Mavericks-Kings Preview

The steady improvement of rookie Ben McLemore has been a bright

spot during an otherwise difficult season for the Sacramento Kings.

The expected arrival of Rudy Gay should be another.

A day after agreeing to acquire the high-scoring forward from

Toronto, McLemore and the Kings will look to end a four-game home

losing streak Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks.

Gay probably won’t play in this game, with the deal that will

send Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck

Hayes to the Raptors expected to become official Monday. Sacramento

also will receive Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy.

Gay, traded from Memphis to Toronto last season, is in his

eighth season and has averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1

assists in his career.

”Rudy is a prince of a guy. He’s an athletic, dynamic wing

player, he gets to the basket at will and can shoot the ball and

handle the ball,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

While the Kings wait for their big acquisition to arrive,

they’ll continue to rely on McLemore. The seventh pick in this

year’s draft has seen his playing time and production rise as the

season has progressed. He logged a season-high 38 minutes Saturday

at Utah and hit a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining to force

overtime.

Sacramento (5-13) went on to win 112-102, and McLemore finished

with 15 points and nine rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins led the way with

28 points and Isaiah Thomas scored 23 of his 26 after halftime.

“Isaiah was telling me after the huddle that I was going to hit

a big shot,” McLemore said. “And I thought I was going to make it

even though I had missed a couple of 3s earlier.”

Thomas called McLemore’s clutch basket, “the biggest shot of his

NBA career so far.”

The Kings need his development to continue as they rank 24th in

the NBA with a 43.0 percent field-goal percentage. McLemore is

second among rookies in points per game at 10.1, but he’s averaged

13.7 over the last six games. He scored a career-high 20 on Dec. 6

against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’ve been waiting on one of those from Ben,” Cousins said of

McLemore’s clutch shooting against the Jazz.

The Mavericks (13-8) have dominated the Kings in recent years,

going 23-3 against them since April 4, 2006 – including victories

in the past five meetings.

Dallas is coming off a dramatic 108-106 victory over Western

Conference-leading Portland on Saturday. Monta Ellis sank a 21-foot

jumper as time expired to give the Mavs their third consecutive

victory.

Dirk Nowitzki has played well over the last four games,

averaging 24.3 points on 53.4 percent shooting. Against Portland,

he scored 28 to go with seven assists and six rebounds.

Even with Ellis leading the team in scoring at 21.6 points per

game, Nowitzki remains the catalyst on offense for the

Mavericks.

“We were throwing it to (Dirk) every time,” coach Rick Carlisle

said of his team’s strategy against Portland. “You know, he’s going

to cause something to happen, something good, and he’s going to

make it tough on them, so we’ve got to get the ball in his

hands.”

The win over the Trail Blazers was the second on a four-game

road trip for Dallas, which also faces Golden State before

returning home next Saturday.

“Every win is huge, every win you can get is huge,” Carlisle

said. “We hadn’t been playing great on the road this year. Our hope

is that we can build some chemistry, build some togetherness out

here, which isn’t easy.

(Portland) is a hard place to play. Sacramento is hard to play,

Golden State is hard to play. So, we have to be really together and

this is a positive step in the right direction in a win.”