CK Press Box Report: Sacramento Kings 123, Portland Trail Blazers 119

by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

Recap

Box Score

The way Tuesday’s game between the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers’ ebbed and flowed before halftime, who knew we would be in for a shootout?  Staving off offensive fireworks from the Blazers in the final frame, the Kings held on to win a 123-119 thriller at Sleep Train Arena.

The Kings and Blazers combined to score 89 points in the fourth quarter, the most points ever scored in a single quarter at Sleep Train Arena.  The Kings held off a late-game surge by second-year sensation Damian Lillard, who scored 26 of his career-high 41 points in the final period.

“Damian Lillard is a great player,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said after the game.  “He’s an all-star, like Kobe Bryant said. He’s deserving. He put on a show in the fourth quarter and that was special.

“We have to do a better job of closing games out, making free throws, executing, and not giving up so many three-pointers like we did in the end,” Malone added. “This was a much-needed win and I’m happy for our guys that we were able to make enough plays to do it.”

The Kings didn’t get off to a strong start defensively Tuesday.  They allowed the Blazers to score 60 points on them by halftime.  But the Kings found a way to bounceback defensively after intermission.  They limited the Blazers to just 13 points on 27.3 percent shooting in the third quarter.

Then, came the fourth.

“That’s the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said after the victory.  “I could not wait until the end.  I don’t ever want to be in that situation with the ball in Damian Lillard’s hands.  I’m glad we got the win, but that was a scary game.”

In the victory, the Kings were paced offensively by their two of their three best players.  Cousins and Rudy Gay combined to score 67 of the Kings’ 123 points.  Cousins’ tied a season-high 35 while Gay set a season-high 32 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

“The fourth quarter and the last minute of the fourth quarter, I always feel like that’s my time,” said Gay, who scored 11 points in the final period.  “I love that time of the game and that’s where I feel like I step up the most.  And to see (Lillard) go off like that and me not being able to do anything about it, it was tough.”

The Kings’ 11th win of the season comes following changes to their starting unit.  Ben McLemore, who has started 26 games this season for the Kings, was reassigned to the bench.  Marcus Thornton reclaimed his place in the first unit and started his first game since a Nov. 9 loss to the Blazers.  The change didn’t yield much of a difference at two-spot as both McLeMore and Thornton played less than 25 minutes in the game.

The victory moves the Kings to 11-22 overall, 7-13 at home.  They have the next two days off before they host the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

Notes and Analysis

  • Damian Lillard was absolutely incredible tonight, scoring a career-high 41 points, including 26 in a crazy fourth quarter. Isaiah Thomas played solid defense, but Lillard just played better offense. Thomas, though, found solace in the victory.
  • Rudy Gay fouled out tonight in just 31 minutes, but not before he pinned 32 points on 10-for-16 shooting on the Blazers. When Gay left the game, the Kings led 111-98 with 4:12 remaining and they barely held on for the win. That should tell you all you need to know about Gay’s influence on this game.
  • DeMarcus Cousins dominated another frontline tonight, tying his season-high in points with 35 on 13-for-28 shooting. Cousins added 13 rebounds and two blocks while turning the ball over just twice in 43 minutes.
  • Isaiah Thomas finished this game off tonight at the line, knocking down 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter. Thomas’ 22 points marked the 18th time this season he has scored 20 or more points in a game and added eight assists, zero turnovers and seven rebounds in the win.
  • Derrick Williams played 31 minutes of solid ball tonight off the Kings bench, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds. Malone tightened his rotation and Williams was the beneficiary of the extra minutes.
  • Jason Thompson scored just seven points and grabbed six rebounds, but the veteran forward played solid defense against one of the league’s toughest covers. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 24 points on 8-for-20 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. But this was a 123-119 offensive affair and Aldridge scored just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting after halftime.
  • Marcus Thornton regained his starting shooting guard position tonight and continued his season of erratic play. He finished with three points on 1-for-5 shooting in 22 minutes of action, while rookie Ben McLemore kicked in just two points in 18 minutes. Malone tinkered with a giant lineup that included Thomas, Gay, Williams, Thompson and Cousins, which we may see more of in the future. On a positive note defensively, Wesley Matthews scored nine points on 3-of-12 shooting for coach Terry Stotts.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings and Blazers combined to score 89 points in a wildly entertaining fourth quarter. If the Kings lost this one, there would have been hell to pay. It’s a good thing they held on for the win.

Quote of the Game

Michael Malone on the team getting frustrated with each other:

“Well, the biggest thing with that was, and this is really important for everyone to understand, this is not a demotion for Ben McLemore.  This is not us losing confidence or faith in him.  He’s been struggling and I wanted to put him in a position where maybe he could have more success coming in off the bench.  Just relax like he did earlier in the year, come in the game, get a feel for the game on the bench, play against second line guys as opposed to starting two-guards every night and maybe he’ll have an opportunity to have a little bit more success.  You know Marcus (Thornton), he’s our starting two guard right now.  We need him to look to be a facilitator at times because the reality of it is we have three volume shooters and scorers in our starting lineup, so we need Jason (Thompson) and Marcus to be facilitators and ball movers at times.  But we still believe in Ben McLemore 100 percent and we expect him to do great things for us off the bench for the foreseeable future.”

Video shot and edited by Tobin Halsey.

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