It wasn't easy, but the Trail Blazers accomplished what they set out to do at the beginning of this week.
After riding a four-game losing streak, the Blazers didn’t roll over and limp into the All-Star break.
They did the opposite.
Thursday night, led by Damian Lillard and Enes Kanter, Portland looked determined to not have the Kings play spoiler.
And in the final three minutes it was Portland’s powerhouse duo that helped the Blazers finish their three-game homestead, 3-0 with a 123-119 victory over the Kings.
The Blazers wrapped up the first half of the season with a 21-14 overall record and a 11-6 home record.
That's good for fifth out west.
Thursday night, Lillard dropped 42, while Kanter stepped up once again down low.
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 and he and Kanter made the Kings work.
Especially in the final three minutes.
With Kanter's scoring and rebounding late in the game coupled with Lillard Time, the Kings couldn't withstand the Blazers.
It was at the defensive end that caught the eye of Kanter's head coach.
Kanter blocked De'Aaron Fox's driving layup attempt with 2:46 remaining in the game and the Blazers up one. He was also key in the second to last Kings possession when Fox tossed his free throw attempt towards the rim in order to let his teammates work to snag the rebound with Sacramento down two.
But, it was Kanter instead who secured the board right before the play was under review to see if the ball did, in fact, hit the rim.
So Blazers' ball.
And Blazers' win.
Lillard recorded 44 points and seven assists, while Kanter brought the energy all night, adding 22 points and 21 rebounds.
Thursday's game marked the first time in franchise history that the Blazers have had a player score 40+ points and another player add 20+ points and 20+ rebounds in the same game, according to Stats By STATS.
It's Kanter’s ninth game of his career with 20+ rebounds.
But it’s no biggie for the big man.
“That’s what I do,” Kanter said with a big smile about his 20/20 game. “I told my coaches like, ‘hey, this is the last game before the break so let me go out there and just play… I just try to go out there and do my job.”
Ahead of Thursday’s contest, the Blazers announced that Jusuf Nurkic will be re-evaluated next week as he continues to progress in his rehab on his broken right wrist.
Portland has been without Nurkic since Jan. 14.
But with the Bosnian Beast out, the Blazers have relied on the Turkish Warrior.
Lillard has been proud of the way Kanter has taken on the challenges of transitioning from a backup center to a starter with Nurkic out for the last 22 games.
“He’s embracing it," Lillard said of Kanter. "I think that speaks the loudest to our team – whatever we ask him to do, whatever we need of him -- he’s going out there and he’s giving us his best effort and he cares.”
But right now as the Blazers head into the break, Kanter is truly caring about one thing:
Getting Nurkic back.
“I cannot wait for Nurk to come back because once he’s back, we are going to have an amazing, amazing team… I’m so excited.”
Rip City shares in your excitement, Enes.