Kings-Trail Blazers Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- Since defeating the Sacramento Kings last month, the Portland Trail Blazers have come up short each time when completing a back-to-back set. Now they'll get a chance to see how they fare during their first back-to-back-to-back.
Portland looks to bounce back from a rough trip Monday night when Sacramento makes its final visit to Oregon this season.
Hosting the Kings for the first time since Sacramento snapped an eight-game skid in this series with a 96-81 victory in Portland last Jan. 24, the Trail Blazers won 101-79 on Dec. 27. Portland had posted a 107-103 season-opening victory over Philadelphia the night before.
The Blazers (9-7), though, have dropped their last four - the last three by a combined eight points - when playing the second game of a back-to-back. Portland had a chance to change that Saturday after LaMarcus Aldridge had 33 points and a career-best 23 rebounds in Friday's 94-84 victory at Toronto, but it lost 94-91 to lowly Detroit to cap a 2-4 trip.
"We're frustrated but we have to figure out a way to win them back-to-back. I think that's been our downfall all season," center Marcus Camby told the Blazers' official website. "When we get back to Portland we have back-to-back-to-back so we're not looking too far ahead. We just have to regroup (Sunday) and concentrate on Sacramento."
After falling behind by as many as 13 in the first half Saturday, the Trail Blazers could benefit from a quick start as they open a busy stretch that continues Tuesday against Memphis and Wednesday at Golden State.
The Kings (6-11) could also use a better early effort than they got Saturday, when they were routed 128-95 at Memphis. Sacramento was down by 13 after 12 minutes.
"We didn't have enough once we got back into the game to get up over the hump," said coach Keith Smart, whose team opened its three-game trip Friday with an 88-86 victory over San Antonio.
The Kings are 2-8 away from home, getting outscored by an average of 24.0 points in the defeats. Their point total last month in Portland was their third-lowest in 56 visits there since relocating from Kansas City in 1985.
Tyreke Evans was 2 for 8 for just four points in that game. Sacramento is 0-6 this season when the third-year guard takes fewer than 13 shots after he went 4 for 9 and finished with 13 points Saturday.
Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette had season highs with 20 points and six assists against Memphis, and he could be in the starting lineup Monday if Marcus Thornton can't go after leaving Saturday's game with a stiff left thigh.
The Blazers may be without Gerald Wallace, who scored a game-high 25 points versus Sacramento last month, for a second consecutive game after he suffered a sprained right middle finger in Toronto.
Nicolas Batum would likely make a second straight start if Wallace is unavailable. Batum scored 15 last month against the Kings and 14 on Saturday, although he was 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
John Salmons should return for Sacramento after missing one game with a stomach bug.
Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, who is among the league leaders with 11 double-doubles following Saturday's 19-point, 11-rebound effort, had 16 points and 11 boards Dec. 27.
Aldridge finished that game with 24 points and eight rebounds.
Portland has won five of six at home against Sacramento and 10 of 11 overall in this series.
Updated January 22, 2012