The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Sacramento Kings for the second time in less than a week on Wednesday night, this time by a final score of 132-126. The Blazers overcame a pair of significant deficits in the win and connected on a franchise record 23 three-point attempts, shooting just shy of 50% from beyond the arc in the game. The victory marked the team’s fourth in-a-row in the win column, following a two-game slide.
Damian Lillard led the way with 40 points, 13 assists and zero turnovers, becoming the first player in NBA history to achieve the feat. De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 29 points of his own, 15 of which came in the first quarter.
The Kings jumped out to a hot start, hitting eight of their first nine shots. However, the Blazers were able to keep pace early due to a balanced offensive effort of their own, as all five starters scored within the first six minutes of the game. Lillard was particularly effective, going for 13 points in the frame. The Blazer defense was aggressive, but the Kings pushed the tempo and were able to find a number of open looks from beyond the arc, especially in transition. When the dust settled, Sacramento held a 43-33 lead, shooting 68% from the field and going 7-11 from downtown.
The Kings embarked on a 10-0 run early in the quarter, pushing the lead to 18 before the Blazers called time-out at the eight-minute mark. After the Kings briefly extended the lead to 20, Portland responded with three consecutive three-pointers to jump back in the game. As the Kings finally began to cool down, the Blazers slowly chipped away at the deficit over the final minutes, including a pair of highlight-reel dunks from Derrick Jones Jr. and a buzzer-beating triple from CJ McCollum. Sacramento held just a 68-65 advantage entering the halftime break, despite shooting 57% over the first 24 minutes of action.
The Kings pushed their lead back up to double-digits within the opening minutes of the frame, as Jusuf Nurkic picked up his third and fourth personal fouls and went to the bench early. As Portland’s offense went cold, the Kings took advantage of the misses by quickly pushing the ball up the floor and lighting up the Blazers’ transition defense with open shots. The Blazers eventually found their shooting stroke from distance to stop the bleeding, and pulled back within single digits in the closing minutes after trailing by as many as 19 in the period. Entering the final stanza, the Kings clung to a 105-100 lead.
The Blazers opened on a 7-0 run, and thanks to an increased defensive effort—anchored by the return of Nurkic—were able to jump in front for the first time since the midway of the first quarter. The lead changed hands several times over the next few minutes as the teams went back and forth. Portland finally created a two-possession separation with just under five minutes remaining. The Blazers took care of business down the stretch, excelling at both ends of the court to hold on for the 132-126 victory on a night they overcame multiple sizable deficits.
It’s Raining 3s!
While it looked like the Kings would run away with this one early due to their three-point proficiency, it was actually the Blazers that hit more of them in the game—going 23-48 (48%) on the night. Sacramento shot at a slightly higher clip (50% on 19-38 attempts), and was absolutely lights out in the early going, but Portland came up big when it mattered.
Lillard and McCollum combined to go 12-31 from distance, in addition to the contributions of Robert Covington (4-7) Trent (4-5) and Carmelo Anthony (2-2). Buddy Hield was the hot hand for the Kings, going 8-18 from downtown as part of a 26-point night. Fox was 5-8 and impressive rookie Tyrese Haliburton finished 3-4.
Offense Leads to Defense
The Kings offense was at its best in transition, as the speedy Fox was able to race the ball up the floor off of a Portland miss, setting up a number of open looks that the Kings were able to take advantage of. The Blazers were at their best defensively when they hit their own shots, as it allowed them to get set on the other end. While they didn’t exactly lock the Kings down in the half-court, the difference was clear, and enough to turn the momentum in the game as the Blazers offense heated up.
Portland’s defense was especially locked-in during the pivotal fourth quarter, in which they held Sacramento to just 21 points. Offensively, the Blazer’s sported an impressive 28-8 assist-to-turnover ratio, which helped keep the ball moving and minimized fast break opportunities for the Kings.
The Big Four
While the performances of Lillard and McCollum (28 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists) stole the show, as the game marked the first time that the duo each had 10 assists on the same night, the efforts of Nurkic and Trent were equally valuable to the end result, and deserve a ton of credit for their role in the comeback(s).
Things looked grim when the Bosnian Beast got into foul trouble early in the second half, but the big man was able to come back late in the third quarter and help spark Portland’s run on both ends of the court. He finished with 18 points on a highly-efficient 6-8 shooting, to go along with 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Trent led all Blazer bench players with 23 minutes, and helped keep the team in the game with 16 points on a night where the rest of the second unit struggled to provide offense.
The Blazers host the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night in their first back-to-back of the season. It is unclear if the newly acquired Caris LeVert will be available for the Pacers, who sent Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets in the deal.