7 start. Detroit has allowed 109 or more points in each of its past six losses.
The Lakers hit 56.1 percent of their field-goal attempts against the Pistons on Wednesday.
If there's a positive for the Pistons on Thursday, it's that Blake Griffin will be away from the distractions of returning to Los Angeles, where he played his first 7 1/2 seasons. He had 16 points and six assists amid the hoopla on Wednesday.
Griffin has scored in double figures in each of his past 16 meetings with the Kings, including 26 points in his only previous trip to Sacramento as a member of the Pistons last March.
On the second game of the four-game trip, the Pistons will see a Kings team that has played just well enough to lose more often than not after a 19-16 start that had them in a Western Conference playoff position last month.
Since then, the Kings have lost five of six, with no defeat coming by more than seven points.
The first four of the five losses were against some of the Western powers -- the Lakers, Portland, Denver and Golden State -- but the most recent setback really stung. The Kings took a 115-111 defeat at Phoenix on Tuesday on a night when Sacramento led by 21 points.
Kings players shook their head in disbelief afterward.
"We can't let it become a trend," Sacramento guard De'Aaron Fox said to reporters. "Games that we're up and should win and end up losing -- we can't make that a trend for ourselves."
As with the Pistons, defensive issues have led to the Kings' recent skid. Sacramento has allowed 113 or more points in five of its past six games. The only win in that span came when the Kings limited the Orlando Magic to 95 points.
The Kings were back in the news Wednesday when rumors surfaced that they had been in talks with the New York Knicks about the possible acquisition of Enes Kanter.
Sacramento is reportedly offering Zach Randolph, who has been nothing more than a practice player for the Kings this season, not appearing in a game.
Both big men are in the final year of their contracts.
--Field Level Media