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The Sacramento Kings visit Detroit: Controversial Monroe Matchup Ensues

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Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST

Sacramento Kings: 9 - 28 (3-13 road)

Detroit Pistons: 13 - 26 (9-9 home)

The last time Greg Monroe met the controversial DeMarcus Cousins, both players matched each other with 6 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Tonight, the two big men will meet as starters in a match-up of the ages, one potentially worthy of song and celebration. More about Monroe and Cousins in a minute, but for now let's look at the bigger picture

Opposition Spotlight:

So let me get this straight. The Kings have last season's rookie of the year in Tyreke Evans. They selected the best big man of the 2010 draft in DeMarcus Cousins. They may have the deepest frontcourt in the league. Why, then, do they have the league's worst record? How are they possibly worse than they were last season?

Well, for one, Tyreke Evans' sophomore slump isn't helping matters. He shot 36% from the floor in December and has already missed three games in January. Last season, Evans was drawing comparisons to Dwyane Wade, to Kobe. This time around, he's beginning to look a lot more like Stephen Jackson... ouch. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll rebound from what has become a bad season, but let's hope that doesn't happen tonight.

Evans is part of a larger problem in Sacramento, in that the Kings do not have a solid distributor to create for their teammates. Beno Udrih is essentially a rich man's Rodney Stuckey, a shoot-first combo guard (but Udrih can actually shoot) who isn't effective at making plays for his teammates. Both he and Evans need control of the ball to be truly effective, and thus far, Udrih is the only one doing so efficiently. If Detroit's brand of Iso-driven basketball excites you, you're going to feel right at home watching the Kings.

What else is going sour in Sacramento? The controversial DeMarcus Cousins is apparently acting like a big fat baby behind the scenes, head coach Paul Westphal may be on the hot seat, and oh yeah-- the franchise might be heading to Anaheim or Vegas. To sum up, the Kings are under-performing thanks to inefficient, iso-based combo guards, poor ball movement as a result, coach/player fallout and a franchise in transition. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your Sacramento Pistons.

M-M-M-M-MMMATCHUP FOR THE AGES!:

Just about every Pistons fan who paid attention to college hoops was furious when the Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins. His player efficiency ratings in college were the highest since Shaq, and his bad boy image would have fit in nicely for a franchise built on such iconography. But Greg Monroe is a lot more of a "prize" than he is a "consolation", and his slow-and-steady build has been the best story to watch in Detroit this season. What's different about the two players? Tonight, both Cousins and Monroe will meet in the paint for a battle of instinct vs. intellect.

Sure, both players are clearly talented and exhibit a great understanding of the game. I don't intend to take "intellect" away from a smart player like Cousins, or "instinct" away from a gifted player like Monroe. But I make the above distinction because these two players appear to have developed their talent in different ways. Cousins has an exceptional offensive toolkit, the ability to score in so many ways the moment he steps on the court. It's about body control, muscle memory, more of a natural "dance" than an execution of recited plays. Monroe, on the other hand, seems to experience and adjust, experience and adjust, experience and adjust. He's a slow builder but a quick-study, a guy that soaks up information and develops his repertoire against new competition.

So what might fans see tonight between Monroe and Cousins? Here are their averages across the last five games:

  • Greg Monroe: 11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 57% FG%
  • DeMarcus Cousins: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and 40% FG%

One difference between the two players is their involvement in their respective teams offenses. DeMarcus Cousins sports the highest usage rate in Sacramento at 27.1%, sharing the load as the number one scoring option between himself and Tyreke Evans. Monroe's offense is mostly an after-thought (15.1% usage rate), as he's rarely involved in plays other than alley-oop-style layups, cuts or cleanup. But Cousins' high usage doesn't come without a touch of gray, as he's turning the ball over and fouling at an unfortunate rate. 2.6 turnovers and 4.1 fouls per game helps to offset the offensive disparity between these two players.

So how will this match-up play out? It could go either way, but if Monroe hopes to win this little competition he might be wise to force Cousins into foul trouble. Cousins can't be effective from the bench, and Monroe can put up numbers in his absence. The key here might be the offensive glass, as oreb's and tip-ins will make Cousins hungry for shot blocking, which he hasn't done effectively without contact and whistles.

Keys to the Game:

Move the Ball: copied and pasted 'til Payne is wasted.

Perimeter D: Udrih and Evans are deadly effective in penetration, so stop them from even considering a drive to the hoop. Tonight is not a good night to let Udrih show why I've called him a "rich man's Rodney Stuckey".

Anger the Giant: As mentioned above, forcing Cousins into foul trouble is easy to do and takes away their top frontcourt scoring option. Guard penetration and work on the offensive glass should do the trick.

Question of the Game:

Which rookie center will come out on top? Use your antlers, Moose.

Link Loyalty:

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