Kings fall to the Blazers 109-91

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Kings fall to the Blazers 109-91

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Trail Blazers wanted to put Sunday's loss to Sacramento behind them as quickly as possible.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and the Blazers beat the Kings 109-91 Wednesday night to earn their revenge.

"The way we played (three) days ago wasn't us," said Nicolas Batum, who had 18 points for Portland. "We wanted to get back on track against this team. It was so good to beat them in a big way."

J.J. Hickson added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and then ran away from the Kings, leading by as many as 26 points. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard had 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

John Salmons led the Kings with 19 points. Reserve Isaiah Thomas had 12 points and Jason Thompson added 11. The Kings are 1-12 on the road this season - the only win coming Dec. 8 against the Blazers.

Portland has won nine of its last 10 games at home. The Blazers tied up the season series with the Kings after losing to them 108-96 on Sunday in Sacramento, which snapped the Blazers' five-game winning streak. Sacramento shot 56 percent from the field in that game, but after a good start Wednesday, went cold and shot just 40 percent for the game.

"We knew we got away from it in Sacramento," Lillard said. "We focused more on defense. The last game, we just lost it. They took us to the rim and got what they wanted on offense. We just had to make a point to play better defense."

Sacramento took a pounding in the post without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, who did not make the trip despite being reinstated from an indefinite suspension.

Cousins had been suspended after an argument with coach Keith Smart during halftime of a game Friday. Cousins missed Sunday's game, but practiced Monday after the suspension was lifted. Still, Smart chose to keep him home Wednesday. Without him, the Kings were outrebounded 53-35.

"Obviously, everyone played well at home and we didn't have that tonight," Smart said. "They rebounded the ball well and got out on the fast break."

The Blazers took a 62-44 lead into halftime after an electrifying first half in which they shot 57 percent. The game was tied at 37 in the second quarter but Sacramento's turnovers and defensive breakdowns allowed Portland to go on a 25-7 run into halftime, punctuated by rim-shaking dunks by Hickson, Lillard and rookie center Meyers Leonard.

"They just got going and it's hard to stop a team that gets it going at home," Thomas said. "Especially when they have shooters and guys that can go to the hole and dunk."

Notes: The Kings have lost seven of their last nine in Portland. . . . Sacramento G Tyreke Evans sat out for the fifth straight game with a sore left knee that has kept him out of 10 games this season. . . . Portland was playing without G Wesley Matthews, who has missed two straight with a hip injury. . . . Hickson has nine straight double-doubles, the most for a Blazer since Kermit Washington in 1980.

NBA Gameday: Kings SG Afflalo probable vs NBA-worst Nets

NBA Gameday: Kings SG Afflalo probable vs NBA-worst Nets

SACRAMENTO -- After dropping two straight, the Sacramento Kings return to Golden 1 Center Wednesday evening to face the team with the NBA’s worst record. The Brooklyn Nets are 9-49 on the season and in a dramatic tailspin with just over 20 games remaining in the season.

Sacramento is struggling to find their way in the post DeMarcus Cousins era. They are 1-2 since the blockbuster trade that sent Cousins to New Orleans Pelicans and they have lost each of the last two contests by 14 points. They are using stripped down offensive sets as they acclimate multiple new players into the rotation late in the season.

Brooklyn has lost 16 straight and 27 of their previous 28 games. They are a team without a clear path for the future. To compound matters, their 2017 first round pick, slated as fourth overall at worst, will go to the Boston Celtics in a pick swap for the trade that brought in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in June of 2013. The Nets’ 2018 first round pick is also property of the Celtics from the same deal.

OPENING LINE:
Kings by 1.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Kosta Koufos/Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Brook Lopez -- After dealing Bojan Bogdanovic to the Washington Wizards at the deadline, Brooklyn has very few scoring threats. Lopez will see plenty of Koufos early and if he gets loose, Cauley-Stein will move over to help against the 7-footer. On the offensive end, both Koufos and Cauley-Stein found success against the Timberwolves on Monday, combining to score 28 points, grab 17 rebounds and hand out six assists.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 25-35, third place in Pacific

Nets: 9-49, last place in Atlantic

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Arron Afflalo (hamstring) probable, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, G/F Garrett Temple  (left hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Nets: PF Quincy Acy (knee) doubtful.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Kings hold a 1-0 advantage in the seasons series after beating the Nets 122-105 back in November at the Barclays Center. Sacramento carries a 47-37 all-time franchise lead into Wednesday’s contest, but trail the Nets 31-29 during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE:
“Our problem right now is trying to figure out the best way to move forward on a consistent basis and have more continuity. There’s nothing you can do about that. We’ve just got to continue to help each other, figure out how we’re going to play together.” -Darren Collison

 

Kings searching for balance without DeMarcus Cousins

Kings searching for balance without DeMarcus Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team trying to reinvent itself on the fly Monday evening when the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled through Golden 1 Center. It wasn’t pretty. A young and athletic T-Wolves club ran circles around the home team, coming away with a 102-88 victory.

There is a gaping hole in the middle of the Kings rotation left by the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. Sacramento doesn’t have another 28 points per game scorer on the roster. If they have a chance to compete on a nightly basis, it will take a team effort, but also a player or two stepping out of their comfort zone and into a feature role.

“It’s going to take some time,” Darren Collison said. “It’s always going to take an adjustment period when you have a situation like this.”

Sacramento has had very little time to practice as a unit. They’ve played just three games together and had varying degrees of success. They are using stripped down offensive sets to simplify things and the defensive rotations are still a work in progress.

“I don’t feel that the comfort level is there 100 percent yet and it shows a little bit,” Kosta Koufos said.

It’s going to be a process as coach Dave Joerger tries to work newcomers Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield into the rotation, as well as rookie Skal Labissiere, who has spent most of the season with the Reno Bighorns.

“That was a welcome to the NBA moment for me, it just shows you that anything can happen at anytime,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Everything is still pretty new to me. I’m shocked by it, but things happen, that’s the nature of the game.”

Joerger is trying to balance a game plan for his regulars and then pepper in players that don’t know the plays. So far it’s been a roller coaster ride for everyone involved.

“Our problem right now is trying to figure out the best way to move forward on a consistent basis and have more continuity,” Collison said. “There’s nothing you can do about that. We’ve just got to continue to help each other, figure out how we’re going to play together.”

As one of the primary ball handlers, Collison is still getting used to playing without Cousins, like the rest of the team. The star big not only led the Kings in points and rebounds, but also assists. Collison was the beneficiary of plenty of those passes from Cousins and the big man’s presence on the floor opened up driving lanes and spacing for Collison to work.

Willie Cauley-Stein is quickly learning that carrying the scoring load night in and night out is much more difficult than it looks. Like many of his teammates, he hasn’t been a primary scoring option for an NBA team, let alone a player that the entire offense runs through.

“This is the first time in my whole life I’ve been in this position, but this is one of the things I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, so it’s lit,” Cauley-Stein said.

The second-year center spent three years at Kentucky playing second fiddle to players like Towns and Lakers power forward Julius Randle. Cauley-Stein posted 29 points in his first game without Cousins, but just two points in Sacramento’s next contest following the trade. In game three, Cauley-Stein found a happy medium.

The 7-footer managed to drop in 14 points, six rebounds and five assists against the T-Wolves. He’s a quick learner, but trying to replace a player like Cousins, who boasted the league’s second highest usage rate (37.5 percent) is an incredibly tall order.

Patience is needed, but also a little bit of perspective. Dealing a franchise cornerstone in the middle of a season left a void in the center of the Kings’ universe. The race to fill the loss will likely take a lot more than the 22 games remaining on the schedule.

Sacramento will get another chance to pick up a win Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center. They sport the NBA’s worst record, but they are catching a Kings team in a major state of flux.