Friday, December 1, 2023

NBA Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (3-4) at Sacramento Kings (2-4)

One team that has played its best basketball on the road and another that hasn’t won since the last time it was at home will find themselves in their favorite place when the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. 

Both teams are coming off losses — the Trail Blazers fell 112-100 at home against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, while the Kings dropped a 122-97 decision at Houston on Monday. 

The first matchup of the season between the Western Conference foes is expected to look a whole lot different than the clubs’ duels in recent years. Those meetings often featured a shootout between star point guards Damian Lillard and De’Aaron Fox. 

But the Trail Blazers dealt Lillard to Milwaukee in the offseason, while the Kings have lost Fox to a sprained right ankle early this season, leaving both teams scrambling a bit to find a successful new look.  Fox is expected to be back soon, but no doubt the Kings missed him while they were stunned two times in three nights in Houston. 

Sacramento coach Mike Brown put a positive spin on 107-89 and 122-97 losses to end a winless three-game trip. 

Fox got hurt late in a 132-127 overtime win over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 29. The Kings haven’t won — or been at home — since. 

Fox and Lillard went head-to-head three times in the previous two seasons, with each scoring at least 20 points in every game. Fox got the better of the individual scoring matchup (33-20) in the most recent duel last season, but the Trail Blazers won that game 115-108 at Sacramento in the opening month of the campaign. 

The Kings went on to sweep the remaining three meetings between the teams last season, all of which were contested in February and March. Lillard didn’t play in any of those games. 

The Trail Blazers lost the first three games of the post-Lillard era last month but rebounded to win at both Toronto and Detroit before returning home to outlast the Memphis Grizzlies 115-113 in overtime on Friday. 

The Grizzlies won the rematch on Sunday in the Trail Blazers’ most recent action. 

In the meantime, the Trail Blazers have gotten some bad news regarding big man Robert Williams III, one of the key imports in the deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the Boston Celtics last month. 

The defensive-minded Williams is averaging 6.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Portland but suffered an injury to his right knee Sunday against Memphis. It was reported Monday that Williams will need surgery to remedy the problem, possibly ending his season.  

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups blamed poor shooting, rather than any issue created by Williams’ absence at the defensive end, as the culprit for the late collapse against the Grizzlies in Sunday’s rematch.

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