The Trail Blazers secured a thrilling 113-108 victory over the Kings to capture their third win in four games. Jusuf Nurkic recorded an eye-popping 24-point, 23-rebound double-double to lead Portland past Sacramento. While Nurkic carried the load for the majority of the game, it was Damian Lillard’s late-game push that proved to be too much for the Kings to overcome in overtime. The Blazers led for long stretches of the contest, but a heroic performance from Bogdan Bogdanovic nearly foiled the victory.
Controlling the Pace
The Kings are one of the best teams in the entire NBA when it comes to scoring quickly. To offset their opponent’s strength, the Blazers utilized a steady diet of feeding Nurkic the ball. Portland limited long rebounds and got Sacramento in foul trouble early. Both results kept the game moving at a manageable pace. At halftime, coach Terry Stotts’ squad enjoyed a 14-point lead. Along with their lead, the Blazers controlled the rebounding battle 27-19.
A prolonged scoring drought in the third quarter unraveled Portland’s advantage. The Kings got rolling, and eventually found their rhythm in the open court. Sacramento’s pace carried over into the fourth quarter, which paved the way for Bogdanovic to torch the nets. After scoring just three points through three quarters, Bogdanovic finished with 19.
Trailing late fourth quarter, the Blazers found themselves in a precarious situation. Portland was forced to speed things up—playing right into Sacramento’s hands. Luckily a combination of Nurkic’s rebounding and Lillard’s clutch scoring proved to be enough to overcome the Kings’ penchant for pace.
Once in overtime, the pressure of the occasion led to extended possessions. Operating out of half court sets, the Kings were unable to find open shots for the majority of the extra period—leading to the Blazers’ win.
Shoulder the Load
Nurkic’s stellar night goes beyond just the box score. The big fella did everything, and kept Portland’s offense afloat amid a poor shooting night from beyond the arc. Nurkic played reserve big man Kosta Koufos off the court, and feasted on the undersized Nemanja Bjelica when he faced him.
Along with his offense, Nurkic was a complete menace on the defensive end down the stretch. The Bosnian Beast recorded four of his five blocks in the second half. As the Kings’ offense moved inside, they were met by Nurkic’s imposing presence.
Return of the Curry Quarter
Seth Curry scored 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter. His flurry in the first half was the lone highlight from a quiet night from Portland’s bench. The Blazers are now 8-0 in games were Curry scores at least nine points.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 13 points and provided some clutch defense in Tuesday’s victory. Aminu has now reached double-digits in consecutive games for the first time since the middle of December.
Maurice Harkless returned to the lineup to record 11 points and nine rebounds. Harkless lost steam in the second half, but he was a major contributor to Portland’s early lead.
It was another tough night for CJ McCollum from beyond the arc. He missed all five of his three-point attempts, and has gone 0-5 from distance in two of his last three games. Despite his struggles, McCollum finished with 16 points.
No shock here, Lillard once again saved his best for last. Lillard scored a combined 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Like McCollum, Lillard had an abysmal night from beyond the arc. He connected on just one of his nine three-point attempts.
The Blazers return to action on Friday to face the Thunder.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com