Just as the Sacramento Kings like to do, they pushed the pace from the jump.
Sacramento got out to a quick 15-10 lead, but thanks to Damian Lillard rattling off three threes in his first 12 minutes of work, he helped the Blazers take a 30-27 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Portland’s bench provided a nice offensive boost in the second quarter. The Blazers held a 59-56 lead at halftime.
But with Lillard seeing mostly single coverage all night unlike in Wednesday night’s win over the Warriors, the Trail Blazers All-Star point guard took over on the offensive end. Lillard notched 21 points at the break.
Lillard and the Blazers took advantage of the Kings having the worst defensive rating in the league.
But Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox turned up the scoring in the second half to keep the Kings within striking distance. With a 90-89 lead after three, Sacramento looked like it was on its way to spoiling the Blazers homestead.
Yet, in the final three minutes, Lillard and Enes Kanter stepped on the gas as Portland squeaked by Sacramento, 123-119.
Portland secured the victory after Fox just tossed his free throw attempt towards the rim in order to let his teammates work to snag the rebound, but it was Kanter instead who secured the board before the play was under review to see if the ball did hit the rim.
And in the final 2.7 seconds, Lillard hit both of his free throws to seal the game.
With the win, the Blazers finished their three-game homestead, 3-0 and they finish the first half of the season with a 21-14 overall record and a 11-6 home record.
The Kings were without Tyrese Haliburton (left calf; soreness), Chimezie (right wrist; fracture), Jabari Parker (health and safety protocols), and Hassan Whiteside (health and safety protocols).
In the final game of the First Half of the season for Portland, the up-tempo Sacramento Kings brought the energy and the pace.
But the Blazers were up for the challenge —
Even with both teams playing in the second night of a back-to-back.
Portland’s small-ball lineup held its own on the defensive end for most of the second and fourth quarters. Robert Covington put pressure on Marvin Bagley, while Carmelo Anthony put pressure on the entire Kings lineup with his iso play at the other end.
But it was another Lillard winning performance once again for Portland, whether it was his three-point shooting, the way he drew fouls on the Kings frontcourt or his playmaking, Lillard was determined to finish the First Half strong.
Lillard recorded 44 points and seven assists on the night and his partner in crime, Enes Kanter brought the energy all night. Kanter added 22 points and 21 rebounds.
Marvin Bagley led the Kings in the first half with 12 points and seven rebounds as he also made the Blazers work on the offensive end.
The Kings as a team outrebounded the Blazers 27-22 in the first half with 11 of Sacramento’s boards coming on the offensive glass, which is exactly what Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said pregame that he wanted to limit second chance opportunities. For the game, the Kings out rebounded the Blazers, 51-41.
Portland had its own opportunities in the third quarter to put Sacramento away earlier, but the Blazers allowed the Kings to get too many good looks and Sacramento cashed in.
Gary Trent Jr. had no problem keeping up with the fast-paced Kings.
But it was Lillard Time again to the rescue:
The Blazers hit 7-of-17 from three in the first half compared to the Kings’ 4-for-14.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will now have a week off for All-Star break. Portland will host Phoenix on Thursday, Mar. 11. The Blazers and Suns are scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. PST next Thursday on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.