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Kings vs Trail Blazers Preview: Sacramento Readies for a Battle for the Eighth Seed

If the Kings want their fifth win in a row, they’ll have to beat a Portland team ready to avenge Boogie’s 55 point game.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

With only two games left in 2016, the Kings find themselves in a tentative spot. Currently sitting in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, their hold on the position is only a single game up on Denver and two games up on Portland. Wednesday night the Kings are in Portland to take on a Trail Blazers team with ringing still in their ears from the last time they played the Kings; a game in which DeMarcus scored a ridiculous 55 points on the Blazers, beating them by just five points. The Kings fortunes in this game might even be better in the last, as star point guard Damian Lillard has been nursing a sprained ankle and is currently doubtful to play, leaving point guard duties split between CJ McCollum and back-up Shabazz Napier. No word yet on if the antagonizing center Meyers Leonard will be playing tonight either after DeMarcus’ performance eight days ago, left Meyers with his foot planted firmly in his mouth. Winning this game would mean five in a row for the Kings and six out of the last seven, and another game of separation on a team that will inevitably make its run for the playoffs, while the will inevitably find a way to make it uncomfortably close. Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: December 28th, 7:00 pm PST

Where: Moda Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

McCalling Them Out: The Trail Blazers are one of the deadlier three point shooting teams in league, and no one has done more to hurt the Kings than shooting guard C.J. McCollum. If you felt like McCollum might be coming at the Sacramento Kings a bit harder than other teams, well, you would be right. McCollum’s career scoring average is higher against the Kings than any other team in the league. McCollum is averaging six points more per game against the Kings than his career average with 20.8 points per game in eight contests against Sacramento, and this year in particular he’s cooked the Kings for 33.5 points per game, still his highest scoring average against any team in the league this year, and just a smidge higher than 22.2 ppg average. So what gives? In an article written yesterdsay from Mike Richman of the Oregonian, McCollum says that it isn’t business, it’s personal. The article says that the Kings had told the 2015-2016 NBA’s Most Improved Player ahead of the 2013 NBA Draft that he was their pick, only to renege when the possibility of Ben McLemore becoming available made the rounds.

"I thought my pre-draft process was over," McCollum recalled Tuesday following Portland Trail Blazers' practice. "I was relaxing in L.A. and they wanted me to come back for a workout. I came back and they said they were going to draft me."

But sometime between that promise and the draft, the Kings had a change of heart. After dreaming about wearing a purple No. 3 Kings jersey, McCollum was forced to get back on airplanes and resume workouts and interviews with NBA teams ahead of the June draft.

"I was relaxing in L.A. getting tans and I had to go work out again," he said.

Waxing poetic about the many players the Kings could have had over the years is somewhat of a past time now, as our drafting record since 2004 might be considered shoddy at best. Outside of the first two years of Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings are a barren wasteland of missed opportunities, especially at the position CJ now fills.

Kings Focus: The Kings first priority in this game against the Trail Blazers is to get the ball to DeMarcus Cousins. We saw what happened last time Portland tried to dive on the Boogie Buzzsaw, and it wasn’t pretty. 55 points, 13 rebounds, 5-8 from deep and 16-17 from the line, is a ridiculous set of numbers and while he most assuredly won’t put that up a second game in a row, the fact remains that Portland has an Achille’s heel, and the man in the middle for the Kings is an arrow right into the meat of it.

The second priority is to slow the guard play of the Trail Blazers. Garrett Temple’s second half against C.J. McCollum on December 20th was great, but C.J. had already pumped in enough to make his mark, struggling in the final quarter and a half, but ultimately coming away with 36 points. Lillard’s ankle, while unfortunate for their chances, is a huge boon for the Kings if he is unable to play. In their previous game, Lillard was 6-20 from the field and 1-9 from behind the arc, but expecting a player of his stature to do that two games in a row is a bit much, so if that ankle isn’t good to go, all the more resources to focus on McKingKiller.

Prediction: DeMarcus is going to go for at least a 40-spot, and my boldest prediction ever, will do so without incurring a single technical foul. The Meyers Leonard Experience might get him in some early foul trouble, especially considering this game is being held in Portland, but DeMarcus will still come out and dominate. Rudy Gay will have himself a game, shaking off the rust of his weeks off. In the end the Kings will once again clamp down in the fourth and punish the paint late, and will leave Portland with a win:

Kings: 117, Blazers: 109