Kings Snag Rare Win in Portland
Yes, we used the old cliche tonight about how in the NBA the most difficult game on a long road trip is the first game you play back at home. And, while that always carries some truth, and even though there certainly was a hangover for the Blazers present on Saturday night, it didn't remotely explain what exactly happened in their 99-80 loss to the Kings at the Rose Garden.
It was almost expected that the Blazers would be a bit disjointed early in this ballgame, and that was certainly the case, but they've become quite good at digging themselves out of early holes and pulling things back together. Even though they did mount a minor charge or two at Sacramento, there was simply too much bad and not anywhere near enough good on this night to change the outcome.
The tone was set very early in this game. That much was very certain. The Trail Blazers were sloppy with the basketball, and handed the Kings just about everything they wanted in the opening minutes. In the first 12 minutes, the Blazers turned the basketball over a whopping nine times, and those were cashed in for 14 points by the Kings. In the always-important points-off-turnovers category, right out of the chute, it was 14-2 Sacramento. I'd love to see that number turned around, but it didn't.
Add to that the fact that Nic Batum was trying to play through a sore lower back, and didn't turn out to be effective at either end, and also that Wesley Matthews suffered a hip injury and had to leave the game, and the margin for error was just too great for Portland. Had they gotten off to a decent start in this game, and then had those two things happen, then maybe they've got a shot. But, given the deep, early hole, and then the lack of firepower they had to make a charge, and, well, you saw what happened.
The Kings should be given some credit, even though many of you may disagree (and I'm not spending a lot of time on this), but they were very opportunistic, even if they did most of their damage off of Blazer mistakes. They have now won a season-high three games in a row, and were loving every minute of this rare win at the Rose Garden.
How rare are their wins in Portland? Coming into this game the Blazers led the all-time series in Portland 76-17. That goes all the way back to when this team was known as the Cincinnati Royals. They just don't celebrate very often in Portland.
Given all that happened in the first quarter, it was pretty miraculous that this was only a two-point lead for the Kings at halftime. It seemed, at many of you may agree, that Portland had dodged a big bullet and would come out in the second half and restore order. As sloppy as Portland had been early, the Kings were dreadful on offense in the second quarter. How dreadful? How about 2 for 22 from the field in the quarter. So, as amazing as it seemed to us that Portland was within two, the Kings had to be saying "we just shot 2 for 22 in a quarter, and we still have the lead!"
The Blazers tried to convince themselves that their road-trip hangover was behind them as the second half began, but those thoughts would quickly end as the Kings drilled back-to-back three pointers to begin the second half. Even though Damian Lillard got hot at one point, and brought the Blazers back to within four, it never got closer than that.
Really, the lone bright spot for the Blazers was J.J. Hickson, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds. His energy usually isn't in doubt, and it wasn't on this night.
The final totals in the points-off-turnovers category was 30-8 in the Kings favor. That was established so early in this game, the Blazers never really even got to feel their way into the game. Panic set in during that first quarter, and normally inefficient Kings were able to be themselves, and still win comfortably.
So, this six-game home stand starts with a thud. The good news is, the Toronto Raptors come to town on Monday, and that'll be after the Blazers have a chance to further acclimate themselves back to the Pacific Time zone with a practice on Sunday. But, if Batum and Matthews for some reason can't go on Monday, nothing will come easy once again, and it'll be back to Lillard, Hickson, and Aldridge, to pick up the slack. On this night those things didn't happen, and you saw the result.