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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings Preview

The Blazers collide with the Kings for the third time this season.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (8-13) vs. Sacramento Kings (8-11)

Wednesday, December 4 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Gary Trent Jr. (day-to-day)
Kings injuries: De’Aaron Fox (out), Marvin Bagley III (day-to-day), Caleb Swanigan (day-to-day)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty

The Trail Blazers match up against the Sacramento Kings for the third time on Wednesday. Portland beat Sacramento 122-112 in the second game of the season and lost to them 107-99 in mid-November. The Blazers are looking to rebound off a road loss to the LA Clippers Tuesday night. Before that they had won three games in a row—their first three-game winning streak this season.

Wednesday will be the Kings’ first visit to the Moda Center this season as the teams’ first two matchups were both in Sacramento. The Kings have had more success this season at home than they have had on the road. Their home record is 5-4 with close wins over teams like the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics. On the road they are 3-7 with their only three wins coming against Eastern Conference bottom-feeders the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, and Washington Wizards.

What to watch for

  • The backcourt matchup. Expect plenty of backcourt scoring in this one. Buddy Hield leads the Kings in scoring with 20.8 per game while shooting 36.5 percent from three. Since De’Aaron Fox has been out, Bogdan Bogdanovic has been scoring well off of the bench. The third-year guard has scored 18.2 points per game in his last 12 games while shooting a blistering 42.5 percent on 7.9 threes per game. Damian Lillard has scored 35 and 27 against the Kings so far this season. Both he and CJ McCollum will be looking to rebound from a tough Tuesday night facing the Clippers’ difficult defense.
  • The rebounding edge. If you look at raw rebounding numbers, the Blazers are a top-ten rebounding team, pulling down 46.7 per game, and the Kings are the worst rebounding team in the league with only 41.7 per game. If you look at rebounding percentage, however, the numbers tell a different story. Both Portland and Sacramento are in the bottom ten with Sacramento’s 49.2 percentage rating slightly higher than Portland’s 48.8. The Kings won the rebounding battle in each of the earlier matchups. Reversing that and winning the battle of the boards could give the Blazers a nice lift.
  • Three-point shooting. The Kings shot better from beyond the arc in both earlier games. They shot 40.5 and 34.4 in the two games in Sacramento, while Portland shot 36.7 and 26.7. The Blazers are shooting better overall this season—36.7 percent vs. 35.2. Portland also defends the three-point line slightly better. Blazer opponents are shooting 33.8 percent from beyond the arc, while Sacramento’s opponents are shooting 34.9 percent. Hopefully, the three-point shooting turns in Portland’s favor in this matchup on Wednesday.

What they’re saying

Greg from Sactown Royalty examines the improvements the Kings have made in the past month and looks at how they continue to improve:

The team’s turnover rate was better in November, but only marginally so. The team can protect the ball better than they have. Similarly, the team still struggles to draw fouls. Harrison Barnes and Bogdan Bogdanovic have stepped up in this area with Fox out, but the team as a whole is still one of the worst in the leagues at getting to the charity stripe.

Gurjus Singh of A Royal Pain praises the growth of Sacramento’s 2019 second-round pick Justin James:

James has been reliable on the defensive end in his first ten games. While “defensive prowess” certainly does not show up in the box score, it was his presence on that end of the floor late in the game against the Denver Nuggets that helped the Kings secure the upset victory.

Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated wrote about how the Kings owner Vivek Ranadive used Sacramento’s G-League Reno Bighorns to experiment with different ways of playing. He includes an anecdote about a game where Reno coach Dave Arseneault Jr. instructed his players to play as if the shot clock was 12 seconds and shoot only threes and layups. The center for Reno’s opponent in that game—the Iowa Energy—may be familiar to Blazer fans:

On offense, the Bighorns fired and then fired some more. On defense, they tried to press and doubled like crazy, gambling on passing lanes and leaving the rim nearly unprotected. The Energy were not thrown off. One in particular, a raw, 7-foot vagabond center named Hassan Whiteside, had a field day. “I loved it man,” Whiteside says now. “Once you got past the pressure, it was pretty much a two-on-one drill.” Whiteside thundered home lobs, sucked down rebounds and, since the Bighorns passed up midrange looks, swatted every attempted layup or dunk in sight. “They just kept driving at me,” he says. “I couldn’t understand it.”

By halftime Whiteside had a double double. By the end he had put up a Wilt Chamberlain–esque line in a 152–144 win: 30 points (on 15-of-18 shooting), 22 rebounds, eight blocks. Five days later he was called up by the Grizzlies and, a week after that, the Heat, who later signed him to a four-year, $98 million contract. Today, Arseneault half-jokes, the deal may have been his greatest contribution as a D-League coach.