Portland blazes past Kings

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter



PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers gave each other a hand Wednesday night, giving themselves a boost over an unlikely nemesis.

J.J. Hickson recorded his ninth consecutive double-double, LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 28 points, and Damian Lillard showed more signs of brilliance as the Blazers rolled past the Sacramento Kings 109-91.

It was the Kings who ended Portland’s five-game win streak on Sunday, the second time this month that Sacramento handled the Trail Blazers.

This time, it was the Blazers who got the blowout, courtesy a team-ball philosophy on offense. Portland (14-13) recorded a season-high 31 assists, 11 from Lillard.

“During the five-game winning streak we really moved the ball well. We got back to that tonight,” Lillard said. “I just think that shows how much more we trust each other now. We’re just making plays for each other, and guys have enough confidence in each other to make shots.”

The extra pass led to a lot of the 50 points in the paint for the Blazers. The four starters who took more than 10 shots all made 50 percent or better from the floor. In all, the Blazers connected on 44 of 87, 50.6 percent.

“We’re a team that needs to pass the ball and get each other shots,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We’re not a one-on-one team. It’s better when we create for each other, whether it’s screening, driving, passing.”

Three Blazers recorded double-doubles: Aldridge was 11 for 21 for his 28 points to go with 12 rebounds. Hickson had 17 points and 14 rebounds. And Lillard just missed his first career triple-double with 17 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds.

Hickson’s run of double-doubles is the longest for a Blazer since Kermit Washington in 1980.

“It’s a good individual stat,” Hickson said. “But I’m just a piece of the puzzle. I have the same mind-set every game. Play hard and rebound. I’m just trying to do my best to play consistently.”

The Blazers and Kings have been consistently inconsistent against each other this season. The Blazers won the first outing by 17 points, then lost to the Kings (9-19) by 19 and 12 this month.

This was another blowout, and this one was over in the second quarter.

Lillard’s baseline move and dunk gave the Blazers an eight-point margin with four minutes left in the second quarter. It was the first of four consecutive dunks that got the home crowd of 20,545 pumped up.

Hickson took a pass from Nicolas Batum for a slam. After an offensive rebound from Aldridge, Hickson was free under the rim for another jam. Aldridge then got a steal to start a break that Lillard slammed home to make it 54-42 with 2:22 left.

“We got some easy baskets. We got some dunks. That really turned the game around,” Lillard said.

The Kings took a timeout but never recovered.

The Blazers ended the half on a long 3-pointer from Batum to beat the buzzer, capping an 18-4 run to make it 62-44.

The Blazers had 19 assists on their 23 first-half field goals.

Batum finished with 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Will Barton had six of his career-high 14 points in that decisive second quarter.

What the Blazers did in the third quarter was just as impressive to Stotts. The adage that every team makes a run in the NBA did not hold true. The Blazers increased the lead to 23 points less than four minutes into the second half.

“I was proud of the way we came out in the third quarter and didn’t really give them any life or hope,” Stotts said.

The Kings would eventually cut the lead to 13 in the fourth quarter, but the Aldridge, Hickson, and Lillard returned to the floor to restore order.

“We lost down there (Sunday). That was a tough loss for us, so we wanted to come out tonight and just play well, and we did that,” Aldridge said. “We wanted to come home and take care of home court.”

Notes: In a scheduling quirk, Blazers v. Kings is done for the season. It is the first time the Blazers have finished a season series of four games or more with one team this early since they played Detroit four times by December 19 in the 1971-72 season. … The Blazers also tied a season high in rebounds (53) as well as first-half points (62). … John Salmons led Sacramento with 19 points. … Former Washington high school sensation and University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas scored 12 points off the bench for the Kings. … The schedule gets tougher for the Blazers. They travel to take on the Lakers on Friday, return home for one game, then head east for a four-game trip.