Trail Blazers Win While Revealing Little In Sacramento

by Casey Holdahl
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SACRAMENTO -- The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 2-0 on the road and 3-1 overall in preseason play Monday night with a 97-83 victory versus the Kings at the 1Golden Center in Sacramento.

Portland started Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkić in Monday’s night’s win, the second time that Stotts has gone with that starting lineup in four preseason games. Pat Connaughton, Evan Turner, Ed Davis and Caleb Swanigan were the first and only players to see time off the bench in the first three quarters, which would seem to indicate that’s the group which will see the bulk of reserve minutes when the Trail Blazers open the regular season versus the Suns on October 18.

But Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was adamant that the nine-man rotation he used for the first three quarters of Monday’s game is not necessarily the rotation he’ll use in the regular season. In fact, Stotts noted that he wasn’t even narrowing in on a rotation with two games left in preseason play, meaning that outside of Lillard, McCollum and Nurkić starting, everything else is still to be determined.

But while the direction that Stotts might go in terms of dolling out playing time in the regular season is still a mystery, what was made certain Monday night is that the Portland Trail Blazers, playing at full strength, are a much better team than a Kings team resting eight players. Portland led by as many as 17 points, never trailed after the midway point of the first quarter and were able to win by 14 despite resting their starters for the entire fourth.

Monday night's victory might have been relatively easy, it wasn't without issues. Portland was loose with the ball at times in the first quarter, committing 11 turnovers, and some of the players looked a bit tired in the second half playing the second game of a back-to-back for the first time this preseason.

"I think more than anything it just reminded of us of what back-to-back feels like," said Harkless. "Just being out there and trying to get back into a real rhythm with real game time. Obviously, we know what we need to do to be better and I think it was a good mental test more than anything for else tonight."

The Trail Blazers were led by Nurkić, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in 28 minutes. Damian Lillard went 3-of-8 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line for 14 points to go with three rebounds, three assists and two steals in 29 minutes. CJ McCollum added 12 points in 29 minutes.

Evan Turner scored all 10 of his points in the first half to go with five rebounds. Jake Layman added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 shooting from three in 12 minutes, all of which came in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Justin Jackson led the Kings with 16 points on 50 percent shooting. Skal Labissiere and Frank Mason each added 13 points.

Next up, the Trail Blazers finish up a three-game preseason road trip with their second game in the last week and a half versus the Suns in Phoenix. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.