Lillard explodes for 44 points; Blazers hold off Kings

Sports

Blazers won 3 straight heading into All-Star break

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, dives to the basket as Sacramento Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 44 points, including 10 straight at a key moment down the stretch, to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 123-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Enes Kanter added 22 points and 21 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won three straight heading into the All-Star break.

De’Aaron Fox had 32 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for Sacramento, which had six players in double figures. Sacramento went up 108-103 with 3:49 to go on Harrison Barnes’ layup and Buddy Hield’s 3. Lillard responded with a pullup jumper, a layup and a pair of 3-pointers in quick succession

Analysis by Marcus Greaves

  1. Enes Kanters energy is so important to this Blazers team

With the injury to starting center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers have relied on Enes Kanter big time to have solid performances game in and game out. Kanter has provided the Blazers with not just reliable scoring, but he has been an absolute monster on the boards all season.  Aside from the box score, Kanter has given the Blazers some extra toughness and extreme effort game in and game out and continues to show why he is so valuable to this team. 

  1. Big first performance from Lillard

The 6-time All-Star had a very efficient first half scoring the ball. The story has been about the same throughout his entire career, he shows up and shows out. In the first half against the Kings Thursday, Lillard dropped 21 points and shot the ball very well from 3-point range to help the Blazers take the lead in the half.

  1. Poor paint defense

Well, theKings took full advantage of the Blazers thin roster, especially at the center position. With a lack of not only height, but bodies, the Blazers have to be very cautious not to get their big men in foul trouble. So, what we saw a lot of from the Kings, was them emphasizing taking the ball to the hoop and forcing the Blazers to either foul them,  or give them the easy lay-in basket since they had to play conservative. 

  1. Kings offensive rebounding

With the lack of size and depth, this is bound to be a problem for the Blazers and it was tonight. Not only did the Kings out rebound the Blazers, but they dominated them on the offensive boards, racking in an impressive 18 offensive rebounds. This was a huge problem because it allowed the Kings to get an obvious 18 extra chances to score a basket. With the injuries piled up for the Blazers, the undersized squad is going to have to find ways to box out and secure the ball after the shot. 

  1. Transition defense 

The Blazers are not a fast paced team, they don’t tend to push the tempo on the offensive side of things. But, on the defensive side, they really struggled to get back on defense in transition. It didn’t help that De’andre Fox is one of the fastest players in the league and is constantly looking to push the pace and get a defense on its heels and that’s exactly what he did to the Blazers which led to the Kings 17 fastbreak points compared to the Blazers just two.

  1. Blazers 4th quarter defense

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blazers were down by just one to the Kings, but they were certainly not playing their best ball. Once the fourth quarter came around, the Blazers not only unleashed “Dame time” but the defense stepped up in a big way. The Blazers recorded three big time blocks late down the stretch and played some lockdown defense on the Kings which made it extremely tough for them to get up any good shots and ultimately won the Blazers this game.

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