Team Records: Sacramento (16-24) at Portland (30-11)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -10.5
Refs: Bill Spooner, Kane Fitzgerald, JT Orr
The Skinny: The Blazers look to end a losing streak at three as they take on an intriguing Sacramento Kings team. The Kings have lost three straight and four of five overall. Sacramento is 5-11 since firing their head coach and replacing him with Corbin.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers were buried by Rudy Gay late as the Kings pulled away in the fourth quarter to hand Portland their first loss of the season. Gay scored 40 points to lead Sacramento to the victory.
Projected Kings Lineup:
PF-Jason Thompson (Rider-7th Season)-5.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1 APG.
SF-Rudy Gay (Connecticut-9th Season)-20.4 PPG, 6 RPG, 4.1 APG.
C-DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky-5th Season)-24 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 3.3 APG
SG-Ben McLemore (Kansas-2nd Season)-11.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG.
PG-Darren Collison (UCLA-6th Season)-16.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.9 APG.
Player to Watch: Ban McLemore (pictured at right)- It was right to be skeptical of Sacramento’s pick of McLemore. After all, outside of Cousins, most of Sacramento’s picks have been complete misses and McLemore’s first season didn’t exactly fill one with confidence that he would be anything other than another wasted Kings pick. In truth, its not that he’s been great this year, with a PER still under 10 he’s hardly doing well, but he has shown marked improvement, especially in shooting. McLemore had been touted as a good shooter coming out of college and he had improved substantially this year. There appears to be plenty of raw talent as well, although its not clear to what extent he will ever be able to fully utilize it. His defense is still a dumpster fire but for a player who was bad last year, moving up to merely below average is pretty good.
Did You Know?: The Kings are only 2-10 when Cousins does not play this season.
Song of the Day: “Pride in the Name of Love” by U2. A song about MLK in honor of MLK day on Monday . Enjoy:
Portland: Out-C Robin Lopez (Hand), PF/C Joel Freeland (Shoulder)
Sacramento: Out-SF Eric Moreland (Shoulder), PF Carl Landry (Wrist) Questionable-PG Ramon Sessions (Back), C DeMarcus Cousins (Ankle), SF Rudy Gay (Knee/Shoulder)
Re-Evaluating Sacramento: What Are the Kings Doing?
Look its good for Sacramento that the Kings were purchased by an owner who wanted to keep the team there. Sadly, his actual ownership of the team has been far less successful. While a lot of the mistakes were made before he got there, the team keeps making more. Whether it is thinking that cherry picking might be a viable offensive strategy (although personally I admire their decision to hire fellow Grinnell college alum David Arsenault to coach their D-League affiliate in Reno and run Grinnell’s fast paced high scoring system), or firing head coach Mike Malone for supposedly falling short with a team that was honestly mostly struggling because Cousins was out. Look, firing a coach, in particular, sometimes needs to be done but the way Sacramento went about it, and many of their other moves, gives you the impression that they don’t know what they are doing and have no real plan to fix their problems.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. The Kings are not capable of beating Portland if the Blazers are ready to go and play a reasonably clean game. If they are focused, the Blazers should roll.
Sacramento wins if: They score at least 20 fast break points. The Kings will need to take advantage of any easy baskets they get if they want to get the win.