Damian Lillard can’t carry this whole show every night. Not without some help. And he didn’t get much Tuesday night in Sacramento.
Lillard got 27 points on just 10 shots but even his efficiency wasn’t enough as Portland coughed up 17 turnovers and blew an early 11-point lead almost as quickly as it was built. The Kings outscored the Trail Blazers by 14 points in the third quarter and the fourth period turned into another of those defenseless final quarters for Portland. The Blazers couldn’t get stops down the stretch.
Anfernee Simons hit a three-pointer to pull Portland within five points with 2:51 to go in the game, but the Kings found two wide-open threes and a layup on their next three possessions and any thought of a Trail Blazer comeback was dashed.
“I felt like we should have had a bigger lead at halftime,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We had some trouble with matchups in the third quarter. We couldn’t recover from that initial burst in the third quarter.”
And the turnovers?
“Some of it is carelessness,” Stotts said. “Some of it, you have to give credit to Sacramento’s defense. Sometimes, we were trying to make plays that weren’t there.
“We did some good things, but they always had an answer for us.”
They didn’t do nearly enough good things.
“A sloppy first half, both teams turning the ball over and missing shots,” Lillard said. “A few stretches in the first half when both teams were just gassed. We dug ourselves a hole with our turnovers. They felt good (in the third quarter) about what they were doing and got energy from that. We gave ourselves a chance, but we dug too big a hole. We fouled too much. We have just got to be better about that.”
Portland’s bench made only 4 of its 15 shots and Simons had a rare off night, going 2-11 from the field with a pair of turnovers. CJ McCollum helped with 24 points but was still struggling from three, making just one of his five shots from distance. For the game, Portland was only 8-30 from long range.
In foul trouble throughout the first half, Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and seven rebounds in a little more than 20 minutes.
“Too many turnovers,” McCollum said. “Lack of execution. Gave up too many open looks down the stretch, had to play in scramble mode. I think that lack of execution throughout the game was costly.”
Injuries have cost Portland dearly at both ends of the court but that excuse doesn’t feel right when its opponents commonly are missing quality players such as De‘Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, who sat this one out for the Kings.
And already, this team has lost by nine at Golden State and by eight at Sacramento. A perfect illustration of playing down to the opposition?
And now Wednesday they have to arrive home early in the morning to meet the defending champion Raptors, who have been in Portland waiting for them.