Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/23/12
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A familiar foe The Portland Trail Blazers have already played the Sacramento Kings twice in the 2012-13 season, but they’re preparing for a home-and-home series in which they will see the team from California’s capital two more times in their next two games. Matchup: Portland (13-12) @ Sacramento Kings (8-18) Venue: Sleep Train Arena Time: 6:00 PM PT Date: Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012 The road hasn’t been too kind to the Blazers this season, but a matchup against the 8-18 Kings could be just what the team needs to bolster their record away from the Rose Garden. Aaron Brooks drives the baseline against Damian Lillard. (Photo: Don Ryan/AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Blazers and the Kings have faced off in two games that couldn’t have had more different results. In game one, Portland nabbed a 103-86 victory. In game two, Sacramento got their revenge 99-80. The strange part about these two games is that each win came from the road team. Portland’s road struggles weren’t on display the first time these teams met, and they’ll hope that ends up being the case this time around. What to Watch: Portland Looking back on the team’s first matchup against Sacramento, the Blazers dominated the score board and it was because they played an efficient offensive game. They shot nearly 50 percent from the field, they completed better than 50 percent from deep range and they ended up winning by 17. When they played the Kings the second time, their field-goal percentage dropped to 38.7 percent and they lost the contest by 19 points. Portland rarely wins games when they shoot a poor percentage, and that’s because their defense isn’t good enough to make up the difference. They have to shoot the ball well come Sunday, and if they do, they’ll stand a great chance of winning on the road. What to Watch: Sacramento The biggest difference between the Kings’ two performances against Portland was their efficiency from behind the three-point line. When Sacramento won, they knocked down nearly 50 percent of their three-point shots. When they lost, their percentage fell to an abysmal 9.1 percent. The Kings have three players who are deadly from behind the arc. Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette and Fransisco Garcia lead the team in long-distance percentage, and they’re the ones Portland needs to watch out for. J.J. Hickson will be facing whoever fills DeMarcus Cousins’ shoes in this one. (Photo: Don Ryan/AP) Key Matchup J.J. Hickson may have struggled when he played for the Kings early last season, but he’s thriving at the center position for Portland. DeMarcus Cousins creates for a tough matchup against any NBA center, but luckily for J.J. Hickson and the undersized Trail Blazers, the Kings’ big man has been suspended indefinitely. As a result of Cousins’ suspension, Hickson will likely see a combination of Chuck Hayes, Thomas Robinson and Jason Thompson. So how can you have a key matchup between Hickson and an unidentified center? Because Hickson has been that important to this team’s success. The Blazers’ center has seven double-doubles in a row, and he is the player who is doing the dirty work that no one else will do on the roster. Whomever Hickson is assigned, you have to believe he has the edge at this point in the season. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus ALdridge, Nolan Smith Sacramento: OUT—Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins (suspension), DAY-TO-DAY—Fransisco Garcia Prediction The road team has won this game each time in this series, and don’t expect that to change come Sunday. Blazers 98 – Sacramento 85 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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