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Trail Blazers Drop Emotional Game to the Sacramento Kings

Despite hanging in the game until the bitter end, Portland eventually loses the second half of a back-to-back, 115-107.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One night after a closely contested, heart-breaking loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trail Blazers came out flat against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Despite that, they ended up playing catch-up nearly the entire night before ultimately falling 115-107. Damian Lillard led all scorers with 35 points, dishing out five assists. Buddy Hield led Sacramento with 19, one of six Kings in double figures on the night.

After a tightly contested opening stanza, the Kings started to pull away in the second quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the break. Sacramento maintained a double-digit lead through much of the third quarter, and held an eight-point edge going into the fourth. The margin would hover around that mark throughout the final frame, with the Kings ultimately holding on for the victory.

Poor Execution

The final minute of this game was a bit of a train wreck for the Blazers. Down six with 41 seconds left, CJ McCollum, fired a step-back two-point field goal that was off the mark. The team ended up getting the ball back, only for Evan Turner to fire an inbound pass right along the sideline, where Lillard promptly stepped out-of-bounds, giving the ball back to the Kings. The Blazers then failed to foul on the ensuing possession, letting the Kings run off 16 seconds before Willie Cauley-Stein slammed home an uncontested dunk.

That being said, this game wasn’t lost in the final minute. Portland committed 11 turnovers in the first half alone. A disastrous second quarter in which they were outscored 30-17 put them behind the eight ball for the rest of the night. While they took better care of the ball in the second half, committing only three additional turnovers, they struggled to knock down shots—finishing at 40% shooting for the game, including just 32% from distance, while also missing six free throws. Needless to say, it wasn’t their sharpest night.

Frustration Mounts

Tension over the lack of execution eventually boiled over, as head coach Terry Stotts was issued a rare technical early in the third quarter for arguing with the officials. His frustration wasn’t confined to just the refs, however. Stotts was furious with a hurried shot from Al-Farouq Aminu late in the first half that left enough time on the clock for the Kings to race down for a Hield bucket, extending their lead to ten.

Kings forward Iman Shumpert also provided his own drama. Irked at a hard screen by Jusuf Nurkic in the game’s opening minutes, he was quickly T’d up and proceeded to chirp at the Blazers bench for the duration of the game. The situation apparently extended into the locker rooms after the game as well. In the end, cooler heads prevailed.

Bench Battle

While Hield (7-10, 19 points, seven rebounds) and De’Aaron Fox (16 points, 9 assists) were solid, Sacramento’s bench provided the difference in this game. Bogdan Bogdanovic (18 points), Marvin Bagley (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Harry Giles (12 points, four rebounds) led the charge, playing with an energy that the Blazers simply couldn’t match.

Outside of Meyers Leonard (11 points, seven rebounds) and Evan Turner (14 points, four assists, nobody off the Blazers bench could get much going. On a night when Nurkic and McCollum struggled offensively, the team simply couldn’t afford this lack of production, especially when facing the Kings’ stellar second-unit.

The Other Guys

Lillard scored his 35 points on 11-27 shooting. He set a Blazers franchise record by scoring 10+ for the 184th consecutive game, passing the great Clyde Drexler. In addition, he eclipsed the 12,000 career scoring mark in the game.

McCollum had a dreadful game, finishing 2-11 shooting for six points.

Nurkic also scored six, on 3-7 shooting, but was able to fill up the stat sheet with 11 rebounds and five assists. That being said, he didn’t leave his mark on the game the way fans have become accustomed to seeing over the last few weeks.

Aminu ended up with double-double of 13 points and 11 boards, but didn’t look sharp offensively and tried to do too much—which usually ended poorly.

Jake Layman had a solid performance, scoring 13 points on 6-9 shooting, while giving the team a nice jolt on an otherwise lackluster night.

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The Blazers return home from a brief two-game road trip to face the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

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