Portland Trail Blazers (4-4) vs. Sacramento Kings (4-5)
The Portland Trail Blazers will look to extend their win streak to two against the Sacramento Kings. The Trail Blazers are coming off an 18 point win against the Timberwolves two nights ago and will look to carry over that momentum into tonight’s game. The Kings are looking to turn their luck around following a 1-4 skid in their last five games.
Saturday January 9 - 7 p.m. PT
How To Watch: NBCSNW, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers Injuries: Zach Collins (out)
Kings Injuries: Jabari Parker (out), Richaun Holmes (out)
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty
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What To Watch For
- Jusuf Nurkic. Family issues kept Nurkic in Bosnia for almost all of the offseason which led to him being in worse condition physically than he normally is. His slow start to the season has been a direct result of this. In his last game against the Timberwolves he looked much more like the Nurkic that Blazers fans have come to know and love over the last few years, posting a season high 17 points along with seven rebounds. This could be the start of Nurkic’s stats beginning to trend in the right direction and return to the level he was playing at two years ago before he broke his leg.
- Point guard battle. Damian Lillard has made a name for himself among the very best players in the league over the last few seasons, and he showed just how prolific a scorer he could be against the Timberwolves. He scored 39 points in 28 minutes two nights ago, which marked his season high and fifth 30 point game this season. The Kings have an explosive young star in De’Aaron Fox, who has been averaging 18.9 points per game, which is down from his 21.1 point mark a season ago. Fox will be hungry for his first game above 25 points, and will be looking to prove himself against one of the league’s premier guards.
- The Blazers’ defense. The Blazers defense has been worse than expected this season considering the personnel the Blazers have. Derrick Jones Jr., Robert Covington, and Gary Trent Jr. have been playing about as well as expected, but Jones Jr. and Covington are better off ball defenders, and that raises the issue of who guards the opposing team’s best player. Two of the top three scorers on the Kings, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, are wing players, and could be difficult for the Blazers to guard.
What Others Are Saying
Ricky O’Donnell of Sactown Royalty comments on the pairing of young guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
While Haliburton has been considered a point guard since entering college, his game is at his best when he’s not the primary initiator of the offense. The best case for scenario for Haliburton’s development was always going to be playing next to an aggressive downhill attacker in the backcourt. That’s why De’Aaron Fox is such a nice complement to his game, and vice versa.
Fox is at his best using his speed to get into the teeth of the defense, forcing help defenders to rotate to the rim, and getting to the foul line. Haliburton has an opposite skill set: he’s a ball mover and spot-up shooter on offense who is always going to make the right play rather than forcing his own look.
Fansided analyst Holden Walter-Warden talked about Richaun Holmes, who he called one of the most underrated players in the league.
This season, Holmes is averaging 11.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He also has a PER of 19.41, which ranks just outside the top 50 in the NBA prior to Thursday night’s action.
The most surprising development from Holmes this season has been his major improvement at the free throw line. He’s a 72.9 percent shooter from the charity stripe over his career, but he’s hitting 92.3 percent of his free throws this season. If he can get to the line more – just 1.9 attempts per game – his improvement there could create further problems for opponents.
Across the board, in fact, Holmes is emerging as an effective scorer. He ranks fourth in the league shooting 64.8 percent from the field. His 128.6 offensive rating also ranks in the league’s top 15.
CBS Sports’ latest rookie power rankings has Kings standout Tyrese Haliburton at number 3 on their list.
People will be talking about how Haliburton fell to the Kings for years to come, after tumbling down draft boards and landing with Sacramento as the No. 12 overall pick. He’s been an absolute treat to watch, and after missing two games due to a wrist injury, his performance against the Bulls showed that he hadn’t missed a step at all. He finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block, while shooting over 45 percent from both the field and 3-point range. It was a master class in what Haliburton can offer the Kings, which is a little bit of everything. Oh, and the icing on the cake, his fall-away stepback corner 3-pointer with 13 seconds left sealed the game for the Kings over the Bulls.