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Trail Blazers Hope to Start Playoffs Push Well vs. Sacramento Kings

The final third of the season starts now.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (28-30) vs Sacramento Kings (32-25)

The Portland Trail Blazers come back from the NBA All-Star break with a road game against the Sacramento Kings. Before the break the Blazers lost their last game against the Washington Wizards. They are hoping that the week-long rest will have turned the momentum in their favor.

The Sacramento Kings are enjoying an incredible season and sit third in the Western Conference. They lost their last game against the Phoenix Suns before the all-star break.

Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Thursday, February 23 - 7:00 p.m. PT

How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass

Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Anfernee Simons (out)

Kings injuries: KZ Okpala (out)

SBN Affiliate: Sactown Royalty

What To Watch For

Blazers defense. The Kings average the most points per game in the NBA, ranking top ten in field goal, three point, and free throw percentage. They take high-quality shots and convert at a high level too. The Blazers will need to find a way to slow down the All-Star duo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantis Sabonis. The two combine for 43.6 points, 16.6 rebounds, and 13.1 assists per game. Being able to slow down even one would swing the tide in the favor of the Blazers, but that is easier said than done. Luckily, with the presence of Matisse Thybulle and the return of Jerami Grant, the Blazers are much better equipped to handle the two than they were before the all-star break.

The wing rotation. After the injury to Anfernee Simons and the trade deadline additions, the wing rotation is in for a shakeup. Having Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Nassir Little, and Cam Reddish all playing minutes at the wing seems likely, but the bigger question is how large of a role do they play? With two of Sharpe, Thybulle, and Reddish possible to start according to Coach Chauncey Billups, how the minutes will be managed between the four is something to note going forward.

The playoffs push. If the Blazers are serious about trying to make the playoffs this year, they must win games starting now. The Kings are just 4.5 games above the Blazers in the standings. This game could prove important to a late-season run. Now a bit more removed from the trade deadline, the team should be more comfortable playing with each other, and that should yield results. If the Blazers are serious about this final stretch, the next few games become that much more important.

What Others Are Saying

Jordan White of Sactown Royalty talks about the Kings’ position in the playoff hunt after a loss in a winnable game before the All-Star break.

Going into the break, the Kings are just 2.5 games back from the second seed Grizzlies, but also only 2.5 games ahead of the eighth seed Timberwolves. To make things worse, the Kings’ remaining schedule for the season is not very friendly.

I called this a game I thought the Kings needed to win because KD wasn’t playing and Suns are still adjusting to roster moves. A situation the Kings should have taken advantage of. However, the same big issues they always face got in the way of that. Overall defense — especially points in the paint — consistent offense off the bench and making shots.

The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson talks about what De’Aaron Fox’s all-star appearance means to him, and his improvement since last season.

Fox is averaging 24.8 points, a career-high 4.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists. He is shooting career-bests of 50.7% from the field and 79.7% at the free-throw line. In terms of advanced analytics, he has improved dramatically in value over replacement player (VORP), win shares and box plus/minus ratings.

Last season, Fox was 175th in the NBA in VORP (0.7), 194th in win shares (5.0), 125th in box plus/minus (-0.6), 79th in offensive box plus/minus (0.6) and 150th in defensive box/plus minus (-2.5). This season, he is 42nd in VORP (1.7), 37th in win shares (5.0), 54th in box plus/minus (1.8), 31st in offensive box plus/minus (2.8) and 51st in defensive box/plus minus (-1.0).