SACRAMENTO – Sparks flew and tempers flared but fortunately no one was injured.
The Sacramento Kings (11-22) stunned the Portland Trail Blazers (26-9) at Sleep Train Arena with the final score 123-119 on Tuesday. Despite surrendering 60 points to the Trail Blazers in the first half, the Kings stumped the visitors for only 13 in the third quarter and forced 16 turnovers on the night. For stretches, the third-seeded team in the West couldn’t buy a basket with a black card.
“We played another good team tonight, and we held them to 43.3 percent from the field,” stated head coach Michael Malone. “Yes, they scored 119 but I thought we defended at a fairly high level. It’s kind of funny saying that when they scored 119 points.”
Sacramento was ahead by as much as 16 points halfway through the fourth when Portland headed a furious rally. Damian Lillard dropped 26 points in the final period (41 total) and 16 in the last two minutes, but ran out of steam when Isaiah Thomas hit two free throws to raise the lead to four with 14 seconds remaining. It was apparent by the Kings’ body language throughout that the squad never wavered.
“When things were rough near the end, we stayed together, we stayed poised,” noted DeMarcus Cousins. “We didn’t get rattled. We just kept playing.”
The Kings committed to swing the ball yet often found themselves crashing to the hoop. Cousins won his showdown with potential All-Star teammate LaMarcus Aldridge with a 35-point, 13-rebound, 2-block and 2-turnover performance. Although he surrendered 18 points to Robin Lopez, the pivot stepped up when Rudy Gay, who was having his best game as a King (35 points, 62.5 percent shooting), fouled out with 4:12 to go.
“I’m just being aggressive,” Cousins explained.
Other positives for the Kings included a whopping 50 free throw attempts, a 46.7 percent rate from 3 and a tolerable eight turnovers. Sacramento has been scattered with its effort and focus following wins all season, so Friday’s match hosting the Orlando Magic will be another test to their maturity.
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On a somber note, the Kings played Tuesday without Hamady N’Diaye who was waived by the team on Monday.
“He’s one of my friends and Ray (McCallum)’s,” said a solemn Ben McLemore. “He was one of the guys who was always laughing, talking, having fun. I’m definitely going to miss his personality. He brought a lot of energy to the team.”
N’Diaye was the only true shot blocker on the Sacramento roster in addition to being a locker room favorite. The center finished his four-month stint with the Kings averaging 0.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in a little more than five minutes a game.
Photo Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacbee.com