Portland Trail Blazers (13-16) at Sacramento Kings (10-17)
Dec. 20, 2016, 7:30 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (DTD), Festus Ezeli (out)
Kings injuries: Rudy Gay (DTD), Omri Casspi (probable)
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty
The Trail Blazers head to Sacramento after suffering two thorough beatings over the last week. The Kings have been enduring problems of their own - on and off the court - making this a very winnable game for Portland.
Damian Lillard appears to have reached new levels of frustration after being routed by Golden State on Saturday. The grumblings coming from Portland’s locker room are an unpleasant byproduct of a poor start to the season, but the unrest emanating from Sacramento’s clubhouse is a completely different type of drama.
The Kings have a wide array of problems with the players on their team. DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes are linked to serious off-court allegations, which culminated in a dispute between the Sacramento big man and a local media outlet. To make matters worse, Rudy Gay and Arron Afflalo seem to have serious issues with their roles on the team. Gay has openly campaigned for a trade since the preseason, while Afflalo has recently refused to enter games in protest.
Suddenly Portland’s inept defense doesn’t seem like that big of problem compared to the circus going on in Sacramento.
Drama aside, the Kings still present problems for the Trail Blazers. Under coach Dave Joerger, things have slowed down on offense, resulting in halfcourt sets that finish around the basket. This style has led to some success for Sacramento, as they are just inside the NBA’s top 10 for points scored in paint. Portland has struggled mightily in this department at times to start the year, so the gauntlet is laid out once again for coach Terry Stotts.
Limiting Cousins’ effectiveness will be the key to slowing down Sacramento’s offense. Meyers Leonard has played the role of antagonist when the Blazers face the Kings, but it has only delivered marginal success. Cousins scored 33 points in the first game between these two teams this season, and several of those baskets came against Leonard. Foul trouble and frustration could lead to an early exit for Boogie, which could be Portland’s only hope at stopping him.
CJ McCollum and Lillard combined for 67 points in the Nov. 11 meeting between these two teams, but it still took an overtime session to dispatch the Kings. If Maurice Harkless can deliver a double-digit scoring performance, it should put the Trail Blazers in a solid position to secure an elusive road victory.
This game features two squads searching for answers. Sacramento has serious questions about how to move forward as an organization, while Portland must find a way to overcome a debilitating lack of defense. Lillard’s strong tone after the Golden State game should translate into some momentum in this one, and that should be all the Trail Blazers need to outlast the dysfunctional Kings.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
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