It was a wild ride at the Moda Center -especially in crunch time as the Kings simply couldn’t close the deal in a frenetic finish falling to the Blazers 98-94.
Two reversals from the NBA replay center in Secaucus, NJ, awarded possession to Portland.
DeMarcus Cousins also endured a flop resulting in his fifth foul as the Kings center eventually fouled out with the score tied at 89 with 1:42 remaining in the game.
Portland (31-11) took control after Cousins’ departure outscoring Sacramento 9-5 to finish off the Kings.
Damian Lillard was scintillating scoring six of his 22 points during the run, while not committing a single turnover all night.
In sharp contrast, Sacramento (16-25) committed 23 costly turnovers that translated into 29 points for Portland.
“We could say it’s turnovers but we’ve got to be better with the ball, as far as execution down the stretch,” Darren Collison told the media in Portland. “I thought we played hard down the stretch, just some things didn’t go our way.”
The Kings know what needs to be fixed.
“Just being consistent, find a way to be better about taking care of the ball,” said DeMarcus Cousins who recorded his 24th double-double of the season, scoring 22 points to go along with 19 rebounds. “Those are the big issues.”
Another issue is Cousins' propensity to foul.
While Cousins attracts so much attention and is rewarded at the free throw line as arguably the most fouled player in the NBA, opponents are flopping with the desired results.
After picking up a controversial sixth foul against Dallas in a loss last Tuesday via a flop, Cousins’ fifth foul occurred in similar fashion versus the Blazers.
The Kings are simply not the same without the big man on the floor.
“He’s (Cousins) an easy guy that we use—he, Rudy [Gay] and Darren [Collison]—to put the ball in their hands and close the game out for us,” said Corbin. “To lose him when we did, cut some options down.”
It actually was a boon to have the big three of Cousins, Gay and Collison on the floor.
Cousins missed Saturday’s loss to the Clippers with a sprained right ankle. Gay, who played against Los Angeles, missed the Kings' previous game on Friday -- a loss to Miami -- due to a sprained right knee.
Sacramento is 13-12 on the season when the “big three” are on the floor and are 3-13 with one of the triumvirate missing.
Gay showed no ill effects from the knee or a shoulder strain that have hampered the small forward leading all scorer's with 26 points.
Portland snapped a three game losing streak but was bitten by the injury bug.
LaMarcus Aldridge left the game with an apparent hand injury in the second quarter and the power forward never returned to action.
While Sacramento’s losing streak is now at four games, the Kings remain optimistic.
“I think we’re fine, I think we’re playing much better right now than our past couple games,” said Collison. “Even though we didn’t win I think we’re playing fine because we’re showing the effort. We’re playing more like a team right now and we’re fine and focused on basketball right now."
“As I told the guys inside, ‘Look if we compete and play this hard every night, we got a chance,’” explained Corbin to reporters in Portland.
“We made some mistakes,” said Corbin. “I thought the guys fought their tails off to have a chance to win the ball game.”
THE GOOD: The Kings put themselves in a position to win on the road against one of the Western Conference’s top teams.
THE BAD: Sacramento’s 23 turnovers leading to 29 points for the Blazers were devastating.
THE TAKE: The Kings effort is unquestioned yet their execution is questionable.
If Sacramento cleans up its act and plays with similar intensity, it will win its fair share of games.
If the team does neither, frustration and losses could become the norm.