This is the first of 3 games against the Trailblazers this season. There’s another game in Portland next Monday and then back here in Sacramento on the 2nd of March. Brandon Roy, Portland’s All-Star SG is out after knee surgery as is their starting Center Greg Oden. Roy hasn’t played since Dec. 15th, and in his place Portland has been starting Wesley Matthews who was a Restricted Free Agent in Utah, until Utah refused to match Portland’s contract offer. The price they paid to get Matthews (5 yrs /$27M with a $5.6M signing bonus) raised a lot of eyebrows at the time, but now that Roy is probably gone for the year, this may be the best move Portland’s made since trading to get Roy.
I’m sure everyone knows the story but here’s how Portland built their team.
In 2004, Portland signed FA Joel Przybilla who was the 9th pick in the 2000 Draft, for $3.4M over 2 yrs. In 2006, Portland traded Tyrus Thomas the 4th pick in the draft along with Vickor Khryapa to Chicago for the 2nd pick in the draft, LaMarcus Aldridge. Later, in the same draft, Portland traded Randy Foye the 7th pick to the Minnesota Twolves for Brandon Roy who was the 6th pick in the draft.
In 2007, Portland got one more chance at a top lottery pick and selected Greg Oden with the #1 pick. They also acquired the rights to Rudy Fernandez in 2007, but didn’t sign him until 2008. They acquired the rights to Nickolas Batum who was drafted 25th in 2008. They drafted Dante Cunningham with the 33rd pick in the 2009 draft, and signed FA Andre Miller in 2009. At the 2009/10 trade deadline they traded for Marcus Camby.
In 2010, they acquired the rights to Luke Babbitt, the 16th pick in the 2010 Draft. With the 22nd pick in 2010 they drafted Elliot Williams, and with the 34th pick they selected Armon Johnson. Also in 2010, they signed FA’s Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews. In the last 5 years, no other team has had as many draft night trades as the Trailblazers, and no other team probably wishes that they DIDN’T win the #1 pick in the draft more than the Trailblazers.
Pryzbilla has only played in 16 games since returning from his surgery last summer, and has only seen limited minutes (6 mpg in 7 games during January) before Monday night’s game against the Twolves when he played almost 18 minutes scoring 6 pts with 7 rebs. In his absence, Marcus Camby has been starting at Center, but he left Monday’s game after just 7 minutes complaining about pain in his knee. It was later determined that he has a Meniscus Tear and will require surgery. Pryzbilla and Sean Marks are their remaining centers, and long with Cunningham, they’ll have to pick up Camby’s minutes. Aldridge and Batum finish off the frontcourt, and Miller and Matthews make up the backcourt. Mills, Cunningham, and Fernandez are the primary reserves.
Portland is in 8th place in the West with a record of 22-20, and 8-15 on the road. But, since Matthews took over for Roy, Portland has gone 10-6, with a record of 7-2 at home and 3-4 on the road. Five of their 6 losses came when they failed to reach their seasonal scoring average. Plus, they’ve failed to hold their opponents to below the league average in Defensive Efficiency in 10 of the 16 games. So, it seems that inserting Matthews for the injured Roy, has improved their win percentage both at home and on the road. But, their Defense has seen a marked drop.
Portland isn’t a good 3pt shooting team and ranks 27th from beyond the arc. Matthews, Mills, Batum and Fernandez shoot about 15 per game but Matthews at 37% is the only one shooting above 33%. In FG% they’re actually only 0.6% better than the Kings, but they’re the 4th best FT shooting team in the league. Luckily for the Kings, the Trailblazers get to the FT line less often than the Kings do.
Aldridge has stepped up his play in January, averaging 26pts/ 10 rebs on 52% shooting. Matthews is averaging 16 pts/ 3 rebs, and while his 3pt shooting is up to 40%, he’s shooting below 36% from the Field. Batum is having a pretty good month, with 16 pts/ 4.8 rebs on 49% from the Field. Miller is only 2-24 for the season on 3pt shots, but he’s still averaging 12 pts/ 6.2 asts on 52% from the field. Fernandez is only shooting 27% from the Field for January in 21 mpg. You can pencil Mills in for 10 pts in 20 minutes, and Cunningham for about 4 pts no matter how many minutes he plays.
Portland plays at the slowest Pace in the NBA around 91 possessions per game which is one of the reasons why they have the 3rd lowest turnover rate in the League. They also have the highest Offensive Rebounding Rate in the League, but that’s almost entire dependent on Camby and Aldridge. Both teams score marginally above average in the paint, but the Trailblazers do a much better job of protecting the Paint. But again that’s with Camby around the rim, and Przybilla isn’t getting much lift since returning from his surgery.
There’s no advantage to playing at the Trailblazers pace, but don’t rush the half-court offense either. Get into the offense quickly, and attack the paint; we’re not a good outside shooting team anyways and Portland is unlikely to get into a 3pt shooting contest. We’ll have to do a better job at not turning the ball over. We have enough bodies to throw at Aldridge, so I’d let him work for his points and not double him. I’m a little worried about Matthews turning in a Joe Johnson type performance, so Tyreke needs to fight harder to get through those screens.
I like the Kings offense on this last road trip. And with Camby’s out of the game, the Trailblazers lose their defensive edge, and have no answer for our bigs down low. We need to play the exact same game as we did against Atlanta. The Pace was 93 possessions, and the Kings only had 7 turnovers. Horford blocked 7 shots but we still attacked the rim, making 23 baskets on 37 attempts and outscoring the Hawks by 24 at the rim. Other than DMC going 0-7 from long 2’s and the Kings only shooting 1-9 on their 3pt shots, I thought it was one of our most efficient use of our strengths this season. We need to play that way every game. With the home court advantage and our bench, I’ll add this one to the win column right now. Kings Win!
Update: Since beating the Kings, Portland has gone on to defeat the Clippers & Pacers. Portland has won their last 5 games and last 4 home games. And, they have won the last 3 without Marcus Camby in the lineup due to a torn meniscus.
Joel Pryzbilla went on to frustrate another young center in the Clippers game when he held DeAndre Jordon to 6pt & 7 rebs with 5 fouls and one technical. In the Pacers game, Pryzbilla played limited minutes, allowing Roy Hibbert to exceed his normal production and score 11 pts & 10 rebs. Whether Joel will be up to playing major minutes against the Kings isn't clear.
What is clear is that the trio of Batum, Matthews, and Fernandez has been on a terror from beyond the arc, shooting 16-30 from 3pt range.
Camby had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Thursday. Starting point guard Andre Miller was the latest casualty for Portland, leaving the Pacers game on Saturday because of gastroenteritis. With Miller’s absence Portland had to turn to swingman Rudy Fernandez at the point.
Marcus Camby (left knee), Greg Oden (left knee), Brandon Roy (left knee) and Elliot Williams (right knee) will
not play. Andre Miller’s return is unknown.
The Kings were able to get to the rim 37 times against Atlanta and 36 times against GSW, and shot better than 62% at the rim in both games. In the last game against Portland, the Kings took only 20 shots at the rim and shot 65%. They need to find a way to get thru the Trailblazer’s zone and attack the basket. And, they have got to absolutely positively stop turning over the ball.