Trail Blazers Finish Easily Season Home Stretch By Beating Kings

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Friday night in Sacramento, the Trail Blazers suffered through an extended scoring drought in the second quarter before falling to the Kings in their worst loss of the season thus far.

Roughly 24 hours later in versus the same team in Portland, the Trail Blazers went on a run of their own in the second quarter to seize momentum in what was a close game. That momentum would stay in Portland’s favor for the duration of the second half, with the Trail Blazers going on to beat the Kings 102-90 in from of a sellout crowd of 19,522 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“I liked our demeanor,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “After being disappointed last night and struggling with the offense, to come back and the way we set the tone — I think our first five baskets were assisted — I thought that set a good tone for the rest of the night. Defensively we were solid until late fourth quarter, which has kind of become what we do, but after last night’s struggles offensively, to come back and have this type of game was encouraging.”

The Trail Blazers are now 9-7 overall and 7-4 at the Moda Center this season. The victory is the Trail Blazers’ ninth straight at home against the Kings and their ninth in the their last 11. Portland has now won three home games in a row for the first time this season.

After taking a 21-20 lead into the second quarter, the Trail Blazers found themselves trailing with just over six minutes to play in the first half. But Portland would finish the half off with a 25-10 run to take a 53-41 lead into the intermission.

An 8-1 run to start the second half pushed Portland’s lead to 21 after a CJ McCollum three-pointer with 9:33 to play in the third. Sacramento used a 10-1 run to get back into the game, but Portland answered right back with a 10-2 run of their own to take their largest lead at 22 with just under two minutes to play in the third after an Ed Davis layup.

Sacramento’s 10-2 run between the end of the third and the first few minutes of the fourth cut Portland’s lead to 12 with just over 10 minutes to play in regulation, which momentarily gave the impression that perhaps the Trail Blazers would once again find themselves in a close game. But a Damian Lillard 13-footer with under five minutes to play pushed the lead back to 20, which was more than enough cushion to coast to victory.

“It was a great win for us," said Lillard. "Obviously a tough loss last night on the road. We knew that we had to have this one even more so than we had to last night, especially going on a long road trip. So it was a great win. I thought we had a little bit of a fight on our hands to start the game. They had a lot of confidence, I think that to do with how the game went last night. They competed. They’re a team that always plays hard regardless of what their record is. We did what we needed to do and pulled away and got the win."

The Trail Blazers were led by CJ McCollum, who went 9-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 from three to finish with 25 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in just under 35 minutes.

Lillard went 8-of-18 from the field for 22 points to go with six assists, and two rebounds in 34 minutes. Jusuf Nurkić, coming of a four-point performance the night before, went for 14 points on 50 percent shooting, seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists in 25 minutes.

Portland bench, a complete no-show in Friday's loss, came up big Saturday night, combining for 35 points. Reserves Meyers Leonard and Shabazz Napier both finished with 11 points.

Six Kings players scored in double figures led by 18 points off the bench from Willie Cauley-Stein and 17 from veteran forward Zach Randolph.

After playing 11 of their last 13 games at home, the Trail Blazers now head out for their first five-game road trip of the 2017-18 season, which starts Monday night in Memphis versus the Grizzlies. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.