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Game 60 Preview: Kings vs. Blazers

A Look at the Kings

Prior to this year if you said that going into the last game against the Kings the Blazers would have a chance to own them everyone would have thought the world had turned upside-down.  But the Kings have really been struggling this year.  They haven't just been getting owned, they've been handed down, traded for lawn furniture, and sold on E-bay too.  Their 26-32 record has them last in the Pacific Division, having fallen past the struggling Clippers and hanging with the always-lukewarm Warriors.

Their one breakout player this year has been shooting guard Kevin Martin.  He's averaging a shade over 21 points per game and has led the Kings in scoring 26 times this year.  He's an amazing scorer, shooting almost 50% from the field (unheard of for a perimeter player) and 41% from the three-point line.  He's been over 30 points eight times this year including a 40-point outburst versus the Wizards back in December.  He's no joke and you won't stop him.  The only knock on him is he's not as good of an all-around player as he is shooting the ball, but then if he were he'd be nearing deity level.

Besides Martin the Kings feature veterans Mike Bibby and Ron Artest at their small positions.  Artest has been doing his part on the court to keep the ship afloat.  He's averaging nearly 19 and 7 with 2 steals on the season.  He's been mercurial as usual behind the scenes.  He missed Sunday's game against the Pacers for "personal reasons" and Wednesday's game against the Bobcats with knee issues.  Bibby's year has been a well-chronicled disappointment.  He's right on his career average of just under 17 points and just over 5 assists but that's a far cry from the 20 and 7 he was averaging a couple years ago.  Also his shooting percentage has dropped into the basement and is circling the drain.  Overall he's under 40% and his three-point percentage has dropped over six points from last season.

The Grand Marshals of the Kings' Disappointment Parade have been the big men, however.  Bibby may have his own float but these guys are in the top-down convertible with a band in front of them.  They have Brad Miller, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kenny Thomas, and Corliss Williamson and not a one of them is averaging even 10 points per game.  Miller and Thomas are both over six rebounds per game but that's about it.  The Kings get pounded most nights on the boards.  Add to the list of grievances the fact that nobody we've mentioned yet outside of Artest can defend and you begin to put the picture together.  If their smaller guys don't get hot and shoot you into oblivion they're going to have a hard time winning the ball game.  They just don't bring a lot to the table otherwise.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  This is more descriptive than prescriptive but I'm excited to see the matchup between Martin and Brandon Roy.  It's the classic duel between the guy who does one or two things very, very well and the guy who does a lot of things pretty well.  Earlier in the year Brandon was too new to really know what he was doing but this should be a great display.  I guess for the prescriptive part I'd say Brandon has to come pretty strong and fill up the whole stat line to make things even out and give us a good chance to win.
  2.  As I said, their bigs are limping through the season and are not particularly great defenders.  They're smart veterans though, and it won't be an easy job getting the better of them.  If Zach and Lamarcus come out focused they should be able to knife through the Kings defense and score big.  If they come out lackadaisical (in Zach's case) or rushed (in Lamarcus') their counterparts will be more than happy to take advantage.
  3.  We really ought to win the rebound battle huge against this team.  A little physicality would go a long way.  Granted Aldridge is not a great rebounder yet but Magloire should be able to pick up some slack and Zach, if steady, will probably be the best rebounder on the floor.
  4.  If Roy can handle Martin at least part of the time it shouldn't be necessary to double team extensively.  I'm a little worried that even a step-slower Bibby may be too quick for Jarrett to stop but a little closing defense is all that's needed.  Even with his 8-15, 33 point showing against the Lakers last night he's not shooting a good enough percentage to warrant more right now.  One way I can see us get in trouble is scrambling and leaving them open for shots.  Another way is doubling guys who don't need to be doubled, especially their big men.
  5.  If you're going to choose a shot to give them, make them shoot deep.  Other than Martin they're not that good at it.
  6.  One area in which the Kings still excel is drawing and hitting foul shots.  You have to move your feet and not just your hands on defense.  Martin is too quick to wave at and the other guys are too smart.
  7.  Run the offense like we did the other night with three passes before shooting and nobody settling for jumpers without penetration happening first and we'll be fine.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)