Sixers-Kings 5 Things: Joel Embiid Vs. DeMarcus Cousins, Take Two

Sixers (7-22) at Kings (13-17)
10:30 p.m. on CSN/ and the NBC Sports app; Pregame Live at 10 

The Sixers will continue their four-game road trip when they face the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center on Monday night.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Dodging defense
The Sixers can only hope Santa Claus left them that defensive mindset Joel Embiid said he wanted last week.

In their final game prior to Christmas, the Sixers' D was absolutely lit up by the Phoenix Suns. They gave up 42 points in the fourth quarter to tie a season high for points allowed in the 123-116 loss.

The Sixers let the Suns shoot 53.2 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from three-point range and score 44 points in the paint during the defeat.

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"They have dynamic guards. ... We had a hard time defending their backcourt," Brett Brown said after Suns guards Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker combined for 47 points.

2. A big change
The Sixers' defensive focus will have to shift in a major way against the Kings to red-hot big man DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins has been on a tear since his latest bit of controversy when he had a run-in with a Sacramento Bee columnist, which he received a $50,000 fine from the team. In the three games since (all Kings wins), Cousins has averaged 36.0 points and 9.3 rebounds. That includes a massive 55-point, 14-rebound effort against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first game after the incident.

The Sixers missed out on the season's first chance to match up against Cousins last month when the game was postponed because of moisture on the Wells Fargo Center court.

So how will they combat him once the teams finally do tip off? Perhaps the team will give the Embiid-Nerlens Noel pairing a longer look. The two played 1:47 of game time together against the Suns.

"I thought defensively we had some good spurts," Noel said after the loss in Phoenix. "I think it was just more of an experience, seeing what it looks like …  I think we did and I think it went well. We just have to go from here and see what lineups work better."

3. Glass repair 
No matter what big man pair is on the court, the Sixers have to do a better job of rebounding. 

They were manhandled on the boards by the Suns, 56-35. That makes four straight games the Sixers have failed to out-rebound the opposition (they tied the Brooklyn Nets with 53 apiece on Dec. 18). This recent stretch has dropped them to 20th in the league in that category.

Still, a better effort and the opponent should help those numbers turn around Monday night.

Even with Cousins averaging 10.6 rebounds per game, the Kings rank 29th in the NBA as a team with 41.4 boards a night.

4. Injuries
Sixers: Nik Stauskas (knee) is a game-time decision. Richaun Holmes (concussion) and Ben Simmons (knee) are out.

Kings: Rudy Gay (hip) is a game-time decision.

5. This and that
• The Sixers and Kings have split the series each of the past two seasons.

• Noel has averaged 16.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in three career games against the Kings.

• The Kings are going for four straight wins for the first time since January.

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