Happy Andre Miller Day! For some reason ever since I read the news about today being Andre Miller Day around NBA watercoolers I can’t help but think of the beginning of Still D.R.E. Or how much lamer NBA watercoolers are in real life compared to my imagination, but I disgress. Word on the street has been that tonight is the night that Andre Miller returns to the starting lineup, Jerryd Bayless gets more PT and the majority of Blazer fans hope Steve Blake gets locked in the bowels of the Rose Garden with all of the old Portland Fire merchandise. Yeah, I got a Jackie Stiles reference in (+10).
Portland returns home to the RG for a two game mini-homestand before heading back on the road for a trip I’m not emotionally prepared to talk about. Let’s just say these are a big two games for Portland to win. Coming off a rough 1-3 East Coast trip, the Blazers hope they can find their winning ways/swagger at home. You can argue (its a small argument but it exists) that Portland could very well have come back 3-1 as they had chances in Cleveland and Milwaukee. But they didn’t and reality is setting in. That reality being that every night for a while is going to be an adventure. The margin for error is slimmer than going through a day and not hearing about Tiger Woods. Games like these against ‘inferior opponents’ are now must-wins and no longer the gimmes they used to be.
The good news: no matter how talented a young team is, young teams struggle on the road early in the season. The Kings are no exception as they are 1-9 away from Arco Arena this season and have dropped their last 6 road games. That one and only road victory came at Utah on November 6th. The not-so-good news: one thing that the Kings have proven they can do under Paul Westphal is score the basketball. Fun fact: Sacramento has dropped 100+ points in 17 of their 22 games this season. Not so fun fact: Portland is 0-7 this year when they give up 100 points. Hmm. Don’t get down though because Sacramento has given up 100+ 15 times out of 22 which means they obviously love the Situation more than they do playing defense.
The Kings have managed to somewhat tread water without Kevin Martin because of the emergence of Tyreke Evans and their newfound offensive balance. Sacramento has 6 guys currently averaging double figures: Evans (20.0), Jason Thompson (14.9), Beno Udrih (13.8), Andres Nocioni (11.5), Spencer Hawes (11.2) and Omri Cassipi (11.0). It’s much tougher to guard a team full of guys who can hurt you than just a couple guys. Unfortunately, Portland’s struggling guarding anything. Memories of the Blazers struggling with an offensively challenged Pacers team do not inspire confidence.
Obviously, the guy who scares me the most is Evans. After watching us struggle with Luke ‘bleeping’ Ridnour, I’ve definitely got the hibbie jibbies about Tyreke Evans. He’s got playmaking abilities not only for himself but for others. He can take over a game when necessary but also tends to make the right play at the right time. When you average 20/5/5 as a rookie for the Kings you earn this kind of respect.
My concern is who do we have to guard him? He could outquick Miller, could bully Bayless and…yeah you know what he could do to Blake.
Keys to the game
-Defense: With this many options, the Kings are not necessarily a team you can shut down. They are a team you can render inefficient and that should be the main goal. Truthfully, Portland just can’t let them get to 100, because as the stat showed earlier bad things tend to happen.
-Score: The Kings can’t play D but we’re only going to be as good as Roy and LMA are. I’ve given up on third option talk for the time being. The stars have to be efficient for this to work. That means Roy can’t go for 8-22 because while he scored 20 or something it wasn’t an efficient 20 and the Kings win that battle.
This one feels weird in that right now it feels as if the result could go either way. I guess only time will tell.