Until the Sacramento Kings learn to play a lick of defense, fans are likely to become all too familiar with performances like Wednesday evening. After building and blowing a 20-point lead in the second quarter, and after building and blowing a 19-point lead in the third quarter, the Kings fell to the Portland Trailblazers 132-126, losing their sixth game in eight tries, having allowed an average of 126 points per game over that span.
Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers, scoring 40 points and dishing out 13 assists, while CJ McCollum flirted with a triple-double, putting up 28, 7, and 10. Buddy Hield looked like his old self for his second consecutive game, posting his first 20-point performance since opening night, ending the evening with 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, while knocking down 8 of his 18 long-balls. De’Aaron Fox was also highly impressive on the offensive end, nearly matching Hield’s line with 29 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists of his own, including five made three-pointers. Not to be forgotten, Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton once again showed his potential start power, scoring 17 points, grabbing five boards, and dishing out 9 assists in 31 minutes of play.
The Kings enjoyed perhaps their hottest shooting start to the season, sinking eight of their first nine shots, including all three of their three-pointers, and that trend continued throughout the first twelve minutes, as Sacramento finished at 68% from the floor and 64% from deep. After Marvin Bagley picked up his second foul, Luke Walton chose to roll with a smaller lineup, and that decision seemed to truly open up the offensive flow for Sacramento. De’Aaron Fox impacted the game at all levels, scoring 15 points in the quarter while also dishing out four assists, and Tyrese Haliburton showed out as well, scoring six points and recording three dimes in just a few minutes on the floor. After allowing a 10-1 run to fall behind 22-20, the Kings closed the period with a 23-11 stint of their own to take a 10 point lead after one.
For whatever reason, the Kings decided to get their horrific third quarter collapse out of the way a little early in this one. Marvin Bagley’s Hali-oop pushed Sacramento’s lead all the way to 20 points with 7:20 remaining in the second period, but that bucket also seemed to help the Trail Blazers realize that Bagley was available on the opposite end of the floor as well. Portland’s guards regularly targeted Marvin in the pick-and-roll, and while the collapse can by no means be placed solely on his shoulders, his lack of defensive acumen killed the Kings until he headed to the bench with his third foul. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were the primary culprits behind the Blazers’ 20-4 run late in the quarter, combining for 25 points in the period, while De’Aaron Fox was virtually invisible after his bubble-esque start, scoring just one point on three shots.
As Edmund Burke once said, those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it, and the Kings sure didn’t learn their history in the locker room at halftime. In a story that now seems as old as time, Sacramento stormed into the third quarter with a purpose, building a 19 point lead before allowing another massive Portland offensive flurry. The Blazers guard core once again punished the Kings on the perimeter and in the paint, and Sacramento had no answer for McCollum or Lillard.They entered the final period with just a five-point lead.
After their charge to end the third quarter, it was obvious that the battle-hardened Blazers smelled blood in the water in the final period. Portland continued to nip at the Kings heels, even when Sacramento was able to build a couple of double-digits leads, and the Blazers led the final six minutes of the fourth quarter. Sacramento will get one night off before taking on the 8-4 Los Angeles Clippers on Friday evening.
Player of the Game
De’Aaron Fox: 29 points (9/18 FG, 5/8 3P), 6 rebounds, 6 assists
- Nemanja Bjelica seems to officially have lost place in the rotation, receiving his second consecutive DNP-CD.
- Chimezie Metu actually saw some non-garbage time minutes after Hassan Whiteside failed to impress in his short time on the floor. Metu recorded 2 points and a turnover in a little over three minutes.
- The Kings hit a season-high 19 three-pointers.
- Four Kings players ended the night with at least 5 assists: Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Tyres Haliburton, and Richaun Holmes.