Portland Trail Blazers (34-26) vs. Sacramento Kings (18-42)
Tuesday, February 27th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Kings injuries: Harry Giles (out), Iman Shumpert (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty
The Blazers have a golden opportunity to win their fourth game in a row when they face the hapless Kings. Sacramento has not only lost their last four games, they will also be on the second game of a back-to-back.
The Blazers meanwhile will be well rested with their last game coming on Saturday, a surprisingly close game against the Phoenix Suns. Portland largely has Damian Lillard to thank for their 106-104 victory. Without his fourth quarter heroics the lasting impression from that game would have been Portland’s miserable 20 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The Blazers host the Kings for their fourth and final meeting this season. Portland leads the series 2-1. Allowing the Kings to even up the series would be a colossal setback for a Blazer team that finds itself only a small handful of games behind the third seed in the West.
What to watch for
- Who will win the three-point battle? The Kings and Blazers are pretty close to a statistical match from three point land. The Kings shoot a slightly better percentage at 38.5 percent vs 37.6 percent, while the Blazers make more of them at 10.1 makes per game vs. nine per game. It’s frankly one of the few things the Kings do well, so if the Blazers find themselves in trouble the explanation is likely to be a disparity from deep.
- Blazers owning the glass. Portland has been a solid top ten rebounding team most of the year while Sacramento is in the bottom three. It doesn’t seem likely that this will change any time soon. The Kings are more likely to pull off an upset by not missing their shots rather than by rebounding misses, but stranger things have happened. Still, expect the Blazers to out-rebound the Kings by some margin.
- A little help from Lillard’s friends. The Blazers have relied a little too much on their All-Star point guard lately. Look for Portland to make a concerted effort to get other players in positions to score points. No one is complaining when Lillard scores 40 or more, but against weaker competition it’s expected to see the scoring load spread around a bit more. If things are going well, plan on at least five Blazers in double figures. If Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic are the only ones above 10 points deep into the fourth quarter, Portland might have to rely on Lillard to save their bacon once again.
What they’re saying
For the Kings it’s all about youth. Find out about Sacramento’s young talent from Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:
If Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers is an indication of how the rest of this season will go, the youngest Kings will have the most responsibility. That’s been the plan for more than a month, but injuries made coach Dave Joerger rely on his veterans longer than planned.
With this plan in motion, here’s what the Kings (18-41) need to see and evaluate from five of their key young players over the final 23 games...
Bogdan Bogdanovic is providing a needed boost of optimism according to The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks:
Bogdanovic may already be the team’s best player. He started the season on the bench, but he quickly passed Buddy Hield to become Sacramento’s starting shooting guard. His averages in points, minutes, and field goal attempts per game have increased over each of the last four months. Translate his numbers in 36 minutes of playing time and he’s averaging 15.1 points and 4.2 assists a game on 46.4 percent shooting. What separates him from most rookies is his efficiency. He has the best true shooting percentage (57.7) among the players in their rotation, and the third-best assist-to-turnover (2:1) ratio.
“He has been great. He can really shoot the ball. He’s like another point guard on the floor,” said fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox in the locker room before a game in Dallas earlier this month. “He doesn’t play like a rookie. He’s basically a seasoned vet.”
So how is that youth movement going? Omer Khan of Sactown Royalty has a look:
Its notable that, while the team hasn’t the lit the league on fire since the youth-centric minute distribution plan was announced, the team has improved on its league-worst performance from earlier in the season, mostly due to the internal growth of the young players. The Kings have gone 5-9 in the stretch, a roughly 29 win pace, compared to the 24 win pace they were on previously. During this stretch, the team’s offensive rating rank (23rd in the NBA), defensive rating rank (25th in the NBA), and net rating rank (25th) are all improvements from when they were dead last in each category before this stretch. The performance is nothing significant enough to make Tankathon watchers sweat, and there’s no guarantee that this is the beginning of an upward trend, but its nice to see improved play nonetheless.