Game Time: 7:00 p.m. TV: CSNNW
The 15-win Sacramento Kings are next up on Portland's schedule. Even though this is a road game it's one of the few which are eminently winnable left on the schedule. Brandon Roy will not play in the second half of a back-to-back but even so the Blazers should have no trouble handling struggling Sacramento...at least in theory.
The "theory" caveat is necessary because the Kings have a couple players who have given Portland fits over the years regardless of relative record: Samuel Delambert and Beno Udrih. Delambert has been a thorn in Portland's side clear back to his early days in Philadelphia. He's always been a shot-blocker but has recently emerged as one of the stauncher defenders against LaMarcus Aldridge. And as has been shown repeatedly this season (all together now) "Stop LaMarcus and you stop the Blazers". Udrih is pesky because of his ability to hit shots. For some reason the otherwise-serviceable Portland perimeter defenders can't cope with the Beno Box of assorted jumpers seasoned with the occasional drive and a few nifty passes. Once Udrih starts connecting Portland starts scrambling and never recovers. Also of note in Sacramento's lineup, the newly-acquired Marcus Thornton. The 6'4" shooting guard formerly with New Orleans has scored 14, 15, and 29 in his three games with the Kings. For a team sadly lacking in scoring punch, his willingness to find his own shot is a godsend.
Fortunately for the Blazers Tyreke Evans, another player who punishes Portland routinely, is out with a foot injury. Absent him the rest of the Sacramento lineup looks sketchy. Big men DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson have disappointed, registering inconsistent seasons at best. Omri Casspi has good games but not nearly enough of them. Francisco Garcia is out with a calf injury. Guard Jermaine Taylor is churning out some impressive games with everybody else injured but he's still Jermaine Taylor. There's nobody for this team to rely on and it shows.
The Kings' offense is pretty simple to decipher. It comes easy or it doesn't come at all. Fastbreaks they can do. Forget to defend the paint and they'll put it in. Let them get offensive rebounds and they'll feast. Make them coordinate, set picks, or manufacture shots and they just don't have the players to do it against most teams. They're bad shooters, awful three-point shooters, they don't draw fouls. It's at the rim or the prospects are dim.
On most nights the Kings are lazy about getting back on "D", limp when guarding the paint, and not inclined to close out on you. If they can't force a turnover you're going to have a decent chance of scoring.
It doesn't take much more explanation than that. Take care of the ball, defend the rim, put a little bit of thought into the offense and a little bit of energy on defense and you're going to beat this team just like 43 out of 58 opponents have. Take the game for granted and anybody has a chance, though. As we discussed in the Houston preview, the Blazers have zero room to take games for granted. Here's hoping they come out strong and make this game as easy as it should be.
Enjoy the view from SactownRoyalty.
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