Game 34 Preview: Blazers vs. Kings

A Look at the Kings

The Kings are fresh off a 132-128 overtime loss at home to the Lakers and they've had a full day to stew on it.  Whether they come out angry or deflated is anyone's guess.  (That's also the question facing Portland, by the way.)

Our old friend Shareef Abdur-Rahim has re-entered the Sacramento rotation and is averaging low double figures since he's been back.  Ron Artest has snapped out of one of his patented "trade me" funks and scored 39 and 19 respectively in his last two games.  Mike Bibby has been on fire since Christmas, averaging 25 ppg since the holiday.  (That's bad news for Portland as we have trouble defending guards anyway.)  Rookie Quincy Douby splattered 21 points on the Warriors this week.  And you know we're in trouble when we've talked about all of these players and haven't even gotten to scoring sensation Kevin Martin yet.  He's not as red hot as he was early in the year but he's still dropping 20 left and right.  About the only good news for the Blazers on the personnel front is that Sacramento center Brad Miller is battling the flu and is questionable.

Sacramento loves to run you with their ultra-quick guards.  They are among the league leaders in scoring and shot attempts.  They are second in the league in steals and are quite happy to turn you over and then jam it down your throats.  They are not a great defensive team nor do they rebound particularly well.  They don't want it ugly or physical out there.  They will go one-on-one a lot more than they used to and they have the backcourt talent to do it.  You cannot fall asleep on the help penetration or they'll shoot 50% on you because of all the layups.  They're no longer among the league elite but they have a lot of veterans and they're plenty good enough (by two or three times) to hand the Blazers their jocks.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  At least 70% of this game is going to be emotional.  If Portland comes out flat and plays without passion or urgency there is nothing we can do to win this game.  We default to playing pretty and the Kings are a lot prettier than we are.
  2.  If their guards start to exploit you, exploit them.  We can drive too.  In fact we need to because our best chance at hanging in there is getting one or both of their starting guards in foul trouble.
  3.  If you have to choose which way their guards score, choose the jumper.
  4.  Joel Przybilla has made a career against the Kings and we'll need him tonight.  Not only do we need blocks to help close down the middle, we need rebounds.  This is an area where Sacramento is exploitable.  If you see our frontcourt guys into healthy double-digit rebounds it means we're forcing them to take the kind of shots that miss.  If we don't get rebounds we're done for.
  5.  Slow the game down.  Get back in transition and make them run clock to score.  Be smart and patient with your own offense.  That doesn't mean settling for late-in-the-clock jumpers, it means moving the ball, moving without the ball, setting screens, and looking for penetration opportunities.  It also means Zach getting a few offensive rebounds to make them think twice about running out for the break.
This will be a tough game and the prognosis isn't good, but then all of them are going to be that way for a while.  Sometimes when you lose a bunch of easy ones you come back and for some weird reason pull out a hard one or two.  Here's hoping.

Much like Ken, I'm going to be watching this game with a Sacramento Kings fan.  (Unlike Ken I'm not sleeping with mine though...)  I would like us to at least put out some effort so I don't have to be embarrassed.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S. Don't forget to enter the January Jersey Contest below! It's as easy as plugging in a few numbers for this game!

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