Rockets, Kings clash in Sacramento

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets will try to get back in the win column Thursday night when their road trip takes them to Sleep Train Arena for a date with the Sacramento Kings.

Thursday's matchup could've been a battle of the league's premiere big men, but that won't come to fruition. Houston center Dwight Howard will miss 11th consecutive game with a knee strain, while Sacramento pivot man DeMarcus Cousins is expected to be out until at least January with a case of viral meningitis.

The Rockets have endured without Howard. They had won four in a row until becoming the latest victim of the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Houston fell at Oracle Arena, 105-93, for only its second loss in the last nine contests.

"They broke us down and converted," All-Star guard James Harden said. "They're a very good team. They played very well in the fourth quarter."

Harden supplied 34 points, eight rebounds, four helpers and four steals for Houston. He tied the game at 89-89 with 4:45 left after knocking down a step- back 3-pointer, but the Warriors closed the game on a 16-4 run, including 11 straight points following the Harden triple.

Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas finished the game with 18 points apiece. Patrick Beverley chipped in 12 points for the Rockets, who shot a measly 25.7 percent from long range.

The Kings have alternated wins and losses over the last four. Most recently, the Kings fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, 98-95, at the Staples Center on Tuesday.

Darren Collison had 26 points and six assists, while Rudy Gay added 23 points for Sacramento, which has lost six of its last eight contests. Reggie Evans only scored eight points, but grabbed 14 rebounds.

"We defended well, but offensively we had a lack of execution down the stretch," Kings coach Michael Malone said.

Kobe Bryant sunk a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left for a 98-95 advantage, and the Kings never got a good look from beyond the arc. They settled for a Nik Stauskas step-through 3-pointer from the top of the arc, which clanked off the front of the rim.

The Kings outshot the Lakers from the floor and from behind the 3-point line. They outrebounded LA, but committed 16 turnovers to only five from the Lakers. Los Angeles scored 21 points off those miscues, compared to only four for Sacramento.

The Kings' stop in Los Angeles was the club's only travel date in a span of 11 games. They played five straight at home before the trip and will play the next five at Sleep Train Arena.

The Rockets beat the Kings on Nov. 26 in Houston for their third consecutive victory in this series. The Rockets are 12-4 in their last 16 versus Sacramento and 6-2 in California's capital city.