Wednesday, March 22, 2023

NBA Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (28-30) at Sacramento Kings (32-25)

When the Sacramento Kings play the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, both teams’ first game back from the All-Star break, they will continue their quest for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs against two teams separated by just five losses but nine spots in the standings.

The Kings are currently in third place in the West, but their position could change by the end of the week due to a close race. They are only one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns by 1 1/2 games. On Friday, they will play the Clippers in Los Angeles on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, are currently outside the playoff picture but within half a game of a play-in spot.

In order to begin the second half, both teams must endure a lengthy road schedule. The Trail Blazers will play eight of their next ten games on the road beginning with the trip to Sacramento, while the Kings will travel for three games after their home game on Thursday.

The Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2005-06, may have issues with the rest of the schedule. In the second half, Sacramento will face the fourth-toughest group of teams in terms of winning percentage so far.

Harrison Barnes, a veteran, insists that this season’s added motivation is to give Kings fans a chance to experience an NBA postseason for the first time.

Over the remaining 25 games, the Kings will face the Trail Blazers three times. The clubs still have two Portland appearances scheduled for March 29 and 31.

Due to their victory over Sacramento 115-108 in the season opener for both teams, the Trail Blazers currently hold a lead in the series. One of only 10 games in which Domantas Sabonis did not record a double-double this season, Portland held him to 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds against the Kings.

Both Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox played for the Kings at the All-Star Game on Sunday. Sabonis was selected because he had 45 double-doubles, which led the league. Fox, who had just given birth, came back strong before the break, averaging 33.8 points in his last four games.

Damian Lillard, a Trail Blazers standout who nailed the game-winning shot in Team Giannis’ victory in the All-Star Game, joined the Sacramento duo over the weekend in Salt Lake City. That occurred one night following his victory in the 3-Point Contest.

During All-Star Weekend, Lillard made the claim that he is the greatest Trail Blazer of all time, which may have generated the most attention.

In the earlier victory over Sacramento, Lillard scored 20 points, Jerami Grant scored 23, and Anfernee Simons scored 22. Simons, on the other hand, will be out of the Thursday game with a sprained right ankle from last week.

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