It was too easy for the Portland Trail Blazers at the start Wednesday, and the Kings would say that was their fault.
“We weren’t physical enough with them,” said Kings guard Garrett Temple. “We played too soft, especially early on and they were able to knock down some shots.”
That passive start allowed the Blazers to build a nine-point lead in the first quarter and go on to defeat Sacramento 102-89 at Moda Center, snapping the Kings’ season-high four game winning streak during which they relied on strong fourth quarters.
But there wasn’t enough left to overcome Portland as the Kings struggled most of the game on offense.
“Tough game for us,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “Played a team that’s been struggling but is much better than people think. They can score and they got comfortable in the first half, they got comfortable in the first six minutes, seven minutes. They got too many easy jumpers, too many easy looks.”
Portland led 60-44 at halftime. The Blazers shot 51.2 percent and made eight 3-pointers in the first half. All of this with leading scorer Damian Lillard out for the second consecutive game with a sprained ankle.
“I don’t think we were aggressive enough,” said DeMarcus Cousins. “We know the type of team Portland is. They’re a jump-shooting team, they have a lot of motion, constant movement, but when it came to switching we weren’t aggressive enough. They were comfortable making plays and we just weren’t aggressive enough defensively.”
Portland (14-20) was aggressive with Cousins.
The Blazers were determined not to let Cousins abuse them again, after he scored a season-high 55 points last Monday in a win in Sacramento that started the Kings’ streak.
Cousins had 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Portland flooded the paint and worked to keep Cousins out of his comfort zone. He shot 8 of 19.
“They really focused in on me and you could tell their game plan was to make everybody else have big games instead of myself,” Cousins said. “It was successful tonight; it worked.”
The Kings were without Rudy Gay for the seventh time in eight games because of a strained right hip flexor.
Though Matt Barnes had 13 points starting for Gay, Temple was the only other King to score in double figures, with 14 points.
The Kings shot 39.2 percent for the game.
“Offense was stagnant at times, and then we were behind, we tried to make a 14-point shot,” Joerger said. “At one point in the third quarter there, we got nine stops out of 10 possessions and then we took three, one-pass jumpers. We got a little anxious.”
The win gave Portland the season series 2-1 and a tiebreaker should the teams finish in a dead heat in the chase for a playoff spot.
“It was a game we wanted and it was a good learning experience for us,” Joerger said.
Cousins said the Kings (14-18) have no reason to “get down or get drained, or start thinking negative.”
“This is the NBA,” Cousins said. “We weren’t going to go undefeated the rest of the season. That’s not even realistic. So learn from this game.”
C.J. McCollum led Portland with 20 points. Meyers Leonard had 16 points off the bench and Allen Crabbe added 13 points.