Another fourth-quarter rally ends skid

Portland loses Aldridge, but beats Kings to end three-game streak
Jan. 19, 2015 / Associated Press
Wes Matthews talks up strategy during a timeout.
AP photo.

PORTLAND - Even after losing All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to an injury, the banged-up Trail Blazers found a winning combination.

Damian Lillard scored 22 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:20 remaining, and Portland ended a three-game losing streak Monday night with a 98-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard had six points during the final 80 seconds and helped rally the Trail Blazers (31-11) from an 11-point, second-half deficit. Wesley Matthews scored 17 for Portland.

The news wasn’t all good for the Blazers, though, because Aldridge exited in the second quarter with a left thumb injury. Portland coach Terry Stotts said the status of Aldridge, who leads the team with averages of 23.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, was “under further review.” X-rays after the game came back negative.

The loss of Aldridge added to an already-depleted Portland front line, with centers Robin Lopez (wrist) and Joel Freeland (shoulder) out for extended periods. And without three of its top inside players, Portland got whipped on the boards by Sacramento (16-25), which outrebounded the Blazers 53-35.

“Being relatively undersized, we had to create some offense with our defense,” Stotts said.

Stotts turned to lightly used reserves Thomas Robinson and Will Barton for long stretches. They, along with Lillard and Matthews, were vital in helping Portland own the fourth quarter, when the Blazers forced eight turnovers and outscored Sacramento 31-19.

“I thought Will and Thomas’ energy would have a chance to change the game,” Stotts said.

The Kings were led by Rudy Gay with 26 points, while DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 19 rebounds. But in a game Sacramento dominated for three quarters, the Kings’ eight fourth-quarter turnovers proved to be their undoing.

“That’s eight more possessions that we had that they didn’t,” Lillard said. “It came down to us just tightening up. We got a little more physical on defense, got a little more stingy, and offensively we valued those possessions.”

The Blazers, trailing 75-67 after three, grabbed an 84-83 lead with 5:03 remaining on a 3-pointer by Nic Batum that capped a 12-2 spurt.

Cousins tied it at 89 on two free throws with 1:50 left, then fouled out 8 seconds later.

“That was huge,” Lillard said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the best bigs in the league. It would have been a handful down the stretch to stop him.”

Lillard gave the Blazers the lead for good at 91-89 on a reverse layup. Portland held off Sacramento by making five free throws during the final 1:02.

“I thought we did a great job. The pace of the game was good. I thought we fought hard tonight and gave ourselves a chance to win. It’s a disappointing loss, but I’m happy with the effort from the guys,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said after his team’s fourth consecutive loss.

“If we play and compete this hard every night, we’ve got a chance.”

Sacramento dominated most of the first quarter, and Darren Collison and Ben McLemore hit 3-pointers to ignite a 23-5 run for a 25-14 Kings lead.

Portland ran off nine consecutive points to cut the deficit to 31-27 early in the second. A 7-0 surge, punctuated by Meyers Leonard’s fast-break dunk, gave the Blazers a 47-43 lead 3 minutes before halftime. But the Kings had a strong finish to the quarter, and Cousins’ tip-in not long before the buzzer gave Sacramento a 56-51 halftime lead.

Sacramento continued to control the game during the third quarter, using an 8-0 run to build a lead as large as 11 points.