Kings set to host playoff-hungry Houston

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Kings set to host playoff-hungry Houston

March 7, 2011

HOUSTON (32-32) vs.
KINGS (15-45)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- The Houston Rockets have surged closer to being in playoff position in the Western Conference, and they'll try to continue closing the gap with a road game against the lowly Sacramento Kings.

The Rockets look to move above .500 for the first time this season when they visit the Kings on Monday night looking for their third win in as many meetings this season.

Houston (32-32) has won six of seven to move into 11th place in the West, 2 12 games out of the last playoff spot.

"Good teams play their best basketball in the months of March and April," guard Kevin Martin said after scoring 20 points in a 112-95 win over Indiana on Saturday. "For us, where we're at in the standings, we need to have a great March, no doubt about that. Guys are committed to coming in and working hard every day, practicing for games. We'll just see where this takes us."

Chase Budinger finished with 18 points and six rebounds as he continued his post-All-Star break surge. Budinger has averaged 18.0 points - up from his season average of 8.8 - the last six games.

Most promising for the Rockets is how their defense has improved. They've held three of their last four opponents to 95 or fewer points, and limited the Pacers to 41.3 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers.

Prior to the last four games, the Rockets allowed teams to average 108.0 points over eight contests.

Houston is 19-4 when it gives up fewer than 100 points and has won 13 consecutive games in which it has held opponents below the mark.

"We're going to continue pushing and build on the success we had (Saturday)," swingman Courtney Lee said. "We're going to get back in the gym and practice and make sure that we are mentally sharp for our next games coming up."

The Rockets will try to take advantage of this favorable matchup before playing two of their next three against Phoenix - one of the teams they're chasing for a playoff berth - sandwiched around a matchup with NBA-leading San Antonio.

Sacramento (15-45) has lost two straight, four of five and 12 of 15. It's coming off a 109-102 overtime loss at Utah on Saturday.

REWIND: Kings force OT but lose to Jazz

The Kings shot 40.9 percent from the field went 19 of 30 from the free-throw line. DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 18 rebounds while Francisco Garcia returned after missing 21 games with a calf injury and added 18 points.

"I was very proud of our guys, but going home with a loss we don't want to get use to that," coach Paul Westphal said. "We lost a lot of games this year. We lost a lot of games where we could have won them. We never want to accept that but at the same time we're pleased with the effort and I think our guys are growing."

Sacramento continues to be pleased with the production of new acquisition Marcus Thornton, who reached the 20-point mark for the third straight game in his first start this season. Obtained in the trade with New Orleans for Carl Landry, Thornton has averaged 21.2 points in five games with the Kings after averaging 7.8 with the Hornets.

The Rockets took the first meeting at Arco Arena 102-93 on Dec. 19. Houston has won three straight at Sacramento, where Martin has averaged 30.5 points in two visits since the Kings traded him to Houston on Feb. 18, 2010.

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

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AP

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

Tyler Beede stepped on the hill at Raley Field in Sacramento on Tuesday night one year older and came away with one more win after the River Cats defeated the Memphis Redbirds, 6-2. 

Beede, now 24 years old, didn’t churn out his most impressive or dominant performance, but he limited hits and found a way to earn his third win of the year. On the night, he completed 5 1/3 innings pitched and only allowed four hits and two earned runs. He did, however, walk more batters (3) than strikeouts (2), which is his lowest strikeout total in a game this season. 

Those numbers shouldn’t be too surprising when looking at Beede’s trends this season on the mound. In his nine starts for the River Cats, he is walking slightly more batters than last year when he was in Double-A Richmond, and he’s significantly striking out less batters. Through 49 innings pitched, which leads the River Cats, Beede is issuing 3.31 walks per nine innings (3.24 BB/9 in 2016) while only striking out 5.88 batters per nine, compared to 8.25 K/9 last year. 

Instead, the Giants’ top pitching prospect is turning to ground balls, setting him up smarter for the future. After forcing seven groundouts to three flyouts on Tuesday, he is now rolling ground balls 56.5 percent of the time, an increase from 47.9 percent last season. 

Sacramento plays in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. All teams outside of the River Cats, who are last in the league with a team batting average of .238, are averaging just over five runs per game and almost one homer every game. Beede, isn’t letting the ball fly through air and has only allowed three homers off of him this season. This plays well for his and the Giants’ future. 

Whenever Beede finds his way to San Francisco, he doesn’t need to rely on his mid-90s fastball to get outs. The strikeouts will come, but life will be much easier watching a Gold Glove infield scoop up grounders for years to come. 

While Beede waits his turn to join the bigs, he’s showing maturity on the hill and stayed undefeated at home on a birthday night to remember. 

Around The Horn

— The Giants’ top power prospect, Chris Shaw, has been called up from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento. Shaw, 23, played only first base in the minors before this season, but has transitioned to left field. He played 18 games at first and 18 games at left for the Flying Squirrels, registering no errors in the outfield. 

— Kelby Tomlinson is working in center field while with the River Cats. Insider Alex Pavlovic spoke to Bruce Bochy about the move

— Bryan Reynolds, the Giants’ top pick in 2016, finished a home run short of the cycle on Sunday. He went 5-for-6 with four RBI in the San Jose Giants’ win. On the season, Reynolds now has 14 multi-hit games in 38 games played. Here’s the breakdown: Six two-hit games, seven three-hit games and one five-hit game. 

More Curry-Durant pick-and-roll? Mike Brown: 'I love Steve, but...'

More Curry-Durant pick-and-roll? Mike Brown: 'I love Steve, but...'

The Warriors led the NBA in offensive rating (113.2) during the regular season.

The Warriors are second in the league in offensive rating (115.8) in the playoffs.

Scoring is not an issue.

But will we see the Warriors run more pick-and-roll in the NBA Finals, specifically the Steph Curry-Kevin Durant combination?

"Steve (Kerr) isn't really into this much," interim head coach Mike Brown told ESPN's Zach Lowe. "He's more about spacing and movement -- and that's fantastic. I love Steve, and wherever I might go, I'm going to incorporate a lot of stuff he does.

"But in the playoffs, sometimes you have to attack a mismatch. When I need a bucket, that's what I'm going to do."

Mr. Kerr -- your response?

"Mike is right about me, but I also recognize the need to do it more as defenses get tougher," Kerr told ESPN. "It's about finding the right balance between isolating when we need to, and keeping the flow that makes us who we are."

During the regular season, the Warriors ranked last in pick-and-roll possessions per game -- both when the ball-handler ended the possession, or when the roll/pop man ended the possession.

Steph Curry averaged 6.1 pick-and-roll possessions per game -- 28th in the NBA.

That number is up to 7.5 per game in the playoffs.

“I think we’re still at our best when we’re simple about what we’re doing,” Curry recently told Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group. “Whether it’s pick-and-roll and you’ve got everybody spaced. You’ve got shooters where they need to be. You’ve got the dive man where he needs to be with space to put pressure on the rim. 

"You’ve got a ball-handler playmaker with it that can come off and shoot it, get a bucket. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be more complex than that. We’ve got the awareness that, that needs to happen.”