Simons, Smith Jr. Impress In Preseason Loss To Kings

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

The Portland Trail Blazers once again relied on considerable scoring from their guards to stay afloat Monday night. But this time around it wasn’t Damian and CJ, it was Anfernee and Dennis.

With the Trail Blazers sitting four-fifths of their starting lineup and eight players in total, Anfernee Simons and Dennis Smith Jr. combined to score 42 points in Portland’s 107-93 preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings in front of a crowd of 12,107 Monday night at Moda Center.

“I thought we got accomplished what we wanted to from the standpoint of letting a lot of players play that haven’t played,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “For the most part, I thought we tried to play the right way. Generated a lot of good looks, just couldn’t make shots.”

The Trail Blazers are now 0-2 in preseason play with two more games, both on the road, to play in their 2021 exhibition schedule.

Portland, despite having a week off between their first and second preseason contests, opted to rest multiple players (Lillard, Robert Covington) and play it safe with any nursing even a minor injury (McCollum, Norman Powell), leaving plenty of minutes to go around for those in uniform.

Simons, one of the lone standouts from Portland’s first preseason game, started and made the most of his opportunity, going 8-of-20 from the field for 24 points, two rebounds a block and a steal in 32 minutes. The 6-3 guard missed just one shot from inside the three-point line, though he made just one of his nine attempts beyond it.

“I thought Ant was really good,” said Billups. “He’s continued to make strides and stay aggressive. I want him to always just be confident. Even some nights those shots aren’t going to be falling, just him being aggressive and getting spots he wants to get to an playmaking. I just want him to be confident, thought he was really good tonight.”

As for Smith Jr., he made a strong case for claiming one of Portland’s two open rosters spots in Monday night’s game, going 7-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from three for 18 points while also handing out seven assists in 26 minutes.

“I was happy that he was able to have the opportunity to show what he’s been doing,” said Billups. “He’s just really tough. He gets into that paint, he can spread it around, create opportunities for everybody else, he defends at a pretty high level. So I was happy to see him get the opportunity to play a lot of minutes and thought he played really well.”

But the individual efforts of Simons and Smith Jr. weren’t enough to overcome the Trail Blazers committing 27 turnovers, missing 23 of 29 three-point attempts and being outscored 18-8 in fastbreak points.

“The biggest thing, obviously, is we just turned it over too much,” said Billups. “They’ve got a scrappy defense out there, they’re jumping the passing lanes, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for that. But any time you turn it over 27 times and you’re 6-for-23 from three, you really should get beat by 40.”

The Trail Blazers will now hit the road to play their final two preseason games starting with an afternoon tilt versus the Suns Wednesday in Phoenix. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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