Blazers Finish Preseason By Sneaking Past Kings

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- It's tough to know what to take away from the Trail Blazers' preseason. While exhibition play is always somewhat of a mixed bag, injuries to rotation players, the level of competition and the odd scheduling of the games made the 2018 edition even more unsatisfying than usual.

But after five games over two weeks, there's at least one definitive takeaway: at least it's over.

The Trail Blazers wrapped up their preseason Friday night by defeating the Sacramento Kings 118-115 in front of a crowd of 16,521 at the Moda Center. With the win, Portland finishes their 2018 preseason with a 3-2 record.

"It was a good way to end the preseason," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We got to look at some different combinations of guys, we got Damian (Lillard) and CJ (McCollum) 30 minutes. I liked the way the group had a chance to finish out the game in the fourth quarter and find a way to win it."

The Kings, playing on the second night of a back-to-back without De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph, trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. But they managed to cut Portland's lead to 57-55 thanks to shooting 56 percent from the field and 75 percent from three in the second quarter.

The Kings would actually take the lead early in the third quarter, though behind the play of McCollum, Zach Collins and Seth Curry, Portland would battle back to take an 89-88 lead into the fourth quarter.

With Lillard and McCollum having already played their allotment of minutes, Stotts turned the game over to Collins, Layman and the bench, including Meyers Leonard, who 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from three in the fourth tipped the scales in the home team's favor.

"I feel good, I feel that I can really help our team win," said Leonard, who finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, an assist and a block in 24 minutes. "I feel like I can impact the game in a lot of ways. Obviously most people see the shooting and the spacing, but being able to finish around the rim and continuing to improve rebounding, much more alert on the weak side in terms of defensive help, defending in pick and roll, communication, contesting shots at the rim, continuing to watch a ton of film. That stuff, and I feel really good and I’m taking it day by day, I’m continuing to gain the trust of all my teammates, the coaches, and again, I feel very good out there, I really do."

Portland was led by McCollum, who went 7-of-16 from the field for 21 points to go with nine rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block in 29 minutes. Lillard also played 29 minutes, as Stotts wanted to ramp up their playing time in the final preseason contest, and finished 2-of-10 from the field for seven points, five assists and a rebound.

Jake Layman got his second start in as many games, going 3-of-7 from the field for 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 20 minutes. Zach Collins got his first start of preseason in place of Al-Farouq Aminu (rest) and responded with a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block in 31 minutes.

Stauskas and Seth Curry scored 15 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench. Jusuf Nurkić played just under 17 minutes and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Six Kings players scored in double figures led by 19 points from both Frank Mason and Buddy Heild.

With preseason now put to bed, the Trail Blazers have six days to prepare for their regular season opener versus LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on TNT and Rip City Radio 620 AM.

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