Over the last 14 years, the Sacramento Kings haven’t exactly built up a reputation as reliable performers in pressure-filled situations, but boy did they come through on Saturday evening in Portland. Facing a Trail Blazers team that was on the second game of a back-to-back, the Kings leveraged an incredible shooting performance to run the home team out of the gym. Bogdan Bogdanovic put in 27 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 made triples to lead the Kings to victory, while De’Aaron Fox chipped in 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 11 assists, and Buddy Hield scored 22 points off of the bench, including six three-pointers of his own. CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside both recorded 19 points for the Blazers, while Damian Lillard suffered through one of his quietest performances of the season, scoring just 12 points on 15 field goals.
Not only was tonight’s victory important for the Kings to keep pace with the Grizzlies in the playoff hunt, it also granted Sacramento a tied head-to-head match-up with Portland, which could become important down the road. If the Blazers and Kings finish with the same record for the 8th seed, their conference record will decide the two teams’ fate, and the Kings currently lead that race by five full games.
After Thursday night’s loss to the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers, the Kings needed to start strong against a fellow contender for the eighth seed, and they did not disappoint. In a bit of a different look, Bogdan Bogdanovic regularly initiated the offense for Sacramento, and that change-up led to seven first quarter assists for the combo guard. Harrison Barnes led the Kings in scoring, putting up 11 points on 3/4 shooting from deep, while former King (for about 30 seconds) Gary Trent Jr. scored seven for Portland. Neither Damian Lillard nor Carmelo Anthony recorded a single point in the quarter, and the Kings led 40-24 after one.
If the dominant play of the first quarter was enjoyable, the second period was The Dark Knight to the great, but not as good Batman Begins. The Kings knocked down nine additional three-pointers in the quarter, tying a franchise record, bringing their total to 14 long-balls on just 21 attempts, with Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and Kent Bazemore combining to make 10 of 12 from deep. Conversely, Portland’s tired legs were on full display, as they attempted the same number of threes, but made just six of those shots. CJ McCollum heated up a bit in the quarter, bringing his scoring total up to 13 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough for the Blazers, as the Kings walked into halftime with a commanding 77-54 lead.
If the second quarter was The Dark Knight to the first quarter’s Batman Begins, the third would certainly align with The Dark Knight Rises: several inexplicable events, some physical altercations, and a few major holes, but nonetheless, entertaining. The Kings fell into the trap of too many isolation plays, alongside a few heat checks by Sacramento’s snipers, but Bogdan Bogdanovic’s transformation from distributor to scorer kept his team afloat for the first few minutes of the second half. He was responsible for the first nine points of the quarter for the Kings, all three-point makes, and Bogi headed into the fourth with 24 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, a steal, a block, and just one turnover. The Blazers made a couple of mini-runs during the third, including stacking CJ McCollum on top of Damian Lillard in a trench coat to pretend to want to fight Alex Len, but every one of Portland’s pushes was met with a barrage of three-pointers by the Kings. A couple of key buckets by Buddy Hield and Cory Joseph gave the Kings a 100-80 advantage heading into the fourth.
The final score showed the Kings winning by just 12 points, but the game was never in question at any point during the final quarter. Terry Stotts cleared the benches with about five minutes remaining, while Luke Walton stuck with his starters a bit longer, and the Kings were able to snap a twelve game losing streak in Portland. They’ll travel back to Sacramento to take on the 44-18 Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.
- Harry Giles took a knee to his batwings in the third quarter and did not return to the game, although he was on the bench for the rest of the evening.
- The Kings recorded a season-high 21 assists in the first half.
- Alex Len was clearly the casualty of minutes with Richaun Holmes’ return. He played just six minutes, and those only came after Harry Giles’ injury.
- Jabari Parker continued to ride the bench for the Kings. Vlade Divac’s deadline acquisition has played in just one game since returning from his injury.