Having won two games in a row against Portland without their star-level center DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings thought maybe they had the Trail Blazers number coming into the Rose Garden today. Then they unfolded that little piece of paper and it said, "1-888-Stuff-It". And that's just what the Blazers did to the Kings this evening.
The first 18 minutes of this game went back and forth with neither team seizing clear control. Both looked like they lacked the desire and/or personnel to play inside. The Blazers changed all that midway through the second period. It's like a light went on, "No DeMarcus Cousins. Kings playing small inside." Portland's assault began with some nifty passing and cutting leading to what seemed like 18,000 dunks in a row. That's exaggeration for effect, of course. In reality it was no more than 6,000. BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM. Rim says, "Ouch!" When the Blazers weren't dunking they were getting fouled trying to dunk. It was like a dude playing an NBA video game only knowing one button, "X". A quick look at the instruction manual says "X" means dunk. But hey, it worked. The Blazers led by 15 at halftime and never looked back.
In fact they got even more jiggy in the second half as their offensive play gained swagger and the Kings all but gave up. Meyers Leonard was strutting. Damian Lillard was nodding and hitting perimeter shots. Will Barton had already put in his best numbers in the first half but he was salivating and calling for alley oops. When the offense stalled they just went to LaMarcus Aldridge or Nicolas Batum, both of whom showed some old-timer moves. J.J. Hickson rebounded throughout. The Kings never got a rhythm and never had a chance.
Final Tally: Blazers 50 points in the paint, Kings 36. How often has that happened?
Final Tally: Blazers 53 rebounds, 17 offensive, Kings 35 rebounds total.
Final Tally: Blazers 51% shooting from the field, Kings 41%.
Final Tally: Blazers woot, Kings wah-wah-waaaaahhhhhh.
Will Barton was the point-a-minute man in the first half and looked genuinely excited to be playing against a team that didn't bother to guard him well. He made the Blazers forget the absence of Wesley Matthews, scoring 14 on 6-9 shooting in 26 minutes, making layups and dunks look fun again instead of the chore that the Blazers usually regard them as.
Damian Lillard looked like he couldn't miss out there. In reality he did, shooting 7-14. But with the kind of shots he was taking, 4-14 would have been more the norm. Not tonight. Get a hose, there's a rookie on FIRE. Plus he had 11 assists, many of which he added a little mustard to just to show that it was a free and easy night. Why just make a boring pass when you can flip one over your head, put your hand on your chin, and wink at the cameras afterwards? He didn't actually do that, but he did it symbolically. It was fun to watch the Lillard strut.
Of course nobody struts better than Meyers Leonard after a dunk, of which he had two tonight. He's got this yell, stick-out-chest thing that's just funny. It's like the paper boy just stripped down to shorts and went King Kong on the sidewalk. 7 points, 5 rebounds, and a scream poster coming to a store near you soon.
Enough of the young guys. J.J. Hickson pounded the Kings on the boards, grabbing the ball like it was 90% off. 15 rebounds, 5 offensive, 17 points, 8-13 shooting, great lane play...smack.
LaMarcus Aldridge just kind of did what LaMarcus Aldridge does. Oh...11-21 shooting, no problem. 28 points, 12 rebounds...no, go ahead, put Blake Griffin on that Kia commercial. I'm not going to dunk over the car. I'll just shoot a baseline jumper over it. It can't stop that shot, it's a compact.
Nicolas Batum had his game face on tonight. It was a semi-grumpy game face at times. It was great to see. His jaw was set and his scowl was working. The Kings couldn't stand before it either. I liked Batum's game tonight because it was compact. In his big moments he stood out. In the other moments he knuckled down. That sounds like NBA ball to me. 6-11 shooting, 2-5 three-pointers (both makes being of the kind that only Batum can hit), 6 rebounds, 5 assists. He did have 6 turnovers, a recurring issue as he handles the ball more. But those TO's didn't overshadow his game. They didn't even shadow it. Good night for Nic.
Victor Claver played 21 minutes and missed all 4 shots he took but there's just something about this kid on defense that shows promise. I've said this before in different words, but he sticks with plays better than anybody on this team. Even when you beat him he doesn't let you beat him wholly.
Ronnie Price and Luke Babbitt had decent games, Price with 5 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 13 minutes, Babbitt with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 8 minutes. Their teammates outdid them but they had moments.
So...the horror of a third loss to the Kings is avoided. That's lucky, as I believe that would invoke the NBA's mercy rule and require the Blazers to forfeit the rest of the season, which they'd then spend in the penalty box. Meanwhile Sacramento finds out that even a petulant center is better than no center at all. When Portland beats you up in the paint, you've been beat up. It's like Wimpy asking you if he can have a hamburger now for which he'll gladly pay you Tuesday and then putting you in a headlock, choking you into unconsciousness, and taking your girlfriend to the drive-in. That shouldn't happen.
But Blazers fans are glad it did.
Sactown Royalty tries to invent new words for "Ouch".
Friday's game form for the Jersey Contest