In two meetings this season, the Portland Trailblazers put the pressure on the Sacramento Kings. And the Kings wilted, losing by 22 points in December and 12 points just last week. Maybe third time’s the charm as the Kings play host to the Blazers this time around at Power Balance Pavilion.
Kings Probable Starters (6-15)
Marcus Thornton wants to play tonight and and it looks like he will. The Kings guard tweeted a message earlier today saying he’s “(excited) to be back on the court tonight wit my brothers”. Expect Smart to ease him back into the rotation, especially considering how well Isaiah Thomas has played in his absence.
Blazers Probable Starters (12-9)
Tyreke Evans knows how the Blazers were successful in their last meeting.
“They like to pressure and play up on us,” said the Kings guard after practice yesterday.
Being aggressive against the Trailblazers’ pressure defense will be critical for the Kings tonight, according to Evans. He likes their chances if they attack the rim the rim against Portland’s defenders.
“That’s a good opportunity for us to drive and get fouls on them,” he added. “So we just got to start, push the tempo a little bit more.”
Injuries: Blazers forward Nicolas Batum is listed as day-to-day after twisting his left knee a few days ago in Utah.
You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.
1. Match-up to watch?
Sean Highkin: The three bigs with Marcus in their names. DeMarcus Cousins is a double-double machine, and should spend time tonight both defending LaMarcus Aldridge and hustling for boards with Marcus Camby.
Noam Schiller: Gerald Wallace vs. Sacramento’s small forwards. Wallace has been an energy-provider for a Blazers team that typically lacked anything of the sort playing away from home. If Crash can set the tone early against what has been by far the worst position in the Kings’ rotation, the Blazers can use the momentum to temporarily vanquish their road woes.
Jonathan Santiago: Tyreke Evans versus Portland’s defense. He struggled scoring in their last meeting, finishing with only nine points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field. If he attacks the Blazers defense like he says he can, it can really open up the floor for the Kings on offense.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Sean Highkin: Points off turnovers. Both of these teams have been turnover-happy of late, so this game could come down to who can capitalize on these mistakes more.
Noam Schiller: The rebounding battle. The Kings have very little going for them, but they have been crushing opponents left and right on the offensive boards. But meet Marcus Camby, gobbling one of every three defensive rebounds this season. If Camby takes away the Kings’ second chances, they might be hard pressed for offense.
Jonathan Santiago: How many rebounds LaMarcus Aldridge gets. Despite an off-shooting night, he finished with 16 boards, including nine on the offensive glass, against Sacramento last week. He averages about nine total per contest. The Kings can’t let him find other ways to beat them if they slow down his scoring.
3. Better Seattle sixth man right now: Jamal Crawford or Isaiah Thomas?
Sean Highkin: I’ll take Crawford, especially against teams of Sacramento’s caliber. He seems to really light it up in blowouts. Plus, Marcus Thornton may return tonight, which will likely result in Thomas’ minutes being cut.
Noam Schiller: Thomas breaks down defense by slipping around and under them towards the hoop, using the extra space to create for himself and others; Crawford, when he’s not preoccupied with volcanic eruptions in human form, mutilates ankles for sport. But despite Crawford’s early slump, until Thomas can consistently shoot above gigantic paint dwellers, he just can’t compete with Jamal’s firepower.
Jonathan Santiago: Crawford is the more experienced player. But since we’re talking right now, I’d rather have Thomas. Thomas does a little bit of everything for the Kings (pass, score and lead) while the Blazers basically use Crawford as a scorer off the bench.