Hornets-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 10, 2013
The New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings continue to slide toward the end of disappointing seasons. The Hornets, however, can still accomplish something they haven't done in 16 years - sweep the season series from the Kings. New Orleans will look to do that Wednesday night when the teams meet in Sacramento. After claiming victories in two earlier meetings this year in New Orleans, the Hornets (27-51) have a chance to sweep the Kings for the first time since 1996-97, when they were still located in Charlotte. But they'll have to shake off a particularly rough road stretch in which they've lost 9 of 10 - the only win a 95-92 victory at lowly Phoenix on Sunday. The struggles continued Tuesday with a 104-96 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center. New Orleans led 82-80 with 7:06 to play, but fell prey to Kobe Bryant's 23-point fourth quarter. "He had a lot of tough shots to get him going," said Eric Gordon, who scored 22 to lead the Hornets. "Whenever you hit a few in a row it's almost hard to stop. He had a lot of tough shots and when he gets to the free throw line, it's a whole different ballgame." Though the Hornets sit one-half game back of Sacramento for 14th in the Western Conference, their young nucleus continues to impress. Anthony Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds against the Lakers and is averaging 16.2 points on 53.7 percent shooting with 9.8 rebounds over his last 18 games. Greivis Vasquez also looks like one of the league's top young point guards, recording 11 points and 11 assists Tuesday. It was his 30th game this season with at least 10 assists - a feat he accomplished just six times in 2011-12. The Kings (27-50) have dropped the first four games on their five-game homestand, including an 89-87 loss to Memphis on Sunday. They did see DeMarcus Cousins bounce back with a strong performance, posting 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Cousins didn't start and played less than 10 minutes in the team's loss to Dallas two nights earlier - the first time he came off the bench since a Jan. 4, 2012, at Denver. No reason was given by coach Keith Smart for Cousins' benching versus the Mavericks, but it seemed to ignite Cousins against the Grizzlies as he started with 11 points and four rebounds in the first quarter alone. Cousins, averaging 20.7 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last six against the Hornets, will likely need much more help from his teammates to put the brakes on the four-game slide Tuesday. The other four starters - John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans - combined to go 8 for 29 (27.6 percent) from the floor against Dallas. The offensive ineptitude essentially neutralized what was rare good defensive performance from Sacramento. The Kings had allowed an average of 108.8 points over their previous four games. "I thought our defense did a good enough job to give us a chance in this game," Smart said. "A lot of guys didn't shoot well. That kind of negated us. We need to have a big scoring night against this team." Patrick Patterson (8.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is listed as day-to-day after he missed Sunday's game with a sore lower back. The Kings have won the teams' last three meetings in Sacramento.
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