The undermanned Trail Blazers added to the Kings’ current losing streak by securing a 103-88 victory on Sunday. The Blazers turned to their role players with Damian Lillard, Norman Powell, and CJ McCollum out of the lineup. Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons answered the call for Portland. Nurkic, operating from inside the arc, was a single assist away from a solid triple double. In the backcourt, Simons led all players with 31 points.
With tonight’s victory, the Blazers have now secured victories in two of their last four games. Here is a second look at Sunday’s result.
Both the Kings and Blazers started the contest ice cold. After an exchange of empty possessions, Nassir Little broke the stalemate with a confident three-pointer. Little was not the only one of Portland’s youngsters to find a rhythm early. Anfernee Simons connected on a three-pointer of his own on the next possession, giving the Blazers an early 6-0 advantage.
The Kings eventually found their footing thanks to De’Aaron Fox’s steady hand. Unsurprisingly, good things happened when Fox sliced through the heart of the Blazers’ defense. The Fox-led advance was fleeting and not enough for Sacramento to get ahead of Portland’s opportunistic offense. The Blazers generated eight fast break points in the opening frame. Thanks to that edge, Portland finished the first quarter with a 27-21 lead.
Portland’s reserve post tandem of Cody Zeller and Trendon Watford kept the offense going in the early minutes of the second quarter. Watford continued to show off his ability to understand space and deliver passes to the right place. Zeller converted those friendly looks into four points. Once Zeller exited, the scoreboard froze for both squads.
After a quick timeout at the seven-minute mark, the Blazers hit their stride. Simons and Ben McLemore flawlessly generated points out of half-court sets. The Kings did not match the Blazers’ output and quickly fell behind by double digits. Sacramento’s struggles went beyond just a poor shooting night. The Blazers’ defensive positioning was solid throughout the first half. The Kings connected on just 35.6 percent of their attempts from the field after 24 minutes. At halftime, Portland headed to the locker room with a 53-40 advantage.
The Blazers’ offense turned to the frontcourt after the halftime break. McLemore and Simons took a backseat to Jusuf Nurkic’s offense in the third quarter. Operating just underneath the nail, Nurkic dissected the Kings’ struggling defense. On the opposite end of the floor, Sacramento attempted to mimic Portland’s frontcourt-centric approach. Harrison Barnes and Alex Len both got into the action inside the arc for the Kings.
Despite solid efforts from Barnes and Len, the Blazers continued to expand their lead. Following a timeout with just under three minutes to go, Portland’s reserves strung together three straight scoring possessions. Thanks to gritty buckets from Watford and CJ Elleby, the Blazers finished the third quarter with a 15-point advantage.
Following a quiet third quarter, Simons re-established control of Portland’s offense. From accurate passes to dangerous scoring looks, Simons was firing on all cylinders. A Simons-exclusive flurry in the middle of the final frame pushed the Blazers lead to 20 points. The Kings attempted to put together one final comeback attempt after falling behind by 20. Leaning on Fox and Buddy Hield, Sacramento managed to generate a 7-0 run. Simons’ emerged once again to put the contest on ice with steady play on the offensive end.
While searching for a late-game assist for Nurkic’s triple-double, the Blazers closed out the Kings en route to a 103-88 victory.
Stay tuned for tonight’s extended analysis of the Blazers’ wire-to-wire victory over the Kings.