Portland's Big Run Flattens Kings
It doesn’t matter who it came against, the Trail Blazers wanted a win. It was a very quiet flight to Sacramento following the loss to Atlanta on Monday night. As the coaches always say, it was a teaching opportunity (a very positive way to put it) and the hope was the players learned that this team is not going to be able to win unless most of the pistons are firing. And, digging yourself a nine-point hole early in a game is not going to cut it.
Evidently, lesson learned.
Against the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday night, the Blazers jumped out to a 25-10 lead. The Kings would battle back, and even claimed a four-point lead early in the third quarter. The Blazers led 57-56 with 5:15 left in the third, and then things completely turned in Portland’s favor. They closed the third on a 17-2 run, and stretched that run to 28-4 early in the fourth and it was game over. The Blazers picked up their second road winof the season by a final score of 103-86.
Sacramento has struggled on offense this season, but they’ve been a decent defensive team at times. In fact, coming into this game they ranked third in the NBA at defending the three-point line. Ironically, that’s where Portland did most of its damage.
The Blazers shot 52 percent from behind the arc, going 14 for 27, led by Damian Lillard, who was a big reason why Portland got off to such a hot start. He scored eight points in the first 12 minutes, and ended the game with 22, leading all scorers in the contest, and going 5 for 6 from three-point land.
In my post-game interview with Lillard (who was playing in front of his mother, who made the drive from Oakland), he basically took responsibility for the last few losses and said that is what motivated him in this game. Not only did he score 22, but he also dished out 9 assists.
LaMarcus Aldridge has taken some heat as of late, but against the Kings he was very solid. Twenty minutes before the opening tip we weren’t sure if he was even going to play. He came down hard on his right wrist against Atlanta, and it was bothering him enough before the game that he went for x-rays. They were negative, and he decided to play through the obvious pain. Aldridge ended with 19 points, and was much better about fighting for low-post position and working for higher-percentage shots. He got to the free-throw line 10 times, and made 9. That has been missing.
We knew J.J. Hickson would be motivated to play in this game against the team that waived him last March. Hickson picked up another double-double, scoring 10 and grabbing 13 rebounds. Hickson becomes just the seventh player in the NBA to post five double-doubles so far.
Wesley Matthews did his usual job of disrupting the opposition’s backcourt, and held Tyreke Evans to just 10 points. Matthews also scored 18 points, and his 6 of his 9 shot attempts. Nicolas Batum was especially big during that big run, and scored 15 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. It’s nice to see Batum continuing to fill up all the stat catagories.
And, the Blazer bench was much better in this one, combining for 19 points. That’s not normally a huge number, but considering how it’s been lately, that’s a huge improvement. Ronnie Price led the way for the reserves, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 rebounds.
It’s not very often we’ve been able to say Portland has more road wins than home wins, but that’s the case right now. Most importantly, the confidence got a boost with this victory.
Now, they’ve got two days off before hosting Houston on Friday night at the Rose Garden.