It wasn’t about just plain field goals or free throws Wednesday night in Sacramento. It was about “three throws” -- and just another reminder of how important three-point shots are in today’s NBA.
The Kings shot better from the field and better on three-pointers than the Trail Blazers. Outrebounded Portland, too.
But what this 132-126 Portland win was all about was the sheer volume of three-pointers made. And who made them.
Portland’s dynamic backcourt overwhelmed Sacramento in a contest that featured a combined 42 made three-point field goals -- the most in the league this season and second-most in the history of the NBA.
And as you may have guessed by now, the Blazers sank 23 threes, four more than their opponents.
The Trail Blazers fell behind by 20 points in the first half but cut the lead to three at the half. But then they fell back by 19 in the third quarter -- and rallied back the same way as in the first half, with an avalanche of threes.
And it’s all part of this season’s master plan. Coach Terry Stotts has said for a year now that he wants his team to shoot more threes.
“Coach has been emphasizing we need to get more threes up,” Damian Lillard said. “It is becoming a three-point shooting league more and more each year. And if you don't shoot enough of them are you gonna have a hard time winning the game. If you don't shoot a lot of them, you won't have a chance to make a lot of them.
“They shot a better percentage, but we continued to penetrate and pitch and take those open shots. I think it really helped us that we were creating high-quality looks. We got penetration. We were kicking it out for threes and if we kicked it out and they closed out, we were making that extra pass.
“Gary Trent had a lot of extra swings tonight that people won't realize, because he made a lot of threes tonight. But he swung a lot of them where he could have shot -- and that led to even better, or higher quality, threes.
“And I think that's what it came down to: we produced high-quality threes tonight. We didn't pass up any, we just took them. We just kept firing.
“I think because we did that, we were able to, you know, erase those leads. There wasn't, you know, eight, nine minutes to fight back and cut it to eight. It was like, we were down 20 and we were cutting it to seven pretty fast.
“You know -- bang, bang, bang, timeout.
“The threes that we created, with penetration and making the extra pass and trusting each other, really paid off for us.”
Did it ever. The 20-point Kings' lead in the second quarter was slashed to 11 in just 1:13 after three straight threes. The 19-point Sacramento edge in the third period was trimmed to nine in just 1:58.
That made those comebacks so much quicker and momentum-busting than they would have been with two-pointers.
The game featured a bit of everything… Derrick Jones dunks -- one off a long lob from Lillard and the other a putback; a sensational first-in-history 40-plus points, 13-plus assists and 0 turnover game by Lillard; and CJ McCollum’s 28-point, 10-assist effort.
And for all the games they have played together, it was the first time the Portland guards had ever reached double figures in assists in the same game.
But the Trail Blazers have no time to enjoy this one. They will try to hike their winning streak to five Thursday night in Moda Center against the Indiana Pacers.