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Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Preview

After a tough loss in Denver, the Blazers return to Sacramento where they dethroned the Kings on New Year’s Day.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (26-18) at Sacramento Kings (22-21)

Monday, January 14 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (day-to-day)
Kings injuries: None
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 Portland Trail Blazers look to bounce back Monday after a tough loss in Denver Sunday night. Portland, who went 4-1 in a recent five-game home stand, will be playing the second of a quick back-to-back road trip.

The Kings have played six of their last seven games at home. They have won their last three at the Golden 1 Center with a road loss to Phoenix mixed in. Portland beat the Kings in Sacramento on New Year’s Day 113-108 in OT. The Kings were without rookie Marvin Bagley III in that game. The No. 2 overall pick is averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game off the bench.

What to watch for

  • Don’t ease off. In their Jan. 1 matchup the Blazers led the Kings 64-50 at halftime. A strong second half by Sacramento forced the game into overtime. That isn’t an anomaly: the Kings have been much better in the second half of games—specifically the fourth quarter—this season. Their net rating goes from -4.5 in the first half to +3.1 in the second. Considering Portland will be playing the second of a back-to-back, they will need to make sure they maintain their effort even if they get off to an early lead.
  • Can Nurk duplicate his previous game against the Kings? OK, probably not. The Blazer big man put up a stat line never before seen in the NBA: 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and five blocks. Expecting him to have the second 20+ point, 20+ rebound 5x5 game in NBA history is probably asking too much, but Nurkic has been playing the best ball of his career. He’s averaging 19.4 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent over the last ten games. Another big night for the Bosnian Beast would go a long way in helping Portland secure the victory.
  • Hitting threes. Nurkic had to carry the Blazers in their previous matchup with the Kings partly because Portland shot poorly from beyond the arc. The Blazers went 9-32 in the game. Lillard and McCollum combined to go 1-14. The Kings are shooting 39 percent as a team this season, the second-best mark in the league, but thankfully, they didn’t fare much better at 11-33. Buddy Hield, Sacramento’s best 3-point shooter and scorer, led the way with a 5-8 performance. Shooting only 28 percent on 3’s probably won’t get it done for Portland on Monday—unless they hold the Kings to a similar percentage.

What they’re saying

Sactown Royalty’s Greg appreciates how coach Dave Joerger has developed Sacramento’s young players:

The Sacramento Kings play fast as hell and are led by their youth. De’Aaron Fox looks like an absolute star. Buddy Hield continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Bogdan Bogdanovic is awesome. Willie has (mostly) stopped taking mid-range jumpers. Justin Jackson is looking like a solid contributor. It’s been a long time since Kings fans got to enjoy evidence that Kings can actually help young players grow and develop, but we finally have it. Dave Joerger and his staff have helped the young players grow. They’ve made them earn their places in the rotations. And it’s all starting to pay off.

Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee broke down how second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox matched up with Kemba Walker after the Kings’ 104-97 victory over Charlotte Saturday night:

Fox had 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Kings (22-21), who forced 20 turnovers for the third consecutive game, this time against a team that was second in the league with an average of 12.7 per contest. Fox also had nine pass deflections.

“He was a rookie. He’s not a rookie no more,” Walker said. “He has gotten better. He has gotten a chance to see (what) this league really is about. I think everybody knew what kind of player he was going to be. You can see he works hard. You can tell he works hard. He’s really good. He’s a special talent and he makes his team go.”

Nick Agar-Johnson notes for Hashtag Basketball that Sacramento is one of only two teams with salary cap space heading into the trade deadline:

This salary cap space opens up a number of possibilities for the Kings. They can choose to rent out that cap space to teams that are desperate to duck under the luxury tax, and in return they should be looking to pick up a future first-round pick. Alternatively, the Kings could choose to take on contracts for useful but overpaid players to shore up a playoff rotation. While there is still plenty of time to make a deal, the Kings would be foolish to sit on their assets past the February 7th trade deadline without getting something from a desperate suitor.