The Kings also have the respect of the Dallas Mavericks entering their matchup Sunday at Sleep Train Arena.
Never mind that the Mavs have won 17 of the last 19 games in the series.
The Mavs must have their guard up for every opponent, especially with only five games remaining in the regular season. They have little margin for error, leading the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns by a half-game in the three-way fight for the West’s last two playoff spots.
But the Mavs shouldn’t have any issues giving the Kings their full attention, even with electrifying point guard Isaiah Thomas listed as questionable after missing the last six games with a bruised thigh. The Mavs were blown out during their previous trip to Sacramento and struggled to beat the Kings in Dallas twice.
“Sacramento’s given us trouble this year,” Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said. “We lost there. Both home games were one-possession games coming down the stretch, so we’ve got to be ready for a tough one Sunday.”
Nowitzki also noted that it’s an early tip (3 p.m. Pacific time), making it a quick turnaround for the Mavs after playing a back-to-back against the Los Angeles teams on Thursday and Friday.
The Kings have presented problems for the Mavs with their physical play inside and athleticism. The Mavs have been outrebounded by 26 in the three games. Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (24.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg), small forward Rudy Gay (32.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Thomas (21.5 ppg, 9.0 apg) have all put up monster numbers against the Mavs.
The fact that the Kings are coming off an embarrassing outing might not work in the Mavs’ favor, either.
“They didn’t play real well [Friday night], so I assume they’re going to come in ready to play,” Mavs reserve big man Brandan Wright said. “That’s a game we need to win.”