Portland Trail Blazers (14-24) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-25)
The Portland Trail Blazers face the Sacramento Kings after dropping a game to the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-101. The Kings have lost three straight, while the Blazers had an up-and-down week with an electrifying win over the Atlanta Hawks, only to lose to the Miami Heat and then the Cavs. The last time the two teams met, the Blazers lost 125-121.
Saturday, January 9 - 6:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), CJ McCollum (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out)
Kings injuries: De’Aaron Fox (questionable), Maurice Harkless (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty
What To Watch For
Hustle. If there was one bright spot in the losses to Miami and Cleveland, it was that Portland seemed to have found its work ethic. Head coach Chauncey Billups has harped on the idea of effort and hustle, yet it had been severely lacking on the court. That appeared to change for the better this week.
Return of the bigs. Cody Zeller is back in the lineup, so Jusuf Nurkic is finally not the sole big on the team. While the team has been able to play short over the extent of Zeller’s absence when Jusuf Nurkic was also out, the results haven’t been pretty. Having a consistent rotation of actual big men may help.
Dennis Smith Jr. Perhaps it was the guaranteed contract that did it, but Smith Jr. provided a nice spark off of the bench for the Blazers against the Cavs. Look for the guard to continue to step up and prove his worth.
What Others Are Saying
Cameron Salerno of the Sacramento Bee had questions about the Kings’ defense, and head coach Alvin Gentry had a response.
“We didn’t start out like we should have,” Gentry said. “I thought we did regroup and play like we are capable of playing. In order to win a game like we were in tonight, you have to have defensive stops and we didn’t make any stops. We played uphill and from behind. We finally get the game tied but we don’t come up with any stops down the stretch. That was the difference in the game.”
He added, “The one thing we had to do is come up with stops at the end of the game. We didn’t do that.”
Also at the Sacramento Bee, Jason Anderson pondered the options for the Kings franchise at midseason, given their current woes (sound familiar?).
As currently constructed, the Kings are neither good enough to reach the postseason nor bad enough to secure a top pick in the NBA draft. Former Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie changed this franchise’s fortunes when he traded Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber in 1998 and again when he traded Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest in 2006. General manager Monte McNair might have to pull off a blockbuster trade of his own to rescue the organization from the wastelands of mediocrity.