Oct 20, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) drives the lane against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (1-3) at Portland Trail Blazers (2-2) Preview

The Kings have lost three straight, likely still hungover from the season opening bananza. More concerning than the losses, though, is the lack of effort the Kings lineups have displayed in most of the past two games (losses to the Warriors and Hawks). While the Kings almost managed a late comeback against Atlanta, the body language and consistent mistakes cannot be to Coach Malone’s liking. Now they head up to Portland, where a road win against a potential Playoff team would be a huge lift.


Sacramento Kings:

Portland Trail Blazers

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
18.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 46.2% FG
C: Robin Lopez, 7’0, Stanford
4.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.25 BPG, 36.4% FG
PF: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky
4.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 30.8% FG
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, 6’11, Texas
24.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 52.4% FG
SF: John Salmons, 6’6, Miami (FL)
6.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3 APG, 30.3% FG
SF: Nicolas Batum, 6’8, France
13 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.5 APG, 43.2% FG
SG: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU
10.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 40.5% FG, 35% 3P
SG: Wesley Matthews, 6’5, Marquette
17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 51.1% FG
PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland
9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 42.3% FG
PG: Damian Lillard, 6’3, Weber State
24.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, 4.8 RPG, 45.5% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
29.8 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 49% FG
G: Mo Williams, 6’1, Alabama
23.5 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.8 APG, 37.2% FG
G: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
20.8 MPG, 10 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 42.1% FG
F: Dorrell Wright,  6’9, South Kent HS
14.8 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 44.4% 3P
C: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
22.8 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 44% FG
F: Thomas Robinson, 6’9, Kansas
9.5 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 42.9% FG


Last Three Contests:

December 26, 2012: Kings @ Trail Blazers – Trail Blazers 109, Kings 91
December 23, 2012: Trail Blazers @ Kings – Kings 108, Trail Blazers 96
December 8, 2012: Kings @ Trail Blazers – Kings 99, Trail Blazers 80

Key Matchup: Greivis Vasquez (and Isaiah Thomas) vs. Damain Lillard

Lillard, last year’s Rookie of the Year, has been excellent this season offensively. He’s not the Floor General of some of the league’s top points, but he doesn’t need to be (Portland is tied for 8th in the league in team assists with 23.8 – the Kings are 23rd with 18). With four starters averaging more than 2.3 APG, and two starters (Lillard and Nicolas Batum) averaging more than 5 a game, Portland can afford to let Lillard lose as a scorer.

Lillard is happiest attacking the basket (22 of his 66 shots have been within 3 feet of the rim) or at the three point line (exactly half of his shots are 3s and he’s making 48.5% of them). It’ll be interesting to see how Malone uses the taller Greivis Vasquez, who has five inches on Lillard. That could negate Lillard’s range a bit, if Vasquez stays right on him… but if he drives, his speed will leave Vasquez in the dust (a continuous problem over the past four games).

Isaiah Thomas hasn’t started any game this season, but he’s playing more than Vasquez, and he could stick to Lillard easier should Lillard continually try to attack the basket.

Jan. 23, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Sacramento Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) drives to the basket on Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and center Kurt Thomas (40) during the third quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 101-89. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Three Things to Watch

1. DeMarcus Watch: Overreaction theatre followed the Kings loss to Atlanta, and we aren’t talking about the team’s lack of effort. Specifically, the overreactions sprang up around DeMarcus, who got edgy with the Hawks’ psychical approach to playing him. Give Cousins a break on this one – he didn’t play a sharp game, but he kept himself remarkably in check, considering a certain low-blow he took.

DeMarcus has obviously been working very hard on both controlling his emotions and his shot selection, but they won’t be 100% overnight. The narrative that Cousins can’t be a leader needs to be stored away, at least until Coach Malone has a few months to work with this team.

Cousins used to play against LaMarcus Aldridge when the Kings played Portland, but now that Robin Lopez is starting at Center, he’ll face a less-skilled yet taller defender. Aldridge is an exceptional scorer, one that likely neither Cousins nor Patrick Patterson can contain on their own. The biggest question-mark entering this game is how Coach Malone will have his players set up defensively against Aldridge.

2. Contain Batum: While Nicolas Batum isn’t the scorer that Aldridge or Lillard are, he’s one of the most complete small forwards in the game. Defensively he’s fantastic, and he’s also averaging 8.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists, both team highs. He won’t dominate the scoring, but the Kings small forwards will need to stick to him and try and take him out of as many plays as possible. Can it be Luc Mbah a Moute time yet?

3. Battle of the Benches: Portland has an exceptionally deep bench, with Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright, Joel Freeland and former King Thomas Robinson all capable of 20+ minutes. The Kings might have an acceptable bench, if Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson weren’t having to play starter minutes for struggling starters.

Thomas will likely see major minutes against Lillard, and McLemore has been better on both ends of the floor then starter Marcus Thornton. Thompson has filled in for the massively struggling Patrick Patterson.

Big time credit goes to Coach Malone, who promised to (and delivered) consistent rotations. This was something Coach Smart failed to ever provide, and in the long run it should pay off. Still, with the starters struggling, many are quick to criticize the depth chart. Give Malone the benefit of the doubt on this one—he’s doing what he promised to do.

Still, the Kings bench would be a lot more formidable if the starters started playing to the level of their backups.

Prediction: Trail Blazers 103, Kings 95

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers Sacramento Kings

  • IDK02

    I watched the Heat last night, they were amazing, there is a reason they are the champs. Team play (effort), Defense (effort), and Ball movement (unselfishness/BBIQ). The Heat moved the ball on average 3-5 times before anyone shot it, played hard for 48 minutes (defense) and there was no over-dribbling. The Clippers were lost once the Heat clamped down on CP3, no one knew how to create their own shot, tsk, tsk, no BBIQ. I also watched Houston struggle against the Lakers, no defense, no ball movement, and too many TOs/threes.

    Kings would be very lucky to get a win tonight. Three starters haven’t cut it period, PAt<— MTSalmons. Yikes. I would start —–> Cousins, Greivis, IT, Ben, and Hayes. Bench- McCallum/Jimmer, Pat, door number?, door number ?, and door ? IDK, lol…

    Well, I check back in February to see how the Kings are doing, hopefully we have new players (with BBIQ, an absolute must have) that will earn their millions and break a sweat, not just show up to collect a check.

    Lastly, the fans booed the Kings against the Hawks, because of the total lack of effort from the players and they will boo again this Saturday if they see the same thing, no d or ball movement. The Kings are like statutes with wheels, that just glide back and fourth on the floor making millions, tsk, tsk…

  • IDK02

    Off topic note to Greivis: Greivis you are on the floor with Cousins who gets double/triple team and does not know what to do when it happens, so don’t expect to get many assists. Also, the other three statues just stand around and when they are wide open they can’t make their shots, again don’t expect too many assists. These guys are dumber than a box of rocks, lazy, and they POUT (can’t make this stuff up) !!! It’s not your fault Greivis that IT is doing well, he has played with these guys much longer than you have. IT should be helping the team and not challenging you every game and going one on one with other point guards to make the highlight reels/headlines.

    I understand your frustrations. You would be great on a team with players that have BBIQ and play as a team, like Miami/Spurs/Pacers. Chin up this year, it’s not you… :)

  • IDK02

    Kings you deserve to be Booed. Kings give no effort, whine while making millions and the fans fought hard to keep the team here, it makes me sick. I don’t blame Malone or Vivek, they did not create this team. I realize the Kings have very little talent (except: Cousins, McLemore, McCallum) or BBIQ (Hayes/Greivis/McCallum/McLemore), however not showing up to play hard as a team, is sickening. All I want to see is effort from them, not much to ask players making millions, is it?

    I apologize Bryant, for my rants. :)