Lillard, Blazers aim to add to Kings losing streak

Damian Lillard has been among the NBA’s hottest players and it was highlighted by a 50-point showing against the Sacramento Kings over two weeks ago.

Lillard has yet to get 40 points in consecutive games during his career and Tuesday gets another crack at piling up points when the Portland Trail Blazers host Sacramento.

When Lillard scored 50 at Sacramento on Feb. 9, the Kings had three nights to prepare. This time they are visiting Portland on the second night of a back-to-back and will have limited time to figure out a way to stop the star guard from going 16 of 26 from the field or from scoring 22 points in a quarter like he did in the third period of the Trail Blazers’ 118-100 win.

“When a guard’s got it going like that, it’s tough to stop,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox told reporters after the last meeting. “All you can do is try to contain him. It’s not much you can do about it.”

Lillard has topped 30 five times this month, including three 40-point games. He finished with 40, including the game-winning layup with one-tenth of a second remaining to lift Portland to a 106-104 win at Phoenix on Saturday. Lillard’s latest big game helped the Trail Blazers win its third in a row and for the fifth time in six games.

Lillard scored 19 of his points in the fourth quarter as Portland came back from 15 points down and improved to 10-8 when he gets at least 30 points.

Portland also is 12-5 in its last 17 games since a 17-point loss at Minnesota on Jan. 14. In those games, Lillard is averaging 29.5 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 49.1 percent (40.3 percent from 3).

“I think it’s just my mentality,” Lillard told reporters Monday. “Whatever I gotta do to get the team where we need to be, to continue to move up in the West and make our playoff run, I’m gonna do whatever I need to do.”

This 17-game stretch helped Portland (34-26) inch within two games of Minnesota for first place in the Northwest. Portland also is tied with New Orleans for fifth in a crowded field where 3 1/2 games separate fifth through 10th place.

The Blazers will attempt to improve to 21-5 against sub-.500 teams and face Sacramento before a stretch where they will face Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Golden State, Cleveland, Houston and Boston in the next three weeks.

“It’s easy to get up for Utah, Oklahoma City or Minnesota,” Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters after practice Monday. “But the reality is that it’s not going to be easy. We have to assume that every game is going to be a tough game and however it plays out is going to be tough.”

Sacramento (19-41) is one loss away from clinching its 12th straight losing season after a 118-100 home loss to Minnesota on Monday after being in position in the fourth quarter to win their previous three contests. The Kings are on a four-game losing streak after getting outscored 34-17 in the third quarter Monday and are 7-21 in their last 28 games.

Skal Labissiere led the Kings with 20 points while Willie Cauley-Stein added 17 and Buddy Hield finished with 16.

Labissiere did not play in the last meeting because of a shoulder injury and Tuesday is his fourth game back. Cauley-Stein scored 19 in the last meeting and has reached double figures in 13 of his last 17 games.

Hield made five 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the last meeting and has reached double figures in nine of his last 10 games.

Lillard is averaging 32.2 points his last five games against the Kings. For his career, he has averaged 22.9 points on 43.2 percent shooting in 19 games against Sacramento.