Rise of the Bench Mob: Reserves push Kings past road-weary Blazers, 115-107

By: Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO — Yogi, Bogie and Bags sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon, but the Portland Trail Blazers weren’t laughing on Monday night.

The Kings got a big night from their bench, who outscored the Sacramento starting five 58-57. All those different contributors signaled doom for the Blazers, who appeared sluggish less than 24 hours after they dropped a close game to the Nuggets in Denver.

“We’re defending, making extra efforts,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We’re a team where everybody needs to contribute.”

The Kings didn’t get their first lead until early in the second quarter on Bogdan Bogdanovic’s jumper that put them up 30-29. Zach Collins made one of two free throws to tie it, but Bogdanovic answered with a 3-pointer to give the Kings a lead they never relinquished. That against a Portland team that’s 26-0 when leading after three quarters, but fell to 0-19 when they trail after three on Monday.

The Blazers were lead by Damian Lilliard, who scored 35 points. But no other Blazer scored more than Evan Turner’s 14. Second-leading C.J. McCollum finished with six, missing 12 of his 14 shots from the floor. Even more than their 14 turnovers, the Blazers’ poor shooting left them at a disadvantage against the high-octane Kings.

“We turned the ball over and allowed them to get out in transition,” Lilliard said. “They play at the fastest pace in the league, so we made it harder on ourselves than it had to be.”

The Kings improved to 23-21 on the season, and pulled into a tie with the LeBron James-less Lakers for ninth place in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz hold the final playoff spot at 24-21, a half-game ahead of the Kings and Lakers.

A six-game road trip that starts with Detroit, Charlotte and Brooklyn awaits the Kings, and likely holds the key to the young team’s playoff chances. When asked if the trip–which starts Thursday against the Pistons–marks a pivotal stretch in their 82-game season, Joerger barely flinched, and instead used the moment to give his post-game presser an abrupt Bill Belichick-type ending.

“We have tomorrow off,” Joerger said.

The Kings begin their six-game road trip Thursday against the Charlotte Hornets. Game time set for 4 pm PST.

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