The first of what some consider to be a two-game “series” between the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings resulted in the Blazers successfully defending their home court once again, proving that the name change to the Moda Center would not affect the performance of those on the court.
Coming off a tough loss to the Houston Rockets in which they could not contain Dwight Howard and James Harden, Portland looked more than happy to welcome the struggling and downright pitiful Kings.
Immediately establishing themselves as the better of the two squads on the court, the Blazers taken a rather ‘slim’ lead into the half but they did win the final two quarters, coming away with a 104-91 win that saw them eclipse the fourth time this year.
Here are some things to love and hate from this contest.
Steady All Around
One of the things that I have been most surprised about in recent games for the Blazers is the production that is coming from just about every player who steps on the court. While Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are still undoubtedly the top players on the roster, the rest of the starters as well as a few bench players have stepped up their play as well, allowing Lillard and Aldridge to have at least some of the offensive burden taken off them.
Aside from Lillard’s (22 points) and Aldridge’s (20 points) contributions, the Blazers saw double-digit efforts from Nicolas Batum (14), Robin Lopez (11), Wesley Matthews (18), and Thomas Robinson (10).
Though each of those individual efforts were great, Robinson impressed me the most. In just twelve minutes of action (likely due to his personal foul trouble) he put up ten points while shooting 4-of-5 from the floor and collected four rebounds as well. Impressive play from a decent bench player.
Sometimes a statistic that is looked over, the Blazers dominated the boards yesterday en route to 47 total rebounds compared to Sacramento’s 31. Of their 47 total, 11 were offensive and 36 were defensive.
Impressive effort from all the guys.
Can’t Limit Stars
Like what happened in their last game against Houston, Portland failed to limit the star player(s) on the opposing team. While these stars and undoubtedly known for their shooting prowess, when a team like Sacramento doesn’t have any real depth and struggles to have confident starters, the Blazers could have sacrificed another man or two to trying to halt the attack of DeMarcus Cousins.
That didn’t happen, however, as Cousins went off for 39 points on 13-of-25 shooting while he also managed to collect nine rebounds. The Blazers must find a way to contain superstar players and force other guys to step up.
Sloppy at Times
While Portland walked away with the win in this one, they may not be so lucky in the future if they keep turning the ball over at the rates they do. Particularly a knock against Matthews — he had five turnovers last night — the Blazers have looked sloppy at times this year and last night was no different.
They combined for 17 turnovers that, against a decent team, would have been extremely detrimental.
Cleaning up their play will pay huge dividends in helping Portland establish themselves as true contenders and really make waves in the Western Conference.