Just Announced: DeMarcus Cousins is not with the team in Portland tonight (Coach’s Decision).
Regardless of how Wednesday’s game shakes out, whether or not Portland loses the season series to the Kings 3-1 or ends it in a 2-2 tie, the biggest story coming out of it will likely be that once again DeMarcus Cousins was not a part of it. Cousins is no longer suspended, but The Sacramento Bee reports that according to Kings’ head coach Keith Smart, being reinstated doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to play. Wednesday will be the second game in a row DMC will have missed, and the third time he’s been held out of the lineup due to suspension when his team faced the Blazers.
So onto Wednesday’s game.
While compiling my preview for the month of December, I predicted that the Blazers would struggle against the Spurs and Nuggets at home, while beating the Kings a bunch of times. I was wrong on both counts. The question then is, would you take wins against San Antonio and Denver this month if you were told that getting them might mean losing twice to the Kings and having to pull off a win in the second half of a home-and-home just to tie the season series?
My contention is yes, you take those win in a trade for those losses. San Antonio is a top-four team in the West; Denver might make the Playoffs. Beating good teams is better than beating bad teams. I would say it’s maybe even better than losing to bad teams. Many people will strongly disagree with those statements, considering that losing to bad teams is the best way to tank for the purpose of getting better picks, and beating good teams if you’re not a playoff team is basically meaningless unless you ascribe some type of quantitative value to things like “developing character.” Regardless, tanking isn’t a thing that actually happens, and building confidence is pretty important for a young team. Take the win over the Spurs; forget about losing twice, possibly three times, in one month to the Kings.
Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Victor Claver, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson
Kings Starting 5: PG Aaron Brooks, SG Marcus Thornton, SF John Salmons, PF James Johnson, C Jason Thompson
When you’ve faced the same team three times in three weeks, there should basically be no surprises. Looking at the box scores from the last three match-ups between the Kings and Blazers, it’s quite clear that the team that shoots better from three wins. I said as much in my recap of Portland’s abysmal Christmas Eve Eve loss in Sacramento.
Possibly, the Blazers take the embarrassment of last Sunday to heart and play a little bit of defense. Maybe not. Maybe Portland will realize that the Kings are not the better of these two teams, come out early, and run Sacramento out of the Rose Garden. I’m not holding my breath on that one.
Portland has looked good at times in 2012-13. They’ve also looked bad. They, however, have looked at their absolute worst this season against Sacramento (minus their one victory in November). Win or lose, the Blazers will be done playing the Kings until next season. We can all be thankful for that.
What to Watch For
- Which Blazer team will show up. Bounce-back game? Get right game? Revenge game? Call it whatever you want. Portland needs to show up Wednesday. If they don’t, they’ll have lost their first season series of 2012-13.
- Can Portland stop Travis Outlaw. Trout has played in 11 games this season. He’s been held score-less four times, he’s scored two points twice, and four and six points once each. He has a total of three games in which he’s reached double figures. One of those games was a blowout loss to the Clippers. A game he started, played 26 minutes, and managed a grand total of 11 points. Against his old team, however, Travis has been on fire. Trout went for 11 points in 17 minutes shooting 71% from the field and 100% from three when the Kings killed the Blazers in Portland, and then scored 15 points in 16 minutes shooting 86% from the field and 100% again from three (1-for-1 both times) on Sunday in Sacramento. Travis probably won’t start, but if he plays more than 15 minutes and scores more than 10 points, the Kings win.
- Portland’s shooting. The Blazers torched the Kings when they made their threes.