The Sacramento Kings begin their early season five-game road trip on Monday in Atlanta. They face a retooled Hawks team that looks dramatically different than the 48-win team Mike Budenholzer ran out on the floor a season ago.
Gone are Jeff Teague and Al Horford, but Atlanta has replaced the duo with Dennis Schroeder, a home-grown product, and eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard.
Sacramento is coming off an exciting 106-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night. After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half, the Kings jumped all over the T'Wolves in the second half and held on for their first win in the newly opened Golden 1 Center.
DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay have led the way for coach Dave Joerger early in the 2016-17 campaign, but 36-year-old veteran Matt Barnes has brought a toughness and tenacity to the team that was much needed.
Hawks by 7
WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 2-1, second place in the Pacific
Hawks: 2-0, first place in the Southeast
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Matt Barnes vs. Paul Millsap -- Barnes won’t start the game and he’s dealing with rib issues, but expect Joerger to turn to his swiss army knife forward early and often to combat Millsap. The 31-year-old Millsap is posting a career-high 22.5 points per game in the Hawks’ first two contests.
Kings: G Darren Collison (league suspension) out.
Hawks: F Mike Scott (knee) out, C Tiago Splitter (hamstring) out.
The Kings have lost nine straight at Philips Arena, but they split the season series with the Hawks last year with a 91-88 win at Sleep Train Arena. Atlanta holds a 157-153 advantage over the Kings all-time and a 41-18 lead during the Sacramento-era.
“You find yourself. You don’t have the crowd to lean on, you’ve only got these guys in this locker room. You grow closer. You learn your teammates better. You learn who’s in the fight with you and who’s not. You learn a lot on the road, so I’m looking forward to it.” -DeMarcus Cousins on heading out on the Kings’ first road trip