Blazers more fit for Kings
Damian Lillard has Terry Stotts' back.
And the Trail Blazers are back on the winning track.
What a difference 24 hours make: Portland was at least a slightly different team on Saturday in beating Sacramento 102-90, one night after falling on the road to the Kings, 86-82.
"A great win for us," said Lillard, who had 22 points and a game-high six assists at Moda Center.
The Kings looked worn out from their emotional victory the night before.
The Blazers were on a mission and more inspired.
"We felt like we had to have this one," Lillard said.
Stotts said his players should feel good about themselves as they embark on a five-game trip that starts Monday at Memphis.
Portland has a good, albeit not great, 9-7 record that includes seven victories in 11 home outings.
Lillard admitted after Saturday's game that he wished the Blazers were 10-6, and on a two-game winning streak. But he shot back at critics of Stotts over some early-season defeats in close games in particular with a social media comment before Saturday's game, saying (sic): "Everybody that has somethin to say about coach Stotts doesn't know a damn thing about what it takes to win a close game. Players have to play and get the job done. Our coaches put us in position to do what we need to do and we just got to get it done."
In the tweet, Lillard said the Blazers probably should be 12-3 or 11-4 (after Friday night), "but all things considered we will find it and as always get it done."
After Saturday's win, Lillard expanded on his thoughts.
"People think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level than they actually do," he said. "Coach Stotts has had two 50-win seasons and been in playoffs for a reason — he knows what he's doing."
As for the criticism of his coach, Lillard said "I felt it was disrespectful and needed to be addressed."
The Blazers, meanwhile, addressed a few things on the court during Saturday's game, from the very start. Stotts said he especially liked that there was an assist on all five of Portland's first five baskets. "That set a tone," he said.
Things steadily got better from there, as the Kings faded.
The Blazers took the lead for good in the second quarter, outscoring Sacramento 32-21 in that frame to lead 53-41 at the break. They put themselves in control early in the third quarter, leading by as many as 22 points, before finishing the job in a satisfactory if a bit up and down fourth quarter.
Portland guard CJ McCollum led all scorers with 25 points. Center Jusuf Nurkic had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Blazers.
Stotts said he liked his team's play not only at both ends of the court but down the bench.
"I liked our demeanor," Stotts said. "After being disappointed last night and struggling with the offense, to come back and have that type of game was encouraging. … Defensively, we were solid till late in the fourth quarter. Our bench struggled last night, and they were the difference tonight."
Reserves Shabazz Napier and Meyers Leonard each scored 11 points for Portland.
Leonard made 3 of 5 shots from 3-point range and 4 of 8 overall in scoring 11 points. He also had seven rebounds in 22 minutes, and his plus-minus rating of plus-10 was third on the team, behind Lillard (plus-20) and backup guard Pat Connaughton (plus-18).
Stotts said he chose to give Leonard a run because the Kings "packed it it" with two big men and he thought Leonard's range might help Portland take advantage of that.
"I felt like I did my job, did what I was supposed to do," Leonard said. "Rebounded the ball, worked on defense, probably should have taken a few more shots."
Lillard was an efficient 8 of 18 from the floor, going 7 for 11 on 2-point shots.
"Damian did a really nice job of managing the game," Stotts said. "The third quarter, he showed a lot of leadership, even beyond his scoring."
On Friday, the Blazers were more listless and shot 37 percent from the field, going 7 of 25 on 3-pointers.
On their home floor, they were much better marksmen while again defending solidly, especially around the basket. Portland shot a season-high 54.3 percent from the field (10 of 21 on 3's) and limited Sacramento to 38.2 percent.
It was the sixth time in the last seven games that Portland had allowed fewer than 100 points.
"A decent offensive night. More importantly, it was another really good defensive night," Lillard said.
The Friday victory over Portland was "emotional for us," Kings coach Dave Joerger said before the rematch, noting that Sacramento had just lost by 46 points at Atlanta. The Kings lacked much emotion on Saturday.
Still, Joerger said he was "really, really proud of our team" for the two-game split and the effort, particularly on Friday. And he praised the Trail Blazers. "We didn't miss left or right or long, we missed short, and those guys made some tough shots, hats off to them," he said.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 18 points and Zach Randolph 17 to pace six Kings in double figures.
Portland improved to 7-4 at home. Sacramento (4-12) is 1-9 on the road.
The Kings seemed to take the loss matter-of-factly.
"It's always tough to play on a back-to-back," Cauley-Stein said. "I feel like we gave everything we had left over from last night."
NOTES: The Blazers, who have won nine in a row at home over Sacramento, will launch a five-game trip Monday at Memphis.. ... Portland power forward Ed Davis returned as a reserve after missing a game with an injured left ankle. Portland started Noah Vonleh at the position. Davis had a team-high eight rebounds in 22 minutes. … Kings guard Buddy Hield, second on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, sprained his right ankle late in Friday's 86-82 victory at home over Portland and wasn't able to go in the rematch. ... Kings starting center Zach Randolph, once a star at power forward for the Blazers, had no points in the Friday game, going 0 of 4 from the field in 14 minutes. On Saturday, he went 6 of 11 from the field in 22 minutes. ... Joerger called the Blazers "an offensive juggernaut when they're rolling. Multi-talented. We were fortunate (Friday) -- they missed some shots."