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Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Preview

DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings visit the Trail Blazers tonight in Portland. Can the Blazers recover from a 31-point shellacking at the hands of the Clippers on Wednesday?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (4-6) at Portland Trail Blazers (5-4)

Nov 11, 2016, 7:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Kings injuries: None
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to bounce back tonight at home against the Sacramento Kings two days after a demoralizing 111-80 beatdown at the hands of the L.A. Clippers.

Portland’s big two, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, together average 51 points per night on the season, but were held to a combined 16 points against the Clippers before coach Terry Stotts waived the white flag and pulled them midway through the third quarter.

Standing in their way tonight will be Sacramento’s own big two, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, who put up nearly 48 points a night of their own.

Cousins is having another excellent statistical season so far, averaging 26 points and nearly nine rebounds per game, and is one of the most punishing post players in the league. He gets to the foul line nearly 11 times per game, and also features a soft touch on the perimeter.

Gay, who before the season started told the Kings that he would opt out of his contract as soon as he was able, has always been known as a volume scorer and is certainly enjoying being the only other major scoring threat on this Kings team, putting up 22 points on nearly 16 shots per night. Gay has been surprisingly effective thus far this season, shooting a career-high 49 percent from the floor and nearly 41 percent from the 3-point line.

After that, the Kings’ firepower begins to wane; the backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson is aging and both players are off to predictably slow starts, putting up fewer than 16 points per game and getting to the line fewer than four times per contest combined. Power forward Kosta Koufos knows his role and is a solid rebounder, but doesn’t give the team much in the way of offensive spark.

Darren Collison, back from a suspension, is the Kings’ main weapon off the bench, averaging 7.5 points and 6.5 assists in 25 minutes a night since his return. The rest of the rotation features Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Ben McLemore - players of various skill levels who won’t give you much in the way of scoring.

New Sacramento coach Dave Joerger is known for his “grit and grind” days with the Memphis Grizzlies and, predictably, has the Kings playing at the second-slowest pace in the league. He is trying to institute a system of valuing possessions and squeezing out defensive stops with a roster that isn’t entirely suited to do so, with a team defense that is rated No. 23 in the league.

The Trail Blazers hope to counter by pushing the action. Not a true fast-breaking team, Portland still features the NBA’s tenth-quickest pace. Their offense, statistically stunted by only putting up 80 points against the Clippers on Wednesday night, is ranked No. 16 in the league.

More concerning than the offense, which will surely rise back up the ranks after a few more games, is the team’s rebounding. Portland ranks No. 29 in offensive rebound percentage and No. 24 in defensive rebound percentage. For comparison, the team ranked No. 3 and No. 13 last year in those categories, respectively. Against a slow-it-down team like the Kings, possession-extending offensive rebounds are extremely valuable, and Portland will want to crash the boards tonight.

Blazers power forward Al-Farouq Aminu will not play tonight due the calf strain he suffered against the Phoenix Suns. Noah Vonleh started in Aminu’s place against the Clippers, though Stotts may turn to Allen Crabbe tonight for more offensive firepower, sliding Maurice Harkless to power forward instead.

While Sacramento has some nice pieces, the team doesn’t have a third scorer who can be relied upon on a nightly basis. Those two pieces however - Cousins and Gay - are enough that they can beat any given team should both get hot. Portland is having its own issues finding a consistent third scorer, and will continue to ride Lillard and McCollum and hope that the “third scorer by committee” approach works for another game.