Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/8/12
Home again The Portland Trail Blazers have been away from the Rose Garden the past seven games, so a six-game stretch at home is a welcomed part of their schedule. Matchup: Portland (8-11) vs. Sacramento Kings (6-12) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Saturday, December 8, 2012 The Trail Blazers will have the crowd behind them for the first time in weeks, but they’ll have to finish the game with a win if they want the support to keep flowing their direction. Game Notes/How They Match Up The Trail Blazers are returning to the Rose Garden for the first time since Nov. 23. The Blazers and the Kings have already played once this season, and that matchup belonged to Portland from start to finish. The first time these two faced off, the Blazers won the contest 103-86; however, Sacramento was without their man in the middle, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is the kind of player who often times has an all-or-nothing kind of game. Either his head is in it or it’s not, and if it is, you have reason to worry. The problem for Portland is that they have nobody in the middle who can stop him if his game is on. J.J. Hickson has done a miraculous job of challenging bigs on the boards this year, but Cousins will give him more of a physical challenge than he’s faced all season. The Blazers must find somebody who can make Cousins work for his shots. Either that, or hope that his head simply isn’t in it Saturday night. What to Watch: Portland The Trail Blazers are coming off a lengthy road trip, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they react to playing at home for the first time since Nov. 23. The old adage says: the first game back home is really the final game of a long road trip. Although it’s not an exact science, there’s some truth to the fact that teams let up a little too much once they return home. Portland is a young team, and it’s easy to see them falling into that trap. The team’s leaders need to take over in this one. While there’s no doubt that Damian Lillard is a leader on this team, the veterans need to keep him and the rest of the youngsters in check. If they get too comfortable in the familiar confines of the Rose Garden walls, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews need to be the ones to spark the fire. What to Watch: Sacramento When the Blazers faced the Kings earlier in the year, Sacramento completed just nine percent of their three-point attempts. In case you’re wondering, that’s down-right awful. The Kings aren’t a great shooting team from deep range, but nobody is bad enough to shoot nine percent on a regular basis. Jimmer Fredette is the most obvious threat from long distance, but they also have good shooters in Fransisco Garcia and former Oregon Duck Aaron Brooks. Even Marcus Thornton can get in on the game when he’s on a scoring roll. Hickson will be faced with a physical challenge in DeMarcus Cousins. Photo : Bruce Ely/Oregonian The scouting report isn’t going to say “defend the three” against this team, but considering how poorly they shot the ball last time, you have to assume they can only get better. If you’re Portland, don’t hone in on stopping the three, but at the same time, understand that the good looks you give them only increases their chance of playing better than last time. Key Matchup Having already hit on it, the key matchup in this contest is going to be the battle down low between DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson. These two didn’t face off last time because of Cousins’ suspension. On offense, Hickson needs to be able to spread the floor. His low-post game is lacking, and he doesn’t have the physical prowess to draw fouls against the Kings’ big man, so hitting his jumper is going to be a big part of the gameplan. Defensively, Hickson simply needs to stand his ground. He’s done a great job this year of pulling down rebounds and making life difficult for opposing centers, and that’s exactly what he’ll need to do this time around. The matchup between Tyreke Evans and Wesley Matthews will be another one to keep an eye on, but the two of them have a tendency to disappear, so you never know which side we’ll see from the two shooting guards. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Nicolas Batum, Joel Freeland Sacramento: DAY-TO-DAY—Tyreke Evans Prediction It’s true that the first game back from a long road trip can be the most difficult game of the season, but with the Kings coming to town, Portland should look to take advantage of an inferior opponent Saturday night. Blazers 101 – Sacramento 92 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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