Kings' comeback effort falls short vs. Hawks
Oakland's Damian Lillard is averaging 24.3 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game in his second NBA season. (USATSI)
Programming note: Kings-Trail Blazers coverage kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (territorial restrictions apply)
While the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings appear to have different defensive issues, they've led to a common theme: too many points for the opposition.
Both clubs will try to patch up their shaky defenses when they meet Friday night in Portland before reconvening Saturday in Sacramento.
The Trail Blazers (2-2) missed an opportunity to win a third straight with a 116-101 home loss to Houston on Tuesday, despite the fact that the Rockets were playing their fourth game in five days.
Portland was again exploited inside, giving up a 54-28 points-in-the-paint advantage. Starting center Robin Lopez was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble while backup Joel Freeland didn't play due to a strained left hip and is questionable for Friday's game.
Dwight Howard took advantage, scoring 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and Houston converted 54.7 percent from the field.
The Trail Blazers, giving up 105.8 points per game, are being outscored in the paint by an average of 52.0 to 29.5.
"That's their (Houston's) style of play and then you throw in transition which is usually paint points, that's part of what they do," coach Terry Stotts said. "That being said, I think we need to do a better job of defending the paint. We're one of the bottom teams right now."
Sacramento (1-3) has lost three straight since its 90-88 opening-night victory over Denver, surrendering 104.3 points per game during the skid.
The Kings fell 105-100 to Atlanta on Tuesday and again had issues sustaining their effort on defense, allowing a combined 57 points in the second and third quarters. They trailed by as many as 19 in the third.
"The defense isn't where it should be obviously right now, and we continue to dig ourselves in big holes," coach Mike Malone said. "Every time you do that you have to fight out of it and that takes a lot when you're 19 points down."
Sacramento made a marginal improvement in terms of 3-point defense, holding Atlanta to 8 of 22 after allowing its first three opponents to shoot 42.4 percent from long distance. The perimeter defense could be tested again as Portland's 40.4 percent 3-point shooting ranks among the league's best marks.
Damian Lillard, the first Trail Blazer to hit at least 16 3-pointers through his first four games, went 13 for 22 from beyond the arc last season as the teams split four meetings.
Offense hasn't been much of an issue for Portland, with Lillard averaging 24.3 points alongside LaMarcus Aldridge's 24.5. Aldridge is the franchise's first player since Cliff Robinson in 1991 to score at least 20 in the first four games of a season.
Sacramento will try to get DeMarcus Cousins back on track. He's 8 of 20 for 19 points over his last two games after averaging 27.0 through the first two.
Thomas Robinson will be facing his former team for the second time. The fifth overall pick in 2012 by Sacramento, Robinson had just two points in six minutes of Portland's 121-100 home win April 14.
The Trail Blazers own a 77-18 all-time advantage against the Kings in Portland, winning seven of the last nine meetings there.