Kings-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers' playoff push was recently aided by the Sacramento Kings. They're hoping Monday night's matchup with a Kings team they've dominated at home in recent years will further help their cause.
The Trail Blazers (38-36) are sixth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of seventh-place Houston and 2 1/2 up on ninth-place Dallas.
Seeking a third straight playoff appearance, Portland got some help from the Kings on Sunday when they beat the Mavericks 133-111.
Portland, however, has helped itself by winning 13 of 15 games at home while averaging 112.5 points. The Blazers won a fourth straight there Saturday when C.J. McCollum converted a three-point play with 7.6 seconds left to break a tie in a 108-105 win over Philadelphia. They were opening a four-game homestand and play six of their final eight in Portland.
"We didn't do a lot of things well," said McCollum, who had 25 points and a career high-tying five steals, "but we did enough toward the end of the game to withstand their run and finish them off."
Fellow backcourt mate Damian Lillard is fifth in the NBA with 25.5 points per game, and he's putting up 30.2 while sinking 41.9 percent from 3-point range over the last nine at home. He only made 5 of 16 from the floor and 1 of 6 from behind the arc in a 112-97 home win over Sacramento on Jan. 26, but had a career high-tying 13 assists to go with 15 points.
Portland has won five straight at home against the Kings, its longest such streak since reeling off nine in a row from 1996-2000.
Sacramento (29-44) is on the verge of its first 30-win season since finishing with 38 in 2007-08. While they're all but mathematically out of playoff contention, the Kings are relishing the role of spoiler.
"Yeah, I want them to get their plane ticket as soon as we get ours," said guard Rajon Rondo, who had 11 points and 11 assists Sunday. "So any time we can help, that's what I try to get these guys (his teammates) to focus on. If we're not going to make the playoffs then let's help some of these guys go home with us."
Perhaps that resonated with rookie Willie Cauley-Stein, who had 21 points and seven rebounds against the Mavericks after scoring a season-high 26 in a 116-94 win over Phoenix on Friday.
The center is averaging 6.7 points on the season, and had 12 with seven boards and four blocks at Portland in January.
"We're seeing what Willie can do. It's the end of the season and he's playing with a lot of confidence," Rondo said. "There's not too many restraints on him as there were when he first came in as a rookie. So now he's a little more relaxed and able to do things that we haven't seen him do all year."
DeMarcus Cousins is fourth in the NBA with 27.0 points per game, but he only managed to get 17 at Portland while missing 17 of 21 from the field. That 19.0 shooting percentage is the worst out of the 100 games he's played when attempting at least 20 shots.