Playoff Hopes Take A Hit With Blowout Loss To Kings

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers might not be out of the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but their chances of making the postseason for the seventh consecutive season took a significant hit over the last 48 hours.

After losing to the Suns Friday night in Phoenix in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated, the Trail Blazers were blown out 123-111 by the Sacramento Kings in front of a sellout crowd of 19,691 Saturday night at the Moda Center.

"It's an understatement to say that we're disappointed with the way that we played in the first quarter, first half," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We didn't play like a desperate team, a team fighting for a playoff spot, and it's hard enough to win in this league, much less when you don't compete as hard as you need to compete."

Portland is now 28-37 overall and 17-14 at home this season. The win is Sacramento's first in Portland in their last 12 tries, a streak dating back to the 2012-13 season.

With the loss, the Blazers are now in a three-way tie for 10th in the West, four and a half game behind the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot with 17 games remaining.

Despite the stakes, the Trail Blazers were thoroughly outplayed from start to finish Saturday night by a Kings team that entered the game essentially in a dead heat with Portland for ninth.

But that close proximity in the standings would not result in a close contest on the court. Sacramento, thanks in large part to remarkably accurate three-point shooting that was due equality to good shots and poor defense, went up by as many as 19 points in the first quarter.

"Some (threes) were contested, some weren't," said Stotts. "They were in a good groove, going into the game I was concerned with their three-point shooting, and they shot them well."

It got worse in the second, with the Kings shooting 58 percent from the field and 9-of-12 from three in the quarter to take a 77-54 lead into the intermission. Portland got the lead down to 14 after a Mario Hezonja three with 2:11 to play in the third quarter, giving a brief impression that perhaps they might shake off the malaise and make a game of it.

But any hope of a second-half rally was quickly extinguished by the Kings finishing the quarter by outscoring the Blazers 10-4 in the final two minutes of the third to push the advantage back to 20 by the start of the fourth.

From there, all that was in question was how soon both coaches would pull their starters and how respectable the final score would look.

"I thought we played like a team that was coming home, like we was counting on being on our home floor to kind of go in our direction," said Damian Lillard. "They came out aggressive, in attack mode, on fire and jumped out to a big lead. We had a hard time getting back into it."

Both CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside finished with 19 points, with the latter also grabbing 11 rebounds for his 50th double-double of the season. Damian Lillard went 4-of-15 from the field for 12 points to go with six assists.

Mario Hezonja came off the bench to finish with 16 points and Gary Trent Jr. added 14.

The Kings, who tied their franchise record for three-pointers in a gam e with 21, had six players finish in double figures led by Bogdan Bogdanovic, who went 10-of-15 from the field and 7-of-11 from three for 27 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes.

Buddy Heild went 8-of-14 from the field and 6-of-9 from three for 22 points off the bench. Harrison Barnes added 20 and De'Aaron Fox finished with 14 points, 11 assists for the double-double.

After starting a six-game homestand with a loss, the Blazers now have two days off to regroup before facing the Suns, yet again, Tuesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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