Kings-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers’ recent play hardly resembles that of a Western Conference contender.
Following their worst shooting night of the season, the Trail Blazers will look to avoid their fourth straight defeat Monday night when they host the Sacramento Kings.
Portland (30-11) is one of three NBA teams with 30 wins and ranks among the league’s best in both scoring offense (103.2 points per game) and defense (97.0 points allowed). However, that dominance has been largely absent from Portland’s game this past week as the Trail Blazers have dropped a season-high three straight, capped by a 102-98 loss at Memphis on Saturday.
Portland has scored just 96.0 points per contest during the streak, and put forth a season-worst 38.7 field goal percentage Saturday.
"If I knew the answer I would fix it. So, I don’t know," LaMarcus Aldridge said. "I think we all got to look in the mirror and see what we’re doing and see how we can do it better. From the top to the bottom to beat these contenders I think everyone needs to play to a higher level and I think that they’ve shown us that we have some hard work to do."
Both Aldridge and Damian Lillard continued their stellar seasons Saturday with 55 combined points, while Wesley Matthews drained seven of 14 3-pointers for 25 points of his own. The rest of the team’s lineup, though, was mostly silent.
Nicolas Batum has scored five or fewer points in each of Portland’s last three games while shooting 3 for 18. Chris Kaman and Meyers Leonard, who have enjoyed significant playing time in the absence of Robin Lopez (hand), combined for just six points on Saturday.
Lopez will likely remain sidelined until February.
"Obviously this is a less than ideal situation," Matthews said. "We had three games in four nights, but we aren’t making any kind of excuses. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to play better to get to where we need to go, do what we need to do, do the things that we think we’re capable of, that we know that we’re capable of."
The Kings (16-24) also enters Monday’s contest having lost three straight, and were without DeMarcus Cousins in a 117-108 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Jason Thompson scored 23 points and grabbed a career-best 22 rebounds to help fill the void left by Cousins, who leads the Kings both in scoring (24.0) and rebounding (12.4), but Sacramento forced the Clippers into only five turnovers and allowed them to shoot 47.8 percent from the field.
"I can’t be any more happy about our effort," said guard Darren Collison. "We had a lot of guys that couldn’t play this game due to injuries, but we had a lot of guys that stepped up. If we play with that same effort, we’re going to be all right."
Sacramento, which ranks toward the bottom of the league with 103.9 points allowed per game, has lost seven of eight on the road, defeating only seven-win Minnesota.
The Kings opened the season series with a 103-94 win over the Trail Blazers on Oct. 31 behind 40 points from Rudy Gay. Cousins played in that win, but could miss Monday’s rematch as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. Sacramento is 2-10 without Cousins this season.
Portland has won nine of 11 at home against the Kings.