Coach Michael Malone decided to give his star center, DeMarcus Cousins, a night off on Sunday evening against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Kings struggled to adjust. Sacramento trailed by as many as 19 points, but stormed back to make it a game, losing on the road by a final of 109-105.
The Kings got off to a slow start, trailing the Blazers 30-19 after the first quarter. Forward Patrick Patterson helped cut the Portland lead to six in the second quarter, but last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the half to push the Blazers’ lead to 53-44 at the break.
Sacramento came out of the intermission flat and Lillard took advantage, scoring 16 of his game-high 28 points in the third. At the 6:21 mark of the third and with his team trailing by 19, Malone turned to his bench for some energy. Patterson, Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Travis Outlaw and Chuck Hayes responded with a 13-0 run to cut the lead to six. Jimmer Fredette joined in at the two-minute mark, replacing Outlaw, and the Kings finished the third trailing 77-72.
“When I made that change, it wasn’t to embarrass anybody, but the effort that we were giving forth in that destructive third quarter was just unacceptable,” Malone told the media after the game. “Give Isaiah, give Jimmer, give Ben, give Travis, give Patrick, give (Chuck) a ton of credit because they came out and played the way we have to play for 48 minutes.”
Patterson had his first breakout game of the preseason, finishing with a team-high 27-points on 11-for-18 shooting. The veteran forward played 41 minutes in Cousins’ absence, grabbing eight rebounds and hitting three 3-pointers.
“I was so happy for Patrick,” Malone said. “I’ve been on him. We’ve been talking about his rebounding and I thought his effort tonight (was great). He’s a guy that can space the floor. For him, it was probably great to see the ball go in the basket; he had not been shooting the way we would all hope.”
McLemore had another solid outing, scoring 23 points off the Kings’ bench in 30 minutes of action. The rookie guard is now averaging 12.7 points in just 24 minutes per game for Sacramento in the preseason. After a rocky start in Summer League, the former Kansas star is shooting 49 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” McLemore told media members following the game. “Coach gave me a chance to go out there and show my talent, show what I can do. I give a lot of credit to my teammates for looking for me, creating for me. I was just out there playing my game and letting the game come to me.”
Greivis Vasquez started for coach Malone, but shot just 1-for-8 from the field in his 20 minutes of play. Thomas came in and notched a 15-point, 10-assist double-double off the bench. and Jimmer scored all nine of his points in the final seven minutes of the game, including a 3-pointer with just over a minute left that cut the Portland lead to four. Fredette is now averaging 13 points per game, while shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from behind the 3-point line in his three preseason games.
The Kings return to Sacramento on Wednesday to take on the Golden State Warriors, before finishing their preseason schedule on Sunday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.