Road Woes Endure In Loss To Kings In Sacramento

by Casey Holdahl
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SACRAMENTO -- We’re over a month into the regular season and the Trail Blazers still haven’t figured out how to win on the road.

After going undefeated at Moda Center over the course of a four-game homestand, the Trail Blazers returned to the road only to lose 125-121 to the Kings in Sacramento in front of a crowd of 14,997 Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.

“(Sacramento), they have the ability, if you’re not disciplined enough, they can make you play their style,” said head coach Chauncey Billups. “It’s just up and down, kind of loosey-goosey, it’s not really how we play. But they kind of drug us into that tonight.”

The Trail Blazers are now 10-9 overall and 1-8 on the road this season. Portland is now 0-2 versus Sacramento, the only team to beat the Trail Blazers at home this season, with two games yet to play in the series.

Rather than taking the quality of play they’ve exhibited at home over the last week on the road, Portland reverted back to old habits Wednesday night in Sacramento, primarily going down by double digits before six minutes had elapsed in the first quarter. They managed to overcome that deficit, thanks in large part to a first-quarter double-double from Jusuf Nurkic, to take a 36-32 lead into the second quarter.

The game would be close for the rest of the night, with neither team getting the stops they’d need in order to take control. But Portland’s chances would take a hit after Robert Covington was ejected late in the second quarter for throwing his mask on the floor, which then bounced and hit one of the officials in the foot in what was deemed a hostile act on review.

“It was unfortunate, the rules are the rules,” said Billups. “He sometimes throws that mask in his own frustration, maybe a play he’s frustrated with himself on and subsequently ended up hitting the referee. And that was unfortunate but the rules are the rules.”

After a humdrum third quarter that saw both teams’ offenses fall off a cliff, the Kings would become the aggressors late in the fourth after guard De’Aaron Fox was ejected, presumably for arguing with the officials. Behind the play of their reserves -- Tyrese Halliburton was the only Kings starter who played significant minutes in the fourth -- Sacramento went on a 10-0 run to take a 106-100 lead with 6:35 to play.

The Blazers managed to tie the game a minute and a half later after a Norman Powell knotted the score at 108-108, but would never get over the top thereafter, with the likes of Marvin Bagley and Buddy Heild hitting timely threes to tilt the scales in Sacramento’s favor.

“We didn’t score the ball really well in the fourth but obviously we still had a chance to win the game,” said Lillard. “We just couldn’t come up with stops... We missed shots, they made shots and I think in those situations where you not able to score like we usually are, coming on a back-to-back, you got to be able to control what you can control and that’s get some stops. Just wasn’t able to do that down the stretch.”

Lillard led all scorers with 32 points, with nearly have of those coming by way of the free throw line, to go with 10 assists and six rebounds in 40 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic hard arguably his best game of the season in the losing effort, going 12-of-17 from the field for 28 points to go with 17 rebounds, five assists and a steal in 32 minutes.

Norman Powell shot 50 percent from both the field and from three to finish with 22 points in 35 minutes. Nassir Little added 16 points, three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 27 minutes off the bench.

Seven Kings players finished in double figures led by 22 points off the bench for Heild. Fox had 21 before being tossed in the fourth quarter and rookie Davion Mitchell had 16 points in 30 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now make the short trip to San Francisco where they’ll celebrate Thanksgiving before facing the Warriors at Chase Center Friday night.

“I’m excited, I think every time we play a great team, play really well, it’s a great challenge,” said Nurkic. “They’re rolling so I think it’s a great challenge, looking forward to that game.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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