January 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH USA: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) looks to pass as Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) defends during the game at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers (9-30) vs. Sacramento Kings (13-24) Preview

April 26, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings owners Phil Maloof, George Maloof, and Gavin Maloof sit court side during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings have made major headlines throughout the 2012-13 NBA season, but for all the wrong reasons. Before we talk basketball, I’d first like to extend kudos to fellow FanSided editor Bryan Rosa. He is the man in charge of both the San Francisco Giants and Kings blogs, and has been tirelessly covering the news surrounding the team’s move to Seattle. With the DeMarcus Cousins’ drama earlier on in the season, things couldn’t be heading in a worse direction (north if we’re being geographically correct). Fellow blogger Chris Manning and I discussed the anticipated move here, as David Aldridge recently reported that it is a clear path from Sacramento to Seattle. I’m hoping that the Kings put up a fight, as no fan should ever live through seeing their favorite team relocate. Albeit, here is some information regarding Monday night’s game:

Opponent’s Blog: A Royal Pain

Venue: Sleep Train Arena – Sacramento, California

Tipoff: Monday, January 13 at 10 p.m.

Betting Line: Kings by -5.5

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio

Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)

Unless you have amnesia, it’s hard not to forget one of the worst road teams in the NBA coming into Quicken Loans Arena and showing up the Wine and Gold. The Kings handed Cleveland their first loss of 2013, as Kyrie Irving ran out of time to work his fourth quarter magic. A 97-94 loss was handed to the Cavs by Sacramento bigs DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, who accounted for 32 points and 26 rebounds. In comparison, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller were outscored (17 points) and outrebounded (21 rebounds). The duo hasn’t been able to play solid defense against any NBA frontcourt and it’s evident that teams are exposing the Anderson Varejao-less paint.

Sunday night was a prime example of their struggles on defense. Thompson has been able to corral offensive boards at a healthy rate and has bumped up his points per game average to 9.9, but his defense is a glaring problem. No matter who head coach Byron Scott puts on the opposing team’s most volatile big man, neither comes even close to getting the job done. I get that Zeller is a rookie, but he has now started 13 games and hasn’t shown a single sign of application. He’s not taking anything away from getting blown away, and that concerns me. He spent four seasons at North Carolina, so it was expected that he was somewhat ready to make the leap to the NBA in some sort of fashion.

Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was up there with the beat downs that the Chicago Bulls have handed down so far this season. In those games Cleveland’s frontcourt had to deal with seasoned veterans Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. They lost those matchups in all five games with the Lakers and Bulls and only came away with one win. Zeller isn’t even finished with his rookie season and Thompson is a second-year player, but we brought players like them in to beef up the low post. They have done everything but do just that, and I don’t see them being able to stop Cousins, who is currently averaging 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds. Since returning from suspension, he has scored 20+ points in four of the nine contests with a high of 31. He also managed to bring down 20 rebounds and shoot 61.1 percent from the field in that same win over the Toronto Raptors.

Moving on though, everyone seems to love whenever Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas go head-to-head, and so do I. It’s a matchup of two 2011 draft class members that favors Kyrie on the defensive end, as he held Thomas to eight points last time these teams matched up. He tied Irving’s point total in their only contest in 2012, but the former Rookie of the Year got the best of his opposition from the free throw line. His two makes gave Cleveland a last-second win at home, and further told the fourth quarter legend of Kyrie.

The Cavaliers are boasting no significant injuries, while Aaron Brooks, who is averaging 9.1 points for the Kings off the bench, is unlikely to play Monday. The game will again be determined down low, as both teams are average perimeter shooting teams and Sacramento will expose Cleveland’s current and persistent weakness.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers DeMarcus Cousins Sacramento Kings Tristan Thompson Tyler Zeller

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