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Kings vs. Blazers Preview: Happy New Year’s Dame

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The Kings face a fellow playoff contender in a New Year’s Day match-up.

Kimani Okearah

Happy New Year! It is the year of 2019 and the Sacramento Kings have a winning record, their first time to accomplish that feat since the 2004-2005 season, a year in which they made the post-season. Tonight, the hometown Kings will host the visiting Portland Trailblazers, a team featuring the dual-headed monster of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

When: Tuesday, January 1st, 6:00 PM PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The Portland Trail Blazers currently sit 1.5 games ahead of the Kings in the Western Conference standings, boasting a record of 21-16 vs. the Kings’ 19-17. A Sacramento win tonight would be doubly beneficial as it would not only add a ‘W’ to their win column, but would also throw a loss the Blazers way, a team that will no doubt be fighting for the final few playoff spots come late March and early April.

While both squads are best known for their high-octane scoring guards, the two teams go about their bucket-getting in two very different ways. Portland is extremely comfortable in the half-court, as they run sets through Damian Lillard-Jusuf Nurkic pick-and-rolls, with CJ McCollum providing secondary ball-handling and perimeter shooting. The Blazers are league-average in points per game (14th) and pace (100.3), while they’re toward the bottom of the NBA in fast break points, scoring just 10.8 per contest. They’re not at all desperate to fly down the floor and score easy buckets.

Meanwhile, the Kings are highly reliant on getting into the open court and running past unset defenses. They’re top among teams in fast break points, averaging 22.2 per game and are also top-5 in points (115.2) and pace (105.32). Whichever team is able to impose their offensive strategy on the other will likely win the game.

Dave Joerger’s squad will also need to figure out a way to keep the Trail Blazers from dominating the boards. Portland ranks third in the league in rebounding, featuring two solid glass cleaners in Jusuf Nurkic, who averages 10.1 rebounds, including 3.5 on the offensive end, and Al-Farouq Aminu, who grabs 8 of his own. That’s a far cry from the Kings’ starting front court, as Willie Cauley-Stein averages just 8.6 and Nemanja Bjelica sits at only 5.9 per contest.

Prediction

De’Aaron Fox torches Damian Lillard on the offense end, while Bogdan Bogdanovic is the best player off of the bench for either team. Justin Jackson unblocks me on Twitter and we become best friends, eventually starring in our own reality television show: Jackson and the Giraffe.

Final Score: Kings 79, Blazers 70 (both teams may be severely hungover)