A season-long roadie behind them, the Trail Blazers are happy to be home for the holidays. Well, the holiday shopping season at least.
We're live at the Rose Garden as the Blazers host the
Anaheim Virginia Beach Sacramento (for now) Kings in a nationally televised NBA soiree that tips off six home games over the next two weeks for Portland.
The last fortnight? Two overtime wins and five losses, though as reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month Damian Lillard sees it, it could've been better. Or, y'know, much worse.
"We dropped the first four games, the first two we could have easily won," Lillard said. "But on the other hand, the two that we won were in overtime and we could have dropped all seven. But I think it was good for us going through some growing pains, kind of like it's been the whole season."
So show me that smile again, Blazer fans! Then click past the jump and follow along as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the floor.
Like this match-up? You're in luck! These sides meet twice more between tonight and Dec. 26. The Blazers already overthrew the Kings once this season, hammering them 103-86 in Sac-town on Nov. 13. Ah, but the Kings have won two straight and feature up-and-comers DeMarcus Cousins (16 points, 10 rebounds per game) and Tyreke Evans (15/9), along with former Duck Aaron Brooks. Evans is questionable tonight with a sore left knee, and after two nights without a game, the Blazers should be plenty fresh for a Kings team that's yet to win on the road.
Sacramento (6-12, 13th in West)—G Aaron Brooks, G Francisco Garcia, F John Salmons, F Jason Thompson, C DeMarcus Cousins.
Portland (8-11, 12th in West)—G Damian Lillard, G Wesley Matthews, F Nicolas Batum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, C JJ Hickson.
11:01—Salmons nails a fall-back three in the right corner to give the Kings an early 5-2 lead. He's not exactly known for his 3-point shooting, so tough to blame the Portland defense for giving Salmons a look that one.
10:18—Hickson strong to the rim off a savvy pass from Lillard for the foul +1. Hickson misses his free throw, but the Blazers control the rebound and Aldridge hits a baseline jumper to give Portland an 8-6 lead. Portland on a six-point run.
8:37—Aldridge looks a bit rusty at the start. Misses a pair of free throws, then on Portland's next possession, LA loses the rock as he dribbles into the paint.
7:19—Blazers commit their third turnover and Garcia with a breakaway that leads to a Portland goaltending. Batum comes away from the play walking a bit gingerly, holding his lower back.
6:15—Thompson hits a jumper and Sacto is on a nine-point run. Portland coach Terry Stotts has seen enough and the Blazers call a timeout down 16-9. Joel Freeland checks in for Portland coming out of the break.
6:02—Portland comes out of a timeout and Batum throws one out of bounds. He doesn't look right and neither does the Blazers' offense—they have six turnovers in as many minutes.
5:05—Luke Babbitt checks in for Batum, who's definitely laboring a bit out there. Batum goes to the end of the bench, but not down the tunnel.
3:06—Babbitt airmails a 3-pointer from in front of the Blazer bench and Freeland picks up a foul going for a rebound. Here comes Meyers Leonard, who leads the Blazers reserves with five points per game.
2:38—Timeout on the floor after Portland commits its seventh turnover. To say they Blazers look sluggish is a bit of an understatement. Kings lead, 22-14.
1:23—Thompson backs down Aldridge and hooks one in +1. Aldridge picks up his second foul and the Kings with their biggest lead of the night, 28-16. Jared Jeffries checks in for Aldridge.
0:27.6—On the floor to close out the quarter for Portland are Lillard, Babbitt, Leonard, Jeffries and Nolan Smith. The result of that lineup? A step-back jumper from Jeffries that caps off a rather ugly possession.
0:00—Marcus Thornton makes Portland pay for its ninth turnover, hitting a jumper with .3 seconds left. Not a pretty first quarter for the Blazers, who trail 30-18.
10:48—Babbitt drains back-to-back 3s and Portland cuts the Sacramento's lead in half. Kings lead 30-24, but Babbitt has picked up the crowd a bit after a tepid first quarter.
8:42—Leonard elbows Babbitt in the face as the two battle for a rebound off a Robinson free-throw miss. Same team, fellas!
6:46—Aldridge checks back in as the Blazers trail, 33-24. Portland now with 10 turnovers. LA makes his presence known immediately with a nice look to Matthews on the baseline, and Wes dunks it home.
5:07—As is his custom, Matthews forces his way into the action, scoring five straight points. First, it's a step-back 3-pointer as the shot clock winds down, then off a steal, he gets out ahead for a breakaway layup. Kings lead 35-31, but they're 1-of-11 from the field this quarter and Portland has all the mo'.
3:03—After a flurry of sloppy play, Aldridge brings Portland within two with a pair of free throws. Kings bring their starters back while the Blazers bring in Babbitt. Kings lead 37-35.
0:54—Did I mention sloppy play? Blazers have a chance to take the lead on three straight possessions, but the offense looks lost as a pair 3-point attempts to close out wandering possession fly off the mark. Both teams are struggling to get anything going offensively, each shooting below 35% from the field. Aldridge checks out with three fouls, and Babbitt pulls Portland within a point on a free throw. Sacramento leads, 39-38.
0:35—Matthews ties it up at 41 with a 3-pointer from the right corner. Nice drive and dish by Lillard set it up.
Halftime—Sacramento leads 43-41 after a not-so-banner start for either side. Blazers with 11 turnovers and shooting 35%. Think that's rough? The Kings are firing at a 31% clip from the field. Yikes. Matthews leads all scorers with 12 points, while Aldridge and Babbitt have nine each. Lots of missed Blazer shots have meant lots of rebounds for Hickson, who has 10 so far. Thompson and Cousins lead the Kings with nine points.
12:00—Batum back on the floor.
10:43—Sacramento's first two possessions: Garcia drains a 3 from the right corner, then Brooks hits one from the same spot. Kings lead 49-41 as Portland is slow to get out of the locker room.
8:48—And now Salmons drains back-to-back 3s, because of course he does. Just like that, Sacramento goes up 55-47.
7:58—Cousins drives to the hoop and draws the defense, leaving Thompson for an uncontested two-handed slam. Stotts calls a timeout and the Kings are rolling, up 57-47.
7:20—Blazers with a 4-on-1 breakaway and Aldridge goes for the tomahawk jam over an invisible Byron Mullens, but LA awkwardly catches all back iron. He's fouled on the way to the hoop, however, and Aldridge hits both free throws to pull the Blazers within six, 57-51.
6:20—Lillard with a quick burst into the lane for for a layup that splits the Sacramento defense. There's that fast first step, and there's the Rose Garden crowd.
5:31—Whoa. Now Lillard turns on the jets and streaks through the line for a one-handed dunk. He showed another gear there, and the result is more material for what's becoming a nice highlight reel. Kings still lead, 63-57.
4:35—Salmons(!) goes strong to the hoop and picks up the foul. He'll convert the free throw and Sacramento leads 66-59.
3:50—Brooks drains a 3 over Lillard and the Kings are back up by double digits. Matthews comes up limping a bit after the play.
2:49—Matthews checks out and is favoring his right foot on the way to the bench. Sasha Pavolic checks in and drains a 3-ball from the left corner.
1:49—After draining a 3-ball of his own, Batum goes strong to the hole and goes down hard, holding his lower back again. Insult to injury? Batum is called for an offensive foul. And now he's walking rather stiff-legged off the floor, and after missing most of the first half after tweaking his back, I doubt we'll see the Frenchman back tonight.
1:02—Travis Outlaw (yes, that Travis Outlaw) puts the Kings up 77-65 with a baseline jumper. Kings are on a six-point run and Batum is laying on the floor next to the Blazers bench, getting his lower back stretched out.
End of third—The Kings lead 77-65 behind 17 points and 12 rebounds from Cousins. An ugly quarter for Portland, which sent both Matthews and Batum back to the locker room with injuries.
12:00—Matthews emerged from the tunnel during the quarter break, but he's not back on the floor just yet. A national audience not exactly being treated to a shootout here: Both teams are shooting 38% from the field.
11:50—Salmons backs down Freeland and scores to give the Kings a 14-point lead. Salmons with a season-best 16 in this one.
10:31—Aldridge picks up his fifth foul on a loose ball. Fans hate the call, but LA mugged Cousins on his way to the hoop, on the rebound and then during the battle for the ball. Hickson on for the Blazers.
9:59—Matthews is down and in pain. He goes down in a heap in the left corner and Portland calls a timeout. Matthews tries to stand up during the Kings' possession, but couldn't put any weight on his left foot. Out of the timeout, Matthews is helped up and walks off under his own power, though quite gingerly. He'll head straight back to the locker room and Lillard will come on for Portland.
9:01—Cousins flips one in left-handed and the Kings lead by 15. Their biggest lead of the night and it's not looking good for Portland.
8:13—Salmons is having himself a night. Now he backs down a much smaller Ronnie Price and hits one in the lane. Kings lead 86-71.
6:55—Portland making their last stand. Lillard hits a step-back 3-pointer and it's 86-76 Sacramento. After a fruitless Kings possession, Lillard dials up another, but his miss is followed up by an Aldridge dunk attempt that flies into the third row. Sacramento ball.
6:01—Outlaw says "remember me?" to the Rose Garden crowd, nailing a fallaway 3 from the left corner to put Sacramento back up 15. Kings lead 91-76 and folks are starting to head to the exits. Outlaw, by the way, has doubled his season average in points tonight.
5:30—Now Outlaw nails a 20-foot spot-up jumper. He's trolling at this point.
4:40—Thomas drains a 3-pointer from the left wing and Sacto is up 20. And the Kings are well on their way to their first road win of the season.
3:16—Blazers with their 17th turnover that leads to a 3-on-1 break for the Kings. Thompson is fouled on his way to the rim, but before he takes 'em, we have a timeout on the floor. Kings lead 96-78 and Stotts takes Aldridge out of the game. Following suit, Blazers staff is taking the monitors off press row.
2:31—Outlaw nails yet another jumper. He now has a season-high 11 points, all in this quarter.
FINAL: Kings win, 99-80. Sacramento wins their first road game of the season behind 19 points each from Salmons and Cousins.
A disastrous loss after a discouraging road trip, but more importantly, two potentially damaging injuries for Portland. Both Batum and Matthews were grimacing as they headed to the locker room ahead of schedule, and an already struggling Blazers team might have lost more than face tonight.
Portland shot 38% from the field and finished with 19 turnovers—the latter of which Sacramento converted into 30 points. Aldridge leads the Blazers with quiet 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Hickson continues his solid play with a 14-point, 15-rebound night. The Blazers return to action on Monday night, when they host Toronto.