Tuesday night the Portland Trail Blazers faced the Sacramento Kings needing a win. They needed it for pride. They needed it to keep a secure hold on the eventual playoff bracket. They needed to avoid losing 7 out of their past 8 games. Unfortunately the Kings weren’t in an accommodating mood. Behind 55 points from DeMarcus Cousins and some of the weirdest officiating the NBA has seen yet this season the Kings stole a 126-121 win, leaving the Blazers searching for answers to questions they never thought they’d have to ask.
CJ McCollum came out hibachi grilling tonight: flipping, tossing, and throwing in shots from all over the floor. His 11 points in under 6 minutes helped Portland jump on the Kings early. Maurice Harkless and Mason Plumlee’s offensive boards gave the Blazers extra opportunities. Portland held serve defensively and kept the Kings under 30 in the opening frame. After one, the score read 35-27 Blazers.
The Boogie Express started to build steam in the second quarter after Meyers Leonard picked up early fouls. While Cousins only hit one field goal in the period, he went 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Mason Plumlee matched Cousins’ resulting 11 points with 11 of his own. The Blazers again outscored the Kings in the period, but let the Kings offense get on track with 33 points. At halftime the Blazers lead 72-60.
The third quarter was essentially a mirror image of the second with Meyers Leonard picking up 2 quick fouls and Cousins able to do pretty much whatever he wanted. Cousins scored inside, outside, from every side you can imagine, adding 14 more points to his burgeoning total. Damian Lillard tried to match Cousins point for point, dropping 11 in the frame. The Kings scored another 33 points to the Blazers’ 27, leaving the scoreboard reading 99-93, Blazers through three quarters.
Here’s where everything went completely sideways.
The Kings followed through on their third-quarter push with a 17-2 run. Meanwhile the Blazers started the fourth ice cold from the field (1-11 from the floor). Both teams made small runs as the game wound down but neither could seize control.
With 35.2 seconds to go and Portland up one, Cousins drove to the rim, got fouled and completed the and-one giving the Kings a 121-119 lead. He proceeded to celebrate by heading over to the Blazers’ bench and yelling at Meyers Leonard. In the process his mouth piece flew out of his mouth and Cousins was assessed a technical foul, his second of the game.
*This video was captured by a fan behind the Blazer’s bench
Having earned his second technical of the evening, Cousins stopped, untucked his jersey, and sprinted for the locker room. The referees then conferred and decided that Cousins did not deliberately spit out his mouthpiece and would not be assessed a technical foul. The Sacramento superstar was summoned from the Kings’ locker room and was allowed to continue playing. He blocked a Lillard layup attempt with 29 seconds remaining and helped hold the Blazers down as Sacramento hit the icing free throws to seal the game. You can pick your adjective to describe all this: devastating, weird, annoying, crazy. It was all of the above.
On a day when we discussed whether or not it was worth trading for DeMarcus Cousins, we also heard every reason, excuse, and justification why he’s amazing and as stable as a 2-legged table. Then on cue Cousins became involved in nearly every eyebrow raising moments this game had to offer. He dropped an unbelievable 55 points on 28 shots. He hit from distance, shot a ridiculous 16-17 from the free throw line, and he had his way inside against everyone not named Meyers Leonard. Love him or hate him, this guy matters.
Obviously the second technical foul (or phantom technical) was a huge issue. Mike Richman of The Oregonian caught up with Brian Forte, the lead official for tonight’s game and Forte had this to say about the incident:
Here's referee Brian Forte's explanation of the final tech/non-tech on DeMarcus Cousins pic.twitter.com/TxjBXoxR7a— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) December 21, 2016
Cousins also instigated and drew more fouls than I thought possible. He got Leonard tagged with a couple of ticky-tack fouls, keeping Leonard in foul trouble through most of the game. As if that weren’t enough, Cousins drew a technical foul against Mason Plumlee for dunking on him.
WATCH - Plumlee dunks all over Cousins, hit with a technical https://t.co/8o6OtA1pXf— CSN Northwest (@CSNNW) December 21, 2016
In case you’re missing the vibe, this was a weird night for the officials to say the least. In addition to the dunking tech and non-ejection, we saw 59 fouls called, a clearly blown goaltending call (in Portland’s favor), and a clearly blown shot clock violation (in Sacramento’s favor).
The officiating wouldn’t have mattered so much if the Blazers had found any kind of answer for Cousins. It ended up mattering a lot.
Portland’s defense also came into play, showing up and leaving the court so much you’d have thought it was spitting mouthpieces. Sacramento shot better than 55 percent from the field, nearly 44 percent from three-point range, and 36-43 from the charity stripe. As has been the story all season the outstanding 121-point tally for Portland just wasn’t enough to secure the win.
CJ McCollum was en fuego tonight. In the first half he scored 23 points on 11 shots. He finished with 36.
Damian Lillard scored 24 with a career-high 15 assists.
That combination should have led to an easy win but...Boogie, defense, ugh.
Mason Plumlee had his best statistical night of his career as a Trail Blazer: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists. He also proved ineffective against Cousins, particularly in the fourth quarter. In a rare twist, Plumlee tried to trade scoring punches with Cousins in the closing minutes. He did fine but that late in the game you can’t jab your way to victory. Cousins threw haymaker after haymaker and nearly all of them connected.
Maurice Harkless managed a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive). He played great two-way basketball but picked up 6 fouls in 24 minutes trying to help out inside on Cousins. Without Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner, the additional burden on Harkless proved to be too much. That isn’t a slight against Harkless; the Blazers had 12 fewer fouls to use and felt the pinch when Harkless spent his so freely.
Links and Such
Safe to say SacTownRoyalty isn’t spitting mad about this victory
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