Trail Blazers Close Out First Half Of Season With Win Versus Kings

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers’ game Thursday night versus the Kings, much like the the totality of the first half of their 2020-21 season, was rarely pretty and produced multiple frustrating moments, but in the end, they figured out a way to get the job done.

After a furious two and a half months, the Trail Blazers closed out their first half of their regular-season schedule with a 123-119 victory versus the Kings Thursday night at the Moda Center.

“I thought on the whole, it was a really difficult game to play because of their style of play,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They push the ball, they get to the paint, we had trouble rebounding the ball. In some ways it was a little bit like our previous game where we just kind of hung around and made some plays at the end. I thought both teams had good offensive nights and both teams had trouble stopping the other one.”

The Trail Blazers are now 21-14 overall, their best record at the All-Star break since the 2014-15 season, and 11-6 at home this season. They currently sit in fifth-place in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the Clippers for fourth and 5.5 games behind the Jazz for first.

“We in a great spot,” said Damian Lillard. “When CJ and Nurk went down, we just said let’s not feel bad for ourselves. Like I’ve been saying this whole time, let’s not make excuses, let’s show up and get the job done. Let’s come together, let’s lean on each other and count on each other and find a way to get it done. And we did that. 21-14 going into the break, I don’t think anybody will complain about it.”

The Trail Blazers have now won three-straight games going into the break and their last five meetings with the Kings.

The Kings and Trail Blazers shared two things in common Thursday night. Both teams are in the bottom of the NBA in terms of defensive ratings and both were playing the second game of a back-to-back. Those similarities were obvious Thursday night, with neither team having much luck defending the other nor having the energy to pull away when the opportunity to do so presented itself. Sacramento’s largest lead was six, Portland’s seven. The lead changed hands 11 times and the score was tied nine times.

In short, despite their disparate records, the game was evenly matched, though that didn’t necessarily result in a pleasant game to watch.

But with Portland trailing by five points with with under four minutes to play and in jeopardy of fumbling away an eminently winnable game, Enes Kanter and Damian Lillard went on a 12-0 run, with the later scoring 10-straight, to give the Trail Blazers their largest lead of the game at 115-108 with 1:15 to play in regulation.

The Kings managed to hang around until the bitter end, a fitting conclusion considering the previous 47 minutes, but a few timely defensive plays from Kanter while Lillard, Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. combined to go 8-of-8 from the free throw in the final 35 seconds helped Portland secure a much-needed victory before a week off for the All-Star break.

“I think we’re pleased that we’re 21-14 going into the break,” said Stotts. “We took care of business at home. You gotta wade through it. Losing four-in-a-row was tough, we played some good teams on the road and we came home and took care of business. It’s what you’ve got to do in this league. I like our mindset these last three games going into the break. We didn’t get away from our focus.”

Lillard scored 15 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter on 50 percent shooting for the game. The 6-3 point guard, who will play on “Team LeBron” at the 2021 All-Star Game on Sunday, also finished with seven assists and no turnovers in 38 minutes.

Kanter went 11-of-15 from the field for 22 points and 21 rebounds in 34 minutes. Carmelo Anthony was Portland’s only other double-digit scorer with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench.

Every Sacramento player who scored got into double digits with De’Aaron Fox leading with way with 32 points and 12 assists.

Now the Trail Blazers have a week off before starting the second half of their 2020-21 regular season schedule, which begins on March 11 with a tilt versus the Phoenix Suns at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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