Tonight in Sacramento, the Portland Trail Blazers (26-8) will take on the Sacramento Kings (10-22). Losing to a sub-.500 team at home (99-101 loss against Philadelphia on Saturday) is never a good thing. For this Blazers team, we can only hope that it lights a fire underneath them. They will visit a young Kings team who have lost their last two homes games after stunning the Miami Heat on December 27th.
The Kings have scored 100+ points in each of their last nine games and are averaging 104.9 points per game during that span. The Trail Blazers have a defensive rating of 104.5 which is 20th in the league. The defensive rating, according to NBA.com, is calculated by the number of points allowed per 100 possessions by a team. The Blazers will need to solve their defensive woes fast if they want to avoid losing back-to-back games for the second time this season.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nicolas Batum (finger) suffered a fracture in his left middle finger in the fourth quarter againt the Sixers. He says he will continue to play through it.
- CJ McCollum (foot) will be on the active roster against the Kings but may remain out of rotation.
- Carl Landry (hip) still has no timetable for return after he suffered a torn hip flexor earlier this season.
Keys To The Game
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. DeMarcus Cousins: This match up watch is always a good one when these two teams meet. Not because both have “Marcus” in their first name, even though that’s pretty unique. LaMarcus Aldridge is the MVP of this Blazers team. This season he has finally taken on the leadership role and continues to climb the NBA MVP ladder. DeMarcus Cousins has destroyed the Blazers in the two previous games this year. Against the Blazers this season, he is averaging 34.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. We all know about the Blazers interior defense problems and Cousins won’t make it any easier on them.
Terry Stotts: Coach Stotts is on this list because his job just got a little harder. With rookie CJ McCollum finally available, it will be interesting to see if Stotts will allow him to get his feet wet. Stotts has been pretty consistent with his nine-man rotation. I can’t see why he would insert a wild card like McCollum at this point in the season. The Blazers are playing well and have great chemistry. I would wait on McCollum, allow him to practice with the team more, and then see what develops. But if the Blazers build a large lead, McCollum might finally get to see his first NBA action.
Damian Lillard’s Offense: Damian Lillard’s play has been up and down this season. One low point was the last game against the Kings in Sacramento on November 9. Lillard shot a dreadful 1-15 from the field and finished with four points, even though he did add six rebounds and six assists. Lillard has been more consistent as of late and he will probably remember what happened the last time he visited Sacramento. I expect him to use that as motivation and have a big game tonight.