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NBA Preview: Sacramento Kings (40-28) at Washington Wizards (11-58)

The Sacramento Kings will be looking to flip a scheduling disadvantage in their favor when they cross the border from north to south in order to take on the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital on Thursday night.

The Kings (40-28) were staring at three games over four days in two countries coming off an overtime affair in their homestand finale on Monday. They made the most of their trek into Canada on Wednesday, crushing the Toronto Raptors 123-89 for a second straight win.

Riding the momentum of the road blowout and with no player pressed into more than 31 minutes of duty in Toronto, the Kings find themselves in a much better position than they might have expected on the second night of a back-to-back, with an international flight in between.

One night after Domantas Sabonis (24th triple-double) and De’Aaron Fox (game-high 20 points) got their stat padding out of the way in just 28 minutes apiece, the Kings get the opportunity to double their pleasure when they take on the reeling Wizards (11-58).

Washington has lost five in a row, all by at least 12 points, and the Wizards allowed 127 or more points in each of the past four.

More of the same — especially in the scoring column — could be expected against the Kings, who ran up a 143-131 win when the Wizards visited Sacramento on Dec. 18. Sabonis, the league leader in triple-doubles, also had one in that contest, going for 28 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.

The potentially high-scoring affair could take a surprising defensive turn, however, when Kings up-and-comer Keon Ellis matches up with streaky Wizards guard Jordan Poole.

The Kings know all about Poole. A former rival with the Golden State Warriors, Poole has burned the Kings for 22 or more points five times in his career, including 22 in a critical Warriors win in Game 4 of last year’s playoff series and 28 in the earlier meeting in Sacramento this season.

Ellis, then a rookie for Sacramento, didn’t see action in the seven-game Golden State series last April. He came off the bench for just 15 minutes in the Kings’ December meeting with the Wizards.

However, due mostly to his defense, Ellis has taken on a larger role of late, starting three of the past five games and playing at least 25 minutes in each. He recorded a positive plus/minus in all four Kings wins over that stretch.

If Ellis starts again on Thursday, he likely would match up with Poole, who has started the Wizards’ past three games. Poole had 31 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, sandwiching a pair of 13-point efforts in which he shot a combined 9-for-30.

Even during a season in which the Wizards hold the worst record in the league, Poole remains confident brighter days are ahead.

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