A Look at the Kings
This will be the third time we've played Sacramento in two months so I doubt you need too much of a primer on the Kings. They are 7-18, mostly because they're allowing opponents to shoot 48%, they rebound, and they're too careless with the ball. Their backcourt shoots well from the field overall but poorly from distance. Their big guys shoot well from distance but poorly overall. The guy putting a complete season together is small forward John Salmons. Kevin Martin might qualify as well but after returning from injury for a two-game stint earlier this month he's back in street clothes again with ankle trouble.
With half of Sacramento's scoring punch out the team should be easy pickings for the Blazers. The first time the two teams met they were, as the Blazers won 117-96 behind impressive efforts from Steve Blake and Lamarcus Aldridge. The second time the Blazers were not so dominant, eking out a 91-90 victory due to awesome rebounding and the combined scoring of Roy, Blake, Outlaw, and Fernandez. If you're noticing most of those scoring names come from the smaller positions you're correct. Despite the Kings' big-man defenders all but inviting to be dominated the Blazers have yet to put together a stellar frontcourt showing against Sacramento. Instead we've depending on outplaying their backcourt while their centers get free for jumpers. This is exactly what the Kings want you to do. Our superior talent, top to bottom, has yielded victories, but the Kings aren't just going to roll over and let us take the game. We need to impose our will in the paint instead of getting into a shoddy-defense shootout with Sacramento.
The Kings roughed up the Timberwolves last night, winning the first game of interim head coach Kenny Natt. They scored 118 points. That kind of production would be serious trouble for the Blazers. Nevertheless the book says after the emotional first victory reality sets in. Portland's job will be to help reality along.
Keys to the Game
1. Transition defense, pure and simple. The Blazers have not been doing a good job of getting back. It only takes hustle. The Blazers need to show it.
2. Keep dominating the boards. The Kings don't have a lot of rebounders. Controlling possession is a fantastic way to keep the ball from going in the opponent's net.
3. Play their guards and small forward even, dominate the bigs. Sacramento's centers are capable of pulling Portland's defense outside. That's not great. Portland's big men are capable of destroying the Kings inside. That's worse. We need to finally see a full, dominant game by our players 6'11" and over against this team. They can't hit enough three's to counter.
4. The Kings allow 6 more free throws per game than they take. Be aggressive and take advantage. There's a reason you're at home!
5. This is another one of those games where two passes gets you any shot you want. Don't be impatient, don't hog the ball.
This needs to be a win for the Blazers. Phoenix is coming in on Thursday and we haven't had much success with them. Besides, there's a strict "one loss to a sad sack California team per month" policy in the Rose Garden.
Check out the Sacramento point of view at SactownRoyalty.
There's no Jersey Contest form for tonight's game since I forgot to do one early enough. My apologies. Thursday's form is all ready to go.