The Trail Blazers built a lead, squandered it, then refused to play with any urgency until a cartoonish fourth-quarter torrent from Lillard almost pulled them back from double-digits down with less than 2 minutes to go. The Trail Blazers ultimately fell to the Kings 123-119.
Damian Lillard had a masterful offensive night. His 26 fourth-quarter points were a franchise high for any Trail Blazer in any given quarter, ever, and he netted a career-high 41 for the the first 40-point game of his career. In the fourth quarter when the Blazers had nothing going, Lillard’s three-point shooting gave them first a faint sliver of hope, then a bright shining beam of, “could we really come back from double-digits with just 2 minutes left?”
This is one of those times that you wish he were more selfish, more willing to just tuck and run earlier in the game, but (generally) that’s not this team and that’s not him. Maybe it will be someday. Lillard’s 41 came on 13-24 shooting (7-13 from deep), and he added 7 boards and 4 assists. He did have a ghastly 6 turnovers, but he wasn’t the only one to have trouble taking care of the ball.
Nicolas Batum played through his broken finger about as well as you could have asked. He had 11, 11, and 5, but also contributed 4 costly turnovers. He’s been in a mini-slump lately, but at least he’s able to offer help in other ways. Especially given his defense, he rarely looks like a liability.
LaMarcus Aldridge must have felt like he was drowning at times against a bigger and stronger frontcourt. He had 24 points, but needed 20 shots to get there. He chipped in 8 boards, 5 assists, and a block, but, as many Blazers did, he turned the ball over several times (4).
Robin Lopez played admirably, but was not up to the task of guarding DeMarcus Cousins alone, who himself finished with an astonishing 35, 15 and 2 blocks. Lopez had 18 and 7 with 2 blocks of his own. Good, but not Cousins good.
Wes Matthews had his most forgettable game in recent memory. 3-12 from the field for 9 points, with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot an uncharacteristic 1-7 from deep.
Mo Williams was Mo Williams. You appreciated the 9 points and 6 assists, but not the 9 shots it took to get it.
Will Barton hit a three in the first quarter which, of all of the things I thought might happen in this game, was not one of them. I don’t get why Barton played over CJ McCollum in what should have been McCollum’s first game back, but oh well.
The game started with ebb and flow, but after the half became just “flow” right toward the Kings. An 11-point Blazer lead after one was trimmed to 5 at the half, and the Kings opened the third to hold the Blazers scoreless for the first four minutes. It only got worse from there. The Trail Blazers scored just 13 points in the third quarter (a season low). They refused to move the ball and the Kings rode DeMarcus Cousins (35 and 13) and Rudy Gay (32 points), laughing all the way to the bank.
Lillard hit a pair of threes late in the fourth with the Blazers down double digits, but the Kings called timeout and restored order. More poor officiating sapped any momentum the Blazers could have hoped to build, getting as “close” as 10 before some questionable calls (on both ends, to be fair) sat them back down.
Then Lillard decided to get silly. Really silly. The Blazers were down 12 when he got fouled and hit two free throws. Then he assisted on a Lopez dunk. Then hit a three. Then a layin. Then a three. Then another three. THEN was FOULED on a three, and he made all three free throws.
If the Kings had missed some free throws down the stretch, this might have ended differently. Alas, they didn’t until they were up 4 with 3.5 seconds left and it was too late, and one of the most ridiculous, exciting, and tantalizing final two minutes of any game this season came to the end with the Kings victorious.
The Blazers need to get their heads on straight before playing the lowly Orlando Magic back in Portland tomorrow, Wednesday, January 8th at 7:00 p.m.
- Per the Trail Blazers PR Twitter account, “Damian Lillard’s 26 points in the fourth quarter are a new franchise record for points in any quarter (25-Terry Porter, 11/14/92 at GS).” That is crazy.
- Lillard had 5 threes. IN THE FOURTH QUARTER.
- If the Blazers has mustered even 1/5th of that mojo at any points during the rest of the second half… fill in the blank.
- There were 62 fouls called in this game (!!!), or 1.3 fouls per minute. That’s insane. The two highest-fouling teams in the league combine for 45 on average, just so you have some reference.