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Game 13 Preview: Blazers vs. Kings

On the road again.  I just can’t wait to get on the road again…


Yes, folks, the Trail Blazers you saw blow through town on Wednesday night actually do exist.  They aren’t a mirage.  They just move fast.  But I’ll tell you the truth, unless we can get these guys to settle down and spend a little quality time at home with us there’s couples counseling in our future.  Tonight, though, being the good and dutiful partners we are, we will support them and keep the home fires burning as they mess around with the Sacramento Kings.


A Look at the Kings


Oh man…remember a couple years ago when the Blazers were young?  I know, we’re still young, but I mean the kind of young that makes your fans say, “We can bank on our star guy most nights and this other guy is pretty good…now if only five or six of our other players will get their games together we should be in pretty good shape.”  That’s about where Sacramento is now.  This team feels like the Zach Randolph Blazers, minus the baggage.  (Thank goodness for Kings’ fans.)


Their bankable offensive star is Kevin Martin, the 25 year old, 4th-year shooting guard who averages 22 points per game.  Martin is a true offensive impresario.  He’s also been injured for the Kings’ last 6 games.  There’s no new news on his ankle that I can find.  Officially he’s day-to-day.  Obviously it’s much better for the Blazers if he can’t go.  In Martin’s absence the Kings have been getting a ton of mileage out of John Salmons.  He’s an athletic 6’6” small forward that any team would be proud to have.  His last four games he’s scored 21, 31, 18, and 29 on 63% shooting overall.  After that the roster gets interesting.  Veteran Brad Miller is having a fine start to the season, averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists.  He’s also shooting over 44% from three-point range.  He’s backed up by big Spencer Hawes, averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and shooting 43.5% from three-point range.  Power forward Mikki Moore had been starting for the Kings but like Martin he has sprained his ankle.  Young Jason Thompson is getting to spread his wings as a starter with all the injuries.  Beno Udrih continues to toil away at the point.  He’s also taken and hit more shots since Martin has been out but his play goes up and down.  Bobby Brown and Bobby Jackson spell the guards.  Forward Donte Greene started the last game with marginal impact.  Jackson got a game in the starting lineup before that.  No telling who Reggie Theus will throw out there to try and plug the holes tonight.


The list of things wrong with the Kings is long.  For whatever reason--youth, talent, assimilation adjustments--their players don’t really mesh together and it shows.  They’re a poor defensive team and also very poor on the defensive boards.  They allow 47% from the field and 41% from the three-point line.  They don’t force turnovers either--the compensation mechanism for many offensive-oriented teams.  Even scoring 103 per game their offense is hampered by a lack of free throws and the inability of anyone (healthy) outside of their centers to hit from distance.  They stay alive because every single player on the team whose name doesn’t start with “Q” can score the ball.  The Kings shoot an incredibly high percentage.  Even with the lack of extra point, those twos add up.  They distribute the ball well also.  Their shots are spread out among multiple players and you have to defend them all.


The Kings are far from a good team but their offense has won them 5 games this year, including contests against Golden State and New Orleans.  A team that can shoot always has a chance.


Keys to the Game


1.  Sacramento presents a different look in the middle than anything we’ve seen yet.  Their centers are as dangerous from the perimeter as they are in the paint.  Brad Miller is also dangerous with his passes.  Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden won’t be served that well by chasing them all over the court.  One option might be to have Lamarcus Aldridge guard their centers and let our centers hang back in the middle.


2.  Speaking of interior players…Sacramento’s don’t defend much better than Chicago’s and you saw what happened there.  Not just our middle men, but the whole team should be assaulting the paint all night.  No shot blocking, not great size, not a ton of experience, not much commitment to team defense…why take any hard shots against them?


3.  If John Salmons is going to score like an MVP candidate, treat him like one.  Key your defense on him.  At worst make him take a ton of shots to get his points.  At best make him miss those shots and take away his production.  Everybody else on this team can shoot but who else is going to give you 22+?  It’s not impossible for one of the supporting players to do it but I’d like to see them prove it before I believe it.


4.  Oh…when you’re done assaulting the paint keep in mind that the dish to the three-point line is going to be open all night long.  Blazers = best three-point shooting team in the league.  Kings = close to the worst three-point defending team in the league.  All players of recent European extraction please line up for your open looks on aisles 1 and 2.


5.  Kings no score 100, Kings no win.


Storylines to Watch


1.  Who Plays for Sacramento?


Will Martin or Moore be back?  If so, who starts and how many minutes does everybody get.  They’ve been cobbling together lineups so long that even their regular one would feel cobbled together tonight.


2.  Centers of Attention


The Blazers have the ultimate two-feet-and-under center scoring game.  The Kings have the ultimate twenty-feet-and-over center scoring game.  Which pays dividends?


3.  Amped Up or Let Down?


Will the Blazers be coasting after demolishing the Bulls Wednesday night?  Playing lazy against the Kings is a great way to let them steal the game.  On the other hand a decisive burst of energy early could well turn this into another dunk-battered cakewalk.  The Kings could really go either way and it’s more or less up to the Blazers to decide which Sacramento team they want to deal with.


Final Thoughts


The game against Phoenix will be tough so it would be nice to make this one easy.


Check out the Kings’ point of view at  SactownRoyalty.


Enter the Jersey Contest for tonight’s game here.  Don’t forget that tomorrow’s form will come up after this game ends.


--Dave (