Game 18 Preview: Kings at Trailblazers

After a 33-point drubbing at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sacramento Kings try to bounce back this evening against the Portland Trailblazers.¬† Tonight’s contest is the last game of a three-game road trip for the Kings.

Gametime: 7 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For Trailblazers perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Portland Roundball Society.

Kings Probable Starters (6-11)

Tyreke Evans Jimmer Fredette Francisco Garcia Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, John Salmons will play while Marcus Thornton will sit out tonight’s game.¬† Suffering from a stomach bug, John Salmons didn’t play in Saturday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.¬† Francisco Garcia is expected to get his second consecutive start in Salmons’ place. The left-thigh contusion Marcus Thornton suffered January 8th against the Orlando Magic flared up Saturday, forcing him to leave the game after just 13 minutes of action.¬† In place of Thornton, Jimmer Fredette is expected to make his fourth start this season.

Trailblazers Probable Starters (9-7)

Raymond Felton
Wesley Matthews
Gerald Wallace LaMarcus Aldridge
Marcus Camby

Portland is in a lull right now, going 2-3 in their last five contests. ¬†Their most recent loss came Saturday, shockingly against the lowly Detroit Pistons.¬† After spraining his right middle finger against the Toronto Raptors, Gerald Wallace did not play in the Blazers’ last game.¬† Head Coach Nate McMillan is hopeful Wallace plays tonight.¬† The Kings faced Portland in their first road game of the season late last month and fell 101-79 after the Blazers¬† intensified their defense after halftime.

3-on-3 Roundtable

You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.

Chris Haynes, Blazers Insider at Comcast SportsNet Northwest and Rafe Bartholomew, editor and writer at Grantland, join me to preview today’s Kings/Blazers match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Chris Haynes: Kings bench vs. Blazers bench. The Kings are loaded with reserves capable of putting up 15 to 20 points on any given night. Travis Outlaw, Jimmer Fredette, Dont√© Greene, J.J. Hickson, and Isaiah Thomas form a better starting five than what the Toronto Raptors throw out there these days. If the Blazers’ bench can match the Kings’ bench, that’s all you can ask for.

Rafe Bartholomew:¬† Evans and Felton have been having two pretty ugly seasons, with Tyreke’s scoring and assists numbers declining from last year (which dropped from his rookie season), and Ray making a shade under 19 percent of this threes. If either guy snaps out of it — like Evans did against the Spurs last Friday — he could swing the game in his team’s favor.

Jonathan Santiago:¬† Jason Thompson vs. LaMarcus Aldridge.¬† Now a starter, Thompson was highly effective off the bench in Sacramento’s last meeting with Portland.¬† Nine of his 11 points came in nine minutes of action in the second quarter.¬† Following Saturday’s two-of-nine performance, I think he has a bounce-back game offensively against the Blazers and could give Aldridge fits on defense.

2.¬†Stat that decides the game…

Chris Haynes: Reaching the century mark is the stat of the night. If the Blazers reach 100 points — never mind the free chalupas — that will just about guarantee a win as the Kings are dead last in points allowed (101.6) and are towards the bottom of the league in scoring (90.4). Blazers fans have sold out the Rose Garden 166 consecutive games and are an integral piece to the success of the Blazers at home (6-1). Reaching the century mark shouldn’t be an issue tonight.

Rafe Bartholomew:  Three-pointers.  The Kings have launched 354 three-point shots this season. Only four teams have attempted more. They have made 28 percent of those shots. Only two teams have shot more poorly. Delusions of grandeur can be contagious.

Jonathan Santiago:¬† Turnovers.¬† Ranked second in turnover percentage (12.6 percent), the Blazers don’t make too many mistakes.¬† If the Kings find a way to force Blazer turnovers, they improve their chances of winning.

3. Is LaMarcus Aldridge the best power forward in the NBA?

Chris Haynes: You could definitely make the argument that LaMarcus Aldridge is the best power forward in the league. But, I’d still go with Dirk Nowitzki right now. What Dirk accomplished last season was exceptional. Remember the NBA Finals? Going up against “The Heatles”? This guy came through with every big basket imaginable. Aldridge is on the rise, just not number one yet.

Rafe Bartholomew:  Yes. I wish he came a little closer to averaging double-digit rebounds, but he has the most complete offensive skill set of any power forward in the league, and unlike hype-machine favorites Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, Aldridge has a post game.

Jonathan Santiago:¬† He’s close, but right now, based on production and potential, there’s no other power forward I’d rather have than Kevin Love.¬† I think Aldridge’s rebounding numbers have to improve a bit more in order for him to be considered the best at his position.¬† However, he’s definitely the most underrated player in the NBA.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.