Game Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific TV: Comcast
Before we start...something has infested my computer and it has shut me down like Nic Batum shuts down layup attempts on the break. I'm borrowing a rig just to get this up so it's going to be shorter and sweeter than usual. Also if you've sent me an e-mail in the last couple days this might be why you haven't received a reply.
But that's OK, because you pretty much know about the Kings anyway, as Portland has played against them approximately 92 times in the last month. Tyreke Evans is very, very good. (He's back from a concussion, by the way.) The Kings' defense...not so much. Beno Udrih can shoot. Spencer Hawes can too (even in street clothes). Carl Landry is a great all-around player. But their bigs aren't intimidating defenders. You can push this team around. The Kings have lost six straight, one at home and five on the road. This will be their first game back from that extended trip. Because of that and because the Blazers are going for a sweep this could be an odd game. Odd is not good. On normal nights Portland walks away with a win.
But enough about the all-too-familiar Sacramento squad. The interesting piece here is what this game means to the Blazers. This is the first of three critical swing games in the final six. These are winnable games but hardly guaranteed. This game qualifies because of the aforementioned oddness and because the Kings are far better at hom (17-19) than on the road (7-33). If the Blazers want to finish above 8th in the West with a minimum of pressure they need to win all three of these games: tonight, Wednesday visiting the Clippers, and a week from Monday at home against the Thunder. If Portland wins these three games you figure Friday's game against Dallas is survivable either way...probably making the difference between 50 and 51 wins. 50 wins should be good for a higher seed. 51 wins almost certainly would be. But if the Blazers lose one of these games then Dallas is a must for 50 and you have to beat the L*kers in L.A. for 51. Beat Sacramento now or risk getting stuck needing a win against L.A. or Dallas. Which do you think will be easier?
One would hope the loss against Denver would help in this game. There will be no cruising or taking it for granted. If the Blazers come out flat tonight it's time to worry whether just making the playoffs was good enough for them. In the long-term perspective it was, of course. But taking that attitude early would be quite disturbing, if nothing else because any experience the team gets out of this run is going to come precisely through the intense battle for position and the desperate fight not to get eliminated early. If relief about making the post-season is the foremost thought then all of that experience goes bye-bye. Save the pats on the back for the end-of-the-year perspective. Now it's time to fight.
See the Sacramento point of view at SactownRoyalty.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.