Kings-Trail Blazers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers are already eager to be back at home

after a disappointing trip. Facing a winless road opponent is even

more ideal.

The Trail Blazers begin a six-game homestand Saturday night when

they try to drop the Sacramento Kings to 0-7 on the road.

Portland (8-11) went 2-5 on a trip that ended with Wednesday’s

99-92 loss to Indiana. Rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers

with 23 points.

There was room for optimism since the defeat came on the heels

of thrilling wins against Cleveland and Charlotte that both went

past regulation. Lillard scored 24 points in each of those

victories.

“I liked the way our guys finished the road trip, I liked the

way we competed, got some of the young guys involved off the

bench,” coach Terry Stotts said. “So I thought there were things

that were good but I don’t think any of us were necessarily

satisfied being 2-5. You wanted to get one or two more on the

road.”

Lillard, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, continues to lead

all rookies with 19.3 points per game. He’s scored at least 20 in

three straight games for the first time since he made a splash by

doing so in his first three contests.

“Everything is going kind of smoother than I thought it would,”

Lillard said. “That’s just what it is. I never really said I’m just

going to come in and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I felt I

was going to be productive, I just didn’t know how productive.”

Sacramento (6-12) comes to town enduring its worst road start

since going 0-9 to begin 2007-08. The Kings have dropped six of

their last seven at the Rose Garden.

Currently, though, they are on a bit of an upswing and can post

their first three-game win streak of the season after beating 91-82

over Orlando on Friday. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 14

rebounds while reserve guard Isaiah Thomas added 17 points.

Starting guard Tyreke Evans didn’t play for the third time in

four games with a sore right knee. Francisco Garcia made his first

start of the season in place of Evans.

Evans, who totaled 13 points on 4 of 18 shooting in Sacramento’s

two losses at Portland last season, is questionable for Saturday’s

game. His absence could be critical since he could again face off

against Lillard.

That matchup proved to be a mismatch the first time these teams

met as Lillard outscored Evans 22-10 in a 103-86 road victory Nov.

13. Lillard also had nine assists compared to four for Evans.

Cousins, who has three double-doubles his last four games,

missed that contest due to suspension.

Although the Kings successfully used a smaller lineup in the

fourth quarter Friday, don’t expect to see it against the

Blazers.

“The lineup that Orlando used allowed me to do that rotation

tonight,” coach Keith Smart said. “They didn’t look to post up

their guards. In tomorrow’s game, Portland will post up their twos

and threes, so there may not be a situation like that.”

It’s unclear if Portland forward Nicolas Batum will be available

after he sat out part of Friday’s practice with a back strain

suffered against the Pacers.