With seven consecutive games lost, the Sacramento Kings are riding their longest losing streak of the season. They attempt to buck the trend in a Sunday matinee against a familiar face and the Portland Trailblazers.
Gametime: 3:00 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For Blazers perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Portland Roundball Society.
Kings Probable Starters (19-41)
|Isaiah Thomas||Marcus Thornton||Tyreke Evans||Jason Thompson||DeMarcus Cousins|
As the season nears a close, the injury bug has reared its ugly head. Hassan Whiteside is done for the year after severely spraining his ankle against the Hornets on Thursday. Their depth at small forward is shot with John Salmons (hip) and Francisco Garcia (concussion) still suffering the effects of their late season injuries.
Trail Blazers Probable Starters (28-32)
|Raymond Felton||Wesley Matthews||Nicolas Batum||J.J. Hickson||Joel Pryzbilla|
The Maloofs, who will attend today’s game, might not be the only folks receiving a cold reception from fans in attendance. J.J. Hickson, who the Kings released after the trade deadline, returns to Sacramento as a member of the Trail Blazers. Since joining Portland, he’s played the way the Kings coaching staff envisioned he would play, averaging 14 points while shooting 55 percent from the field in 13 games.
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.
Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet Northwest and James Herbert of Hoopspeak join me to preview today’s Kings/Blazers match-up.
1. Match-up to watch?
Chris Haynes: It’s J.J. Hickson vs. Jason Thompson. I know they’re not the most intriguing players to look out for, but I know Hickson is up for this game and eager to prove to the Kings that they had no clue of what they were doing by not giving him a consistent role with the team. In fact, I expect Hickson to get a heavy dose of touches on the offensive end this afternoon. Is Thompson up for it?
James Herbert: I want to put Isaiah Thomas vs. Jamal Crawford here just because they’re best friends. But technically that’s not a matchup, so I’ll go with Thomas vs. Raymond Felton. The tiniest point guard vs… the, uh, not so tiny point guard! And Felton’s actually been playing good ball lately.
Jonathan Santiago: J.J. Hickson vs. Jason Thompson. Now that Hickson is finally playing up to his potential in Portland, this is the match-up to watch.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Chris Haynes: Bench points will play a huge part in who comes out victorious. The Trail Blazers are in the midst of evaluating their young talent and that could hurt their chances of winning as they’re inserting young blood into games at pivotal moments. The advantage goes to the Kings in the reserve area, but you never know when it comes to youngsters on any given night/day.
James Herbert: Bench points: The only bench scorer Portland has right now is Jamal Crawford. For the Kings, Terrence Williams has been the most consistent bench performer lately. If the Kings are to win, getting something from Jimmer Fredette and Donte Greene will help.
Jonathan Santiago: Points in the paint. The Kings average 48 points in the paint per game. But in their last three games, they’ve averaged just 40 per contest. If the Kings aren’t running or feeding the ball inside to DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, this stat will fall far below its average.
3. Fact or fiction: J.J. Hickson has a long-term future with the Trailblazers.
Chris Haynes: Fact. Hickson to the Trail Blazers has been the lone bright spot in the season. Nobody knew what type of player the Trail Blazers were picking up when they scooped him off waivers, but they know now. He’s an athletic big who runs the floor and crashes the offensive glass like nobody’s business. He’s also a great compliment to LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s no doubt the Trail Blazers will make sure they match any offer out there for him this summer.
James Herbert: That depends on how you define “long-term.” When Hickson signed with Portland after his horrible showing in Sacramento, nothing was expected of him. He’s outperformed expectations, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. He’ll get a look from the Blazers for next season, but it’s not like he’s a part of their core.
Jonathan Santiago: Fact, but with warning. Based on the way he’s playing for them right now, I could see them re-signing him. But Blazer fans, don’t be surprised if complacency sinks in after a long-term agreement is reached. Right now, Hickson is the definition of a guy playing for a contract.