Trail Blazers, Kings turn around and meet again

PORTLAND, Ore. --- Just as soon as the Portland Trail Blazers seem to find a rhythm, they seem to take a significant step in reverse.

A month into the season, the inconsistency from Rip City's basketball team may have coach Terry Stotts considering ripping out his hair.

Asked Friday what he might consider to end the trend, the coach didn't have a long-winded answer.

"Anything," he said.

Stotts spoke out of frustration after the Trail Blazers were held to a season-low scoring output in an 86-82 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Portland gets another shot Saturday against a team it normally uses to fix its problems when it hosts Sacramento at the Moda Center in the second of back-to-back, home-and-home matchups.

The Trail Blazers have been held below 100 in five straight games and are averaging 94.8 points in that stretch. They are shooting 43.6 percent from the floor in those games, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range.

Overall, they are managing 103.1 points per game, good for 17th in the league.

"Still a little slow, yeah," guard Damian Lillard said. "We haven't had a good rhythm and flow to our offense. And it might sound crazy, but I'm not really concerned. It doesn't concern me, because we've always been a good offensive team, and it changes us improving on the defensive end. I just have faith that offense is going to come around."

The Trail Blazers (8-7) have been much more consistent defensively. They held the Kings to 42.4 percent shooting on Friday, and are limiting opponents to 98.0 points per game (third best in the league) and 43.5 percent shooting (seventh).

But they shoot just 43.5 percent themselves (23rd), and they're averaging a league-worst 4.1 fast-break points per game. Against Sacramento, the Trail Blazers didn't have any.

"I guess that's part of our identity," Stotts said. "As much as we try to push it, for whatever reason, those fast-break points aren't there for us."

The Kings (4-11) will play on the road for the fourth time in five games, and the previous three haven't treated them well. Sacramento went 0-3 and lost by an average of 30.3 points during an East Coast trip that preceded this home-and-home set.

They've lost eight straight on the road by an average 20.5 points per game.

Sacramento has lost eight consecutive games in Portland, but it got a season-best 22 points and 10 rebounds from center Willie Cauley-Stein in the victory on Friday night.

"I'm starting to unlock something in the game that I've been working on for a long time," Cauley-Stein said. "The drive-and-kicks, getting in space and shooting jumpers now that spacing on the floor is right."

The Kings remain the league's second-worst offensive team, averaging just 93.1 points per game. They've been held below 90 in two straight games and 100 in four straight. They have cracked the century mark only three times this season.

But the Kings to a man said they were much happier with the level of fight they saw against the Trail Blazers, a quality that had been missing in previous games on the road.

"Each guy really competed," Joerger said. "They displayed great toughness getting loose balls ... and we did a great job of hustling down (the court) and (blocking) out guys to get rebounds."
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