Originally written November 13, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Frustrations beginning to boil It’s been less than two weeks since the Portland Trail Blazers opened their season with an impressive victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, yet it seems like a lifetime ago that this young roster in Rip City has had anything to celebrate. Matchup: Portland (2-5) @ Sacramento Kings (2-5) Venue: Sleep Train Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 A game against the Sacramento Kings will either help revitalize a team—and a fan base—that is clinging onto life, or it will expose the Blazers as the worst team in the Western Conference to begin the 2012- 13 season. Game Notes/How They Match Up Aldridge must bounce back against the Kings if the Blazers want to stay out of the basement. (Photo: Steven Chea) The Trail Blazers and the Kings are both struggling early in the new year, as they both bring a 2-5 record into Tuesday night’s matchup. Both squads had draft picks in the top 6 in 2012, and unfortunately, both appear to be destined for the lottery again in 2013. That being said, no team has ever locked in a spot in the lottery through five games, and there’s a lot of basketball to play before we truly begin talking about draft picks and offseason moves. On the court, Sacramento has been bad all season. They can’t score, they can’t defend and they clearly have issues with ball movement, as they are dead-last in assists. The Blazers have been a worse team defensively than Sacramento, but they’ve been much better at putting points on the board. Both teams are running about the same pace at this point in the season, so whichever team can get out in transition will have the best chance at coming away with the win. What to Watch: Portland LaMarcus Aldridge is the Trail Blazers’ leading scorer at this point in the year, but inconsistency has plagued the forward like we haven’t seen since Brandon Roy was running the offense. He’s recorded 14 points, 29 points and 14 points again in his last three games, and he’s shooting just 43 percent from the field on the season. The big man hasn’t looked like himself at times, and you have to wonder if he’s struggling to adjust to Terry Stotts’ new system. Stotts worked his magic with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, but LaMarcus Aldridge has been more willing to attack the rim the past two years, and those days are becoming distant memories in Portland’s new offense. If the Blazers are going to find success against the Kings, Aldridge needs to get back to his old self. He’s still averaging 20.7 points and 7.1 rebounds this season, but the inconsistency and lack of efficiency have been worrisome to fans, and a game in Sacramento could help spark a new streak for both Portland and their star power forward. What to Watch: Sacramento The Kings have been led in the scoring column by up-and-coming center DeMarcus Cousins this season, but the team is going to be without their man in the middle Tuesday night as a result of a suspension handed down by the NBA. The Blazers will obviously have the edge without Cousins on the floor, but the question now becomes, who is going to score for Sacramento? The team’s next-leading scorer is Marcus Thornton. The 25-year-old shooting guard is averaging 14.6 points off the bench, and he could be looked upon to take over the scoring load in Cousins’ absence. The Blazers have historically struggled against the Kings when Evans performs well. (Photo: Steven Chea) Behind Thornton, the only other weapons on the Kings’ roster are Tyreke Evans and second-year point guard Isaiah Thomas. Evans has more experience, but Thomas has proven to be far more efficient on the year. Key Matchup The Trail Blazers faced off against the Kings four times last season, and no one player had a greater impact on the results than Tyreke Evans. The two teams split the series last year. In the two games where the Blazers lost, Evans averaged 19 points per game. In the two games where they won, Evans averaged just 6.5 points. Containing Evans is crucial for the Blazers’ success, and that job falls upon the team’s defensive specialist, Wesley Matthews. Wesley Matthews has become known around the league for his defensive efforts, which is something that can’t be said about Evans at this point in his career. The Blazers’ 2-guard has a chance to take advantage of his opponent on both ends of the floor, and if he can do just that, the edge will be in his favor. J.J. Hickson also has a chance to take advantage of Chuck Hayes, who is Demarcus Cousins’ extremely undersized understudy at the center position. Injury Report Portland: N/A Sacramento: N/A Prediction Whichever team loses this game will have the worst record in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers are in desperate need of a win, so as long as the starters can play like they’re expected to play, they should handle the Kings in relatively easy fashion. Blazers 99 – Kings 84 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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