Worn Down Kings lose, 112-97, in Portland

by Michael Martinez

Picture by (Steve Dykes/AP Photo)

SACRAMENTO- DeMarcus Cousins has been a treat to watch, notching career highs in points in back to back games. 48 in a win against the Pacers and 56, a Sacramento franchise high, against the Hornets in a double overtime loss. But Boogie looked tired and struggled mightily tonight, which really hurt the Kings who were without Rudy Gay who suffered a corneal abrasion in last night’s ball game. Nobody for the Kings stepped up and there was not much from the bench besides Marco Belinelli, giving the Portland Trailblazers the victory, 112-97.

Early on, the Kings looked good with Rajon Rondo and Willie Cauley-Stein connecting on consecutive alley-oops for the team’s first two field goals. Rondo penetrated the defense well and did a nice job of getting open looks or easy baskets for his teammates, especially Cauley-Stein. Rondo tried to give a team who looked tired some early energy. The team’s ball movement was nice with nine team assists in the quarter.

Tied at 15, Cousins got called for a charge and Coach George Karl was not happy, picking up a technical foul. Once the Blazers knocked down the free throw, Portland never looked back and held the lead for the majority of the game afterwards. Both teams were not too careless with the ball and scored well in the paint as the Blazers led 33-29 at the end of the first. Nonetheless, the game still looked close.

As the second quarter got underway, Cousins frustration grew and Rondo and Cauley-Stein couldn’t continue their hot start. Rondo scored nine in the first and WCS notched eight. Cousins could not buy a basket from the field going 3-14 in the half, but getting to the line seven times and making six of the seven shots. The Kings played pretty good defense, but the Blazers found a way to shoot at a high percentage, 50% for the half. The Kings found a way to hang around even with their offensive struggles as Portland’s largest lead in the half was nine. Cousins had a half time high with 12 points and CJ McCollum had 11 to lead Portland.

With just under three minutes to play in the quarter, Cauley-Stein took a bump to the eye and headed to the locker room. Willie received stitches and donned a bandage on his eyebrow in the second half.

After a tough half of basketball, the Blazers held a six-point lead, 58-52.

In the third, the Blazers continued to shoot at a high percentage and the Kings faltered. Portland put up a 30-point quarter on 50% shooting. Every Blazers player who entered in the third scored, while the Kings shot at 40% and couldn’t get a bucket from their best player. Cousins only way of scoring was from the free throw line and in the quarter he went 2 of 8. The Kings were down seven at one point and could not score on possessions where they had a wide open look from Cousins and a couple of missed lay ups by Rondo. When the Kings failed to cut the lead to five, Portland attacked the Kings defense and went up by as many as 14 points. Missed free throws also kept the Kings from hanging around, 4-12 in third. With three quarters in the books, Portland led, 88-74.

The Trail Blazers started the fourth with a 10-4 run causing Sacramento to call a timeout. Portland’s offense continued to sizzle as they went up by as many as 22. With the lead very much out of reach, Karl took out Cousins, Rondo and Willie to give them some much needed rest after logging a ton of minutes the night before.

In garbage time, Seth Curry put up seven points and gave the Kings a little offense. The Kings turned the ball over six times in the quarter and after a good first quarter and mostly first half, slowed down. The Blazers took advantage of a tired Kings team to put themselves in line for the eighth seed, defeating Sacramento, 112-97. Portland came into tonight’s ball game a game behind the Kings for that eighth spot.

Myers Leonard frustrated Boogie big time and Cousins was absolutely drained. His legs weren’t quite under him, 4-21 on field goals and 9-17 from the free throw line. Cousins had a team high with 17 points. McCollum finished with a game high 18 points. The Blazers shot really well and the Kings did not shoot as well as they would have liked, 41.9%. Seven of Portland’s players scored in double figures, with their leader Damian Lilliard notching 15 points.

Rondo finished with 15 points and 11 assists for another double double as he played an excellent game, but just couldn’t get enough energy from the rest of the team. Belinelli finished with 14 points as his shot looked much better. Belinelli and the Kings hope that he can get his stroke back. Cauley-Stein finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Willie’s defense has been a huge plus for the Kings since his return.

The Kings have an off day tomorrow before they face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday. Tomorrow will be a well deserved rest day as the team travels and hopefully Boogie will find his stride once again. After all, this is his first mediocre game of January, Big Cous has been dominant. The Kings have dropped two in a row now and will look to get back to their winning ways in January on Thursday at New Orleans.

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