PORTLAND, Ore. -- Every once in a while, a moment happens in a game that doesn’t really show up in the box score, and means a lot more than any point or rebound. Alex Len had one of those moments Saturday against the Trail Blazers.
Down big coming out of the intermission, the Blazers came out in the third quarter with a chip on their shoulder. 53 seconds into the quarter, former King, Trevor Ariza went hard to the basket. Standing in his way was Harry Giles and the situation turned ugly.
Giles stood straight up and down lept into the air and then caught an Ariza knee to the groin. Giles went down in a heap and even picked up a foul for his trouble.
The second-year center went to the bench and then the locker room to make sure he hadn’t done permanent damage and coach Luke Walton turned to 7-footer Alex Len to eat sometime.
At the 8:50 mark of the quarter, a little over two minutes later, Len set a hard screen on CJ McCollum. McCollum went back for more and Len popped him again.
Then there was a push and another and then two players, one 7-foot tall and the other 6-foot-3, faced off for a standard NBA “fight”.
No blood was shed, but a statement was clear - the Sacramento Kings are here to beat you on your home floor and they aren’t going to get pushed around.
“I think that’s Alex’s second scuffle already, what you would call a fight in today’s NBA,” Walton said following the 123-111 win. “We love it. We don’t want any fights, we don’t want anyone to ever get hurt, but we need to play with an edge. The only way you play with an edge is to have guys with that in their makeup.”
Sacramento responded following the stoppage where both McCollum and Len were assessed technical fouls. Minutes later they pushed their lead to 25 and the game was all but over.
“We need that, we need that,” Richaun Holmes said. “Alex has brought a lot of attitude and toughness to this team. We talk about making this playoff push and it’s the little things, we need that. He’s not going to back out from anybody and it was good to see.”
McCollum didn’t see the incident in the same way the Kings did, although he was clear that frustrations were high with the Blazers.
“The game wasn’t going well for us ... a lot of things,” McCollum said. “I felt he could have moved, he didn’t need to stand there and keep screening me. It is what it is.”
"I didn’t like how he screened and how he put his hands on me -- I just didn’t like,” McCollum said.
No punches were thrown, but by NBA standards, it was shocking that no one was tossed from the game. Len certainly was ready to get physical and take the skirmish to another level and according to McCollum, he was as well.
“They ain’t let me swing, at least let me swing first if you’re going to throw me out,” McCollum said. “Let me work on my stuff. I work all summer on my hands, at least let me use them.”
“If they didn’t grab me, you know, you would have been able to see something,” McCollom added.
For the record, Len outweighs McCollum by over 50 pounds and has a minimum of nine inches in height. Len also boasts a 7-foot-3.5-inch wingspan to McCollum’s 6-foot-6.5-inch. The Kings’ reserve center has a clear height, weight and reach advantage, but you never know.
Len didn’t stick around to make a comment following the win. We’ll have to wait until Sunday or Monday to see if the league has more to say on the matter.
This was the first Kings win in Portland since Dec. 8, 2012, a span of 12 games. They now have an 18-88 record on the road against the Trail Blazers since moving to Sacramento before the 1985-86 season.
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It's only one game, but the Kings are showing that they aren't going to back down from anyone. Len is a part of that identity, no matter how much he plays moving forward. After a solid road win, the Kings will be tested again on Sunday on the second night of a back-to-back when the Toronto Raptors swing by Golden 1 Center.
With 19 games remaining, the Kings have a shot to snap their 13-year postseason drought, but they'll need a lot more nights like the one against the Blazers on Saturday.