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Blazers Out-Lillard Fox, Refuse to Hield in Victory Over Kings

Sacramento brought some great guards but Portland had an otherworldly one.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings engaged in a scoring-heavy slugfest on Thursday night, dueling nose-to-nose for 48 minutes in a game where neither could keep a double-digit lead. Portland kept their customary advantage at the three-point arc, but they gave away the benefits by allowing Sacramento to score like hotcakes in the lane and on the run. But the Blazers had a trump card that Sacramento didn’t. Damian Lillard zeroed in on the win as the clock dwindled in the fourth. The Kings couldn’t do a thing to stop him. At the end of a long and somewhat-messy evening, the Blazers earned a 123-119 victory.

Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox scored 32 in the fray, Lillard countered with 44 for the Blazers.

First Quarter

For the second straight night, the Blazers started off with less than sterling effectiveness on defense. The Kings are not the Golden State Warriors. They could not stretch out a double-digit lead, mostly because they can’t defend either. But Sacramento made the most of mid-range jumpers and paint points to double up Portland 10-5. The Blazers kept hitting shots, at least intermittently, but they allowed Sacramento easy points in transition and just couldn’t put out the fire. As the period progressed, Enes Kanter became a hub of the offense, helping the Blazers push around the smaller Kings lineup in the halfcourt. Lillard and De’Aaron Fox engaged in a running battle throughout the period; Dame turned on the afterburners, finishing the quarter with 15, Fox with 10. When the dust settled from ALL of that, Portland led 30-27. Yeah, it was a lot.

Second Quarter

Portland’s second unit exploded out of the gate in the second period. Nassir Little opened up with a great drive, followed by threes from Anfernee Simons and, later, Carmelo Anthony. The bench has become a potent offensive force. The defense couldn’t quite keep pace, but Sacramento never managed to string together an extended run. The teams went back and forth until the starters came back in. Then they went back and forth some more. The Kings tried the double-team-Lillard defense, but they didn’t have the ancillary defenders to make it pay off. Dame’s teammates scored easily. But every time Portland got an advantage, they gave it back. The Blazers led only 59-56 at the half.

Third Quarter

The Blazers did just what they wanted as the second half opened. They hit 3 threes and a like number of layups, with assists on half of their shots. The offense looked like a greased wheel sliding down a mountain of ice. Once again separation eluded them, as they allowed Sacramento to score in transition and pile up paint points. The analytics advantage breaks down when you let the opponent score easily. When the Kings started hitting threes too, Portland’s slim lead evaporated. Portland just kept letting the opponent hang around. Sacramento led 90-89 after three.

Fourth Quarter

Both teams played positionless basketball to start the fourth...if by “positionless” we mean “centerless” and, largely, “scoreless”. The first four minutes of the period resembled a seventh-grade scrum where packs of people followed the ball randomly, with plenty of bricks decorating the edges.

After that mess, Fox came through with buckets for the Kings, which pushed their lead to a comparatively-huge 5 points. Anthony and Rodney Hood once again stuck up for the bench, but Portland still couldn’t keep the Kings out of the ding-dang lane. Sacramento looked good.

But hey, Damian Lillard does NOT go quietly into the night. With the outcome in doubt, he hit a three, drilled a pristine pass to Enes Kanter at the rim, and converted a layup pretty much in succession. AND THEN he hit another three with 1:56 remaining to give his team a 4-point lead. AND THEN he drained another. He would score 10 down the stretch. Kanter had a monster effort on defense late in the game as well. The 1-2 combo was too much for the Kings to handle. The Kings made it interesting with a couple late scores and had a chance to tie at the buzzer, but the Blazers fouled instead of letting them shoot a three. The Kings borked the final free throw play. Portland got to laugh last in the otherwise-pitched battle and walked away with the W.


The Blazers get a week-long break before resuming the season after the All-Star Break. Stay tuned for Steve Dewald’s analysis of this game in the extended recap and join us throughout the weekend for NBA All-Star Game coverage, trade deadline talk, and more!