Sacramento at New Orleans
The New Orleans Hornets have been one of the NBA's worst teams in their own building. Fortunately for them, the Sacramento Kings have been even worse on the road. One team's fortunes will improve Monday afternoon as the Hornets welcome the Kings to town for the first of three regular-season meetings. The Hornets have won just six of 20 home games this season, but the outlook is promising as they face a Kings team that is just 4-15 away from Sacramento.
Mired near the bottom of the Western Conference as they slosh through another year of rebuilding, the Hornets have played better of late. They have won six of their last 10, and hung tough with the Golden State Warriors before ultimately dropping a 116-112 decision. The outlook is similar in Sacramento, with the Kings breaking even over their previous 10 contests. Sacramento is coming off a 97-93 victory over Charlotte in the second of a three-game road trip.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, Comcast SportsNet California (Sacramento)
ABOUT THE KINGS (16-25): Despite owning the second-worst road mark in the conference - only the Phoenix Suns (3-17) are worse - Sacramento has managed to remain out of the West cellar thanks to a respectable home record. The Kings' ability to avoid the basement will be put to the test over the next 5 1/2 weeks, as they embark on one of the most demanding travel schedules of any team in the league. Sacramento is in the beginning stages of a stretch that will see the club play 16 out of 21 games on the road - a grueling run that includes a six-game trek through the Eastern and Mountain time zones beginning Jan. 26 and a five-game trip that kicks off Feb. 22.
ABOUT THE HORNETS (13-27): Anthony Davis almost had his best all-around game as a pro in Saturday's loss to the Warriors. The first overall pick was dominant in several areas, scoring 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting with 12 rebounds and four blocks. But it was his 2-for-7 performance from the free-throw line that ultimately left New Orleans just short - and it didn't sit well with him afterward. "Put that on me," he said. "I should not be missing free throws like that. With that, we're not going to win." Davis entered the league amid concerns about his shot - but he has put those issues to rest in January, shooting 56.6 percent from the field to put him at 51.4 percent for the season.
1. The teams have split their last 10 encounters, with Sacramento winning three of four last season.
2. Despite their overall records, the Kings and Hornets are two of the conference's best teams in close games - Sacramento is 5-1 in contests decided by three points or fewer, while New Orleans is 4-2.
3. At 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds, Kings F/C DeMarcus Cousins is one of only 11 players averaging a double-double.
PREDICTION: Hornets 98, Kings 93.