Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NBA Preview: Detroit Pistons (6-43) at Sacramento Kings (29-20)

The Sacramento Kings will see a different version of rookie Ausar Thompson when the former San Francisco Bay Area youth standout returns to Northern California to begin a six-game trip with his Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

Thompson, the fifth overall pick of the 2023 draft despite never having played college ball, wound up scoreless with two rebounds and no assists when the Pistons were drubbed 131-110 at home by the Kings on Jan. 9.

Thompson came off the bench that night and added three steals in his 14 minutes.

Since then, the 21-year-old has seen his playing time — and production — significantly increase. In 10 games since Jan. 15, he has averaged 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game while shooting 60.9 percent.

That stretch included a season-best 22 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 20 and one of his best all-around games in his most recent outing: 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in a 111-99 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Thompson, who moved to Florida for high school before playing last season for Atlanta-based Overtime Elite, admits transitioning to the NBA has been about more than just a higher level of basketball.

There is no snow in the forecast in Sacramento, where the Pistons will be seeking to end a three-game losing streak.

The Kings likewise flew in from the Midwest for the contest, having just completed a seven-game trip in Cleveland.

The Kings fell 136-110 to the Cavaliers to cap a 5-2 trek. However, Domantas Sabonis’ 12-point, 19-rebound, 15-assist effort was something to celebrate on the flight home.

Actually, the streak is 32 straight dating back to Dec. 2 and includes 14 triple-doubles. He had one of the latter in a win at Detroit on Jan. 9, with a season-high 37 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.

Sabonis also had double-doubles when the Kings swept the two-game season series from the Pistons last year.

Home games have been few and far between for Sacramento and will continue to be through March 1. The Kings have played just two home games since Jan. 9 (compared to 12 on the road) and will play just four of their next 10 in the California capital.

While the Kings could be seeing a different Thompson in the rematch, the Pistons might not recognize Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, who was held scoreless in the January meeting.

Barnes has topped 20 points in five of his past eight games, including a 32-point outing when the Kings were last seen at home during a Jan. 22 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

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