The Portland Trail Blazers hope to handle winning better than they did on their previous two occasions when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
In the first of two head-to-heads over a five-day span, the Trail Blazers will face a Kings squad playing its second game in two nights. Sacramento ran out of gas in a 144-123 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
The Trail Blazers haven’t played since Thursday, when they exploded at home for 47 points in the second quarter of a 135-117 victory over Minnesota. Damian Lillard paved the way with 39 points.
Lillard has dominated his career matchups with point guard counterpart De’Aaron Fox, outscoring him by an average of 29.3 points to 14.6.
The Portland star embarrassed his rival with a 50-point explosion in a 2018 Trail Blazers win, then followed up with 26-, 25- and a pair of 35-point performances.
Dealing with a tight hamstring, Fox had 23 points in Friday’s loss to Toronto. He was limited to 25 minutes as Kings coach Luke Walton shared the minutes on the first night of the back-to-back.
Six Sacramento players scored in double figures even though none played more than 32 minutes.
Portland has not responded well to its last two wins, losing to the Los Angeles Clippers 128-105 and to Golden State 137-122 when trying to build a two-game winning streak. The Trail Blazers have followed a win with another win just once this season.
With the Trail Blazers coming off consecutive losses, Lillard took matters into his own hands against Minnesota Thursday, pouring in 15 points in the first quarter. When his teammates jumped aboard in the second period, Portland made it an early run-away.
Lillard acknowledged afterward his early play was critical.
“I need to be more aggressive,” he observed. “Be in attack mode and just lift the level of urgency.”
After having won for the first time in four games, the Kings seemed to treat Friday’s loss to Toronto with urgency. They blitzed the Raptors for 43 points in the first quarter, hitting six 3-pointers and shooting 17-for-21 (81 percent) overall.
But Sacramento’s defense was as porous in the final three quarters as the Kings’ offense was brilliant in the first, allowing Toronto to run up a franchise-record point total for a regulation game.
The Kings lost despite shooting 56.8 percent. That’s because Toronto was even better at 58.2.
Portland will get its first look at impressive Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who bombed in five 3-pointers for 15 points off the bench in the loss to Toronto.
He also found time for eight assists, two steals and a block.
“All of the reports that our scouts and front office got on him was (it’s) the intangibles that really make him a special player,” Kings coach Luke Walton praised. “I think as the game goes on and the pressure comes of the fourth quarter, it just heightens his skill set. The later in the game, the more confidence he gets.”
–Field Level Media