And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
The Kings last two drubbings of the Trail Blazers had been surprising to say the least. Sacramento has historically struggled against the Blazers but got great team performances in two blowout victories this month. Portland wasn't about to let the Kings get the hat trick though.
While small ball worked to Sacramento's advantage in their win on Sunday, the Blazers countered Wednesday night by playing big and attacking the paint. This led to a lot of high percentage looks and second chances. Portland scored 50 points in the paint to Sacramento's 36. Off of their 17 offensive rebounds, they scored 27 points while the Kings scored just 11 off of 12 offensive boards. As a team the Kings were outrebounded 53 to 36. J.J. Hickson (14), LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and Damian Lillard (8) outrebounded the Kings by themselves.
Rebounding is probably the biggest area in which Sacramento misses DeMarcus Cousins, though even with Cousins, this is a poor rebounding team. Matters aren't helped when Sacramento plays lineups that feature almost all of their frontcourt players as undersized for their position.
One thing that did carry over from Sunday's game however was the ball movement. Sacramento had 28 assists, just 3 off the season-high they set on Sunday. They also turned the ball over just 10 times. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 6 assists off the bench, but Aaron Brooks (5) and John Salmons (4) chipped in as well.
They weren't able to stop the Blazers from making just as many passes though, and Portland found much easier opportunities down low. Rookie Damian Lillard led the way with 11 assists, and ended up just a couple of rebounds away from a triple-double. Portland finished with 31 assists but did have 17 turnovers. The Kings did not do a good job of converting those mistakes into points, finishing with just 12 points off of them.
The easy looks and good passing ended up with Portland shooting 50.5% from the field. Sacramento was at just 40.7% with a couple of starters in particularly having rough nights. Marcus Thornton and James Johnson were both 2-9 from the field. I'm not sure why James Johnson shot 9 times in just 18 minutes, especially considering he's one of the least efficient offensive players on the team and the NBA.
Sacramento kept it competitive for the first quarter but then saw a huge drop-off in the second as Portland blew the game wide open, extending the lead to as much as 26 by the beginning of the 4th quarter. Sacramento actually made a mini-comeback in the fourth thanks to a spirited bench group and some big shots from Francisco Garcia. Garcia scored all 9 of his points in the final period and his jumper with 4:00 left cut Portland's lead to just 13. Of course, the Kings then proceeded to not score again for the rest of the game.
Sacramento gets to come back home for the rest of 2012, but face two top tier opponents in the Knicks and Celtics on Friday and Sunday respectively. Then they get to go back out on the road, where they have won just once so far this season. It's unknown as to whether Tyreke Evans or DeMarcus Cousins will play anytime soon.
- Third time was not the charm for Travis Outlaw, who had just 4 points on 5 shots after a couple of stellar outings vs. the Blazers this month.
- Jimmer's got some pretty good passing lane awareness on defense, he got a steal or two that way tonight.
- Chuck Hayes had his best game in a couple weeks, although I'd still much rather see him playing next to JT and not T-Rob or James Johnson. His biggest strength (defense) is being negated through his bench role since he so often does not play against the other team's best defender.
- James Johnson is the most frustrating Kings player to watch since (fill in the blank).
- When John Salmons is your leading scorer, you're gonna have a bad time.
- Thomas Robinson, when your team is getting blown out, it is not the time to try to showboat on breakaway dunks.
- Nostradumbass of the Night was ... me! With 10 points to shoot to the top of the leaderboard. Thanks Travis Outlaw!