In their second preseason game on Oct. 9, the Kings obliterated the Blazers, 126-94, thanks to an unconscious shooting performance.
Yes, it was just preseason, but Portland played its five assumed starters this season, each between 22 and 28 minutes, which is longer than Sacramento played its starters. Sacramento looked like the better, more cohesive team, whether it was starters, bench players or the coaching staff.
The main reason Sacramento dominated was its success behind the three-point line, knocking down 21 of its 45 attempts. Sacramento has some talented shooters, but this type of 3-point success is going to be challenging to replicate on Wednesday. Sacramento also held Damian Lillard to just 8 points on 2-10 shooting, which is also something that seems unlikely to repeat itself.
Portland, like Sacramento, really struggled on defense last season, and if the preseason was any indication, their defense will continue to falter this season. The Trail Blazers allowed 118, 126, and 131 points to the three NBA opponents it played this preseason. Sacramento boasts enough offensive talent that they should be looking to replicatee that success against a limited Portland defense.
For Sacramento’s defense, limiting Lillard is going to be crucial in securing a win. In the preseason matchup, KZ Okpala, who started the game at power forward, spent some time guarding Lillard, using his 7-2 wingspan and athleticism to make things challenging for the six-time all-star. When Okpala went to the bench, the Kings tried to have defensive specialist Davion Mitchell tied to Lillard’s hip. When those two were on the bench, De’Aaron Fox had the assignment.
The Kings will also have to account for Portland’s other talented guard, Anfernee Simons, who is fresh off a four-year, $100 million contract extension to stay with the Blazers. Simons has the ability to go completely nuclear, which is something Sacramento will have to avoid.
Sacramento will be without Keegan Murray on Wednesday, as he spent the last few days in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Sacramento will miss Murray, but Sacramento has added enough depth that playing without the rookie for a game or two shouldn’t impact much of their gameplan.
Kings rookie Keegan Murray has cleared health and safety protocols. Remains out tonight vs Portland. But he took part in shootaround this morning and should debut soon.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 19, 2022
Another key piece for Sacramento, Kevin Huerter is expected to play despite being listed as questionable with left ankle soreness, according to James Ham of ESPN 1320 and The Kings Beat. Having Huerter will be a boost for Sacramento, especially against a Portland team with the aforementioned guard firepower.
Keegan Murray (health and safety) has officially been ruled out for the home opener on Wednesday. Kevin Huerter (left ankle soreness) is questionable, although he participated fully in practice on Tuesday.— James Ham (@James_HamNBA) October 19, 2022
It will be instructive to see how Sacramento compares to a Portland team it will likely find itself competing for play-in spots with come this spring. Most prognosticators have the Blazers finishing ahead of the Kings in the standings.
The Kings played the Trail Blazers in the season-opener last season and won 124-121 in Portland. Ultimately, this victory didn’t translate to season-long success.
But even if Wednesday is just Game 1 out of 82 as the Kings try to snap their long playoff drought, and while each one of them counts the same, the lights will be a little brighter for this one. Hopefully the Kings show out.
The Kings and Blazers will tip off at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Oct. 19. The game will be televised on NBC Sports California.