In a Nutshell
The Blazers play with fire one too many times and get burned out of a fourth-quarter comeback by good Kings defense down the stretch. Samuel Delambert assures the win for Sacramento. All the Bactine in the world won't take away the sting of losing to the Kings at home.
The Trail Blazers announced their intentions in the first few seconds of this game when they failed to block out on Sacramento's first trip to the free throw line and gave up an offensive rebound. From that point on some stellar early play from Nicolas Batum and the re-discovery of Wesley Matthews' jumper proved decoration on an already-fallen cake. The Blazers let Sacramento's guards drive and shoot so freely that the Kings' corps of big men became an afterthought. Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih are Options #1 and #2 for the Kings and neither were defended. On the other end the Blazers moved lackadaisically and were plagued with uncharacteristic turnovers. The Kings led 25-20 after one.
The problems only got worse as the reserves checked in. The defense got no better and the offense stalled completely. The scoring for the Blazers in the first 5:59 of the second period consisted of two Dante Cunningham jumpers. Seasoned viewers will know that this is pretty close to the last option in Portland's sets, a.k.a. "The Bail Out". With the Blazers down by 13 halfway through the quarter the returned starters put in one of their only sustained efforts of the game. Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Nicolas Batum all scored at the cup as Portland mounted a 17-8 run during which their only points scored beyond 7 feet came via the foul line. The Kings looked bad defensively and Portland's outlook seemed rosy. The Blazers were within 2, 45-43, at the half.
The third quarter stayed tight throughout but the bells were already ringing for the Blazers' chances to pull this game out of its nosedive. The Blazers scored, but 16 of their 22 points in the period came from 19 feet and beyond, a far cry from the end of the second where they destroyed the Kings inside. Sacramento also hit their threes and scored more in the lane than the Blazers did. Sacramento's bigs came alive in the quarter, picking up where the guards had left off. Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and Omri Casspi punished a Portland team with half its eyes on Evans and Udrih. Only Matthews' sterling performance from outside kept the Blazers close. The Kings led by 5, 70-65, heading into the final period.
Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum kept the Blazers in the game through the first part of the fourth. Miller found himself open for mid-range jumpers. Batum hit a critical three and a couple free throws. The score was 83-79 Sacramento with 4 minutes remaining. But the Blazers' planned push for glory got swatted to heck by Samuel Delambert who came up with some nifty overall defense on LaMarcus Aldridge and a couple brutal blocks of Portland drives in the lane. Forced to the perimeter, the Blazers shot deep and against the clock or not at all because of turnovers. Meanwhile the Kings danced with the girl that brung them, feeding Evans and Udrih and letting the forwards clean up on the boards. With little margin for error the Blazers flooded the floor with them down the stretch. Sacramento skates with a 15-point victory, 96-81.
The Blazers again tried Rudy Fernandez at point in the first quarter. The experiment lasted only a couple minutes as the offense never got going and Rudy got stripped once. Fernandez is great passing on the move but he's not your straight-away, ball-holding dribbler.
Portland failed so miserably at controlling space in this game--defensively and in rebounding--that it looked ridiculous. The Kings went wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The offense was hit and miss but LaMarcus Aldridge in particular had problems dominating even the floor under his feet.
Also when Portland's bench struggles, it really struggles.
Speaking of LaMarcus Aldridge, on a night when he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week he shot 4-14 for 9 points. He had 7 rebounds and 5 assists but also 4 turnovers. As just mentioned, he was largely ineffective with only a couple of pretty post moves to his credit. The Kings clearly came in looking to cut the head off of the beast and they succeeded. To top it off, Aldridge had hip x-rays following the game.
While that pesky head was getting club many tails took advantage of their free rein. Nicolas Batum packed a fantastic game into 15 minutes of playing time, scoring 16 on 6-12 shooting grabbing 9 rebounds, and making 2 of 4 threes. Unfortunately his minutes played stat reads 41. Those other 26 minutes weren't as productive.
Wesley Matthews made 9-20 shots, 2-3 threes, and scored a team-high 21 in 41 minutes himself. He had trouble containing his counterparts and had 3 assists and 3 turnovers to his credit. He began Portland's offensive aggression...full credit there.
Andre Miller ended Portland's offensive aggression, being the last Blazer to make a run of good plays in the fourth before the fall-apart. Miller had 18 points on 8-15 shooting, 5 offensive rebounds, and 5 assists. Like his compatriots, he committed an unusual number of turnovers with 4 to his name. He also had 3 steals in a game where such were rare for the Blazers.
Joel Przybilla made a game run at 23 minutes but he's clearly not meant to be out there for long stretches. He had 6 rebounds.
Dante Cunningham was one of the few Blazers showing a full-tilt game tonight. He had 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 23 minutes. He wasn't all that effective and neither was the team when he played, but at least he was doing something.
Rudy Fernandez had an amazingly bad line of 1-10 shooting, 0-7 from distance, 2 points, 4 rebounds, a block, and 3 turnovers in 25 minutes. His game was just about that bad too.
Patrick Mills was a non-factor with 5 points in 11 minutes.
Stats of the Night
- Kings 50% shooting, Blazers 39.5%. You need a whale of a game to overcome that. More wails than whales in the Garden tonight.
- Kings 16 offensive rebounds.
- Blazers only 11 foul shot attempts.
- Blazers 17 turnovers.
- Portland's Bench: 5-25 from the field, 1-8 from distance, 0 free throws attempted, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 5 blocks (thanks, Dante), 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, and 15 combined points in 60 total minutes spread among 4 players. It's hard for the starters to score 85 points to make up for all that.
- Needs to be said again: Blazers 81 points total. Against...Sacramento...
Odd Notes and Links
The Blazer Broadcasting crew interviewed Brandon Roy as he was sitting on the bench during the game. Roy sounded upbeat...certainly more so than the last time we heard from him. He doesn't sound close to playing but said he'd likely be back before the season finished. It was at least good to hear him in good spirits and looking forward to something positive. As it turns out that was the only positive thing tonight.
Jersey Contest Scoreboard (As it turned out the high score for this game was 58 out of a possible 100. Not often the scores skew that low. Bad night for Jersey Contest players as well.)