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Kings seek more success vs. depleted Blazers

Sportsnaut
Jan 7, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) drives past Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) drives past Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings look to beat Portland for the third consecutive time this season when they visit the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

Both teams are struggling entering the latest meeting. Sacramento has lost three straight games and 11 of 16, while Portland has dropped six of its last seven games and 16 of its last 20.

Portland will be without star guard Damian Lillard (abdomen) for the fourth straight game while backcourt partner CJ McCollum (lung) will miss his 15th consecutive game. The Trail Blazers are 3-11 during McCollum’s absence.

Both players were sorely missed on Friday night when Portland lost to the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers 114-101.

Norman Powell scored a team-high 19 points, but the Trail Blazers couldn’t keep up with the Cavaliers.

“I thought we played hard, thought we did some things that we wanted to do,” Powell said. “I think we had, again, two or three minutes with some lapses that they countered. Dug ourselves into a little hole, but we were able to respond.”

The setback was Portland’s 10th in its last 12 home games. The Trail Blazers began the season by winning 10 of their first 11 games at home.

First-year coach Chauncey Billups has limited options with his starting backcourt sidelined. And sometimes, there are only so many buttons he can push.

“It’s just kind of tough,” Billups said. “It’s unfortunate and it (stinks) but at the end of the day, all you can do is what you can do. Sometimes, inexperience kind of shows for us late in games. But that’s how you learn.”

Sacramento is coming off a 121-111 road loss against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

The Kings trailed by as many as 21 points and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic stood out for Denver with 33 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

“We tried to give Joker a lot of different looks,” Sacramento interim coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought we did a pretty good job on him. We took the ball out of his hands some, but we made it so easy for the other guys.”

Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox again stood out as he scored exactly 30 points for the third straight game. Fox is shooting 52.2 percent (35 of 67) during the span, but Sacramento has lost all three contests.

“I’m not thinking about the 30, I’m thinking about the loss,” Fox said. “Losing is tough whether you are playing well (individually) or not. We lost the game.”

Fox averaged 24 points in the two earlier wins against the Trail Blazers. He scored 27 in a season-opening 124-121 win at Portland on Oct. 20 and had 21 in a 125-121 home victory on Nov. 24.

Harrison Barnes established career highs of 36 points and eight 3-pointers in the season-opening triumph.

Jusuf Nurkic averages 24 points and 15.5 rebounds for Portland. He had 17 boards in the November meeting to match a season best.

Portland guard Anfernee Simons had just 14 points on Friday after averaging 35.5 over the previous two games, including a career-best 43 against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Sacramento big man Richaun Holmes (COVID-19 protocol) is slated to miss his fifth straight game.

–Field Level Media