NBA

Kings-Trail Blazers Preview

DeMarcus Cousins is doing everything he can to try to reach the playoffs for the first time in his six seasons.

Now he'll have to summon the energy to come through in a potentially critical game in a situation in which his Sacramento Kings have struggled.

Cousins has totaled 104 points over consecutive games entering Tuesday night's visit to face a Portland Trail Blazers team right behind the Kings in the Western Conference standings.

The power forward is the NBA's leading scorer this month with 34.4 points per game. He established a career high with 48 points in Saturday's 108-97 win over Indiana before eclipsing that mark with 56 in Monday's 129-128 double-overtime defeat to Charlotte.

The 56 points broke the Sacramento record set by Chris Webber in 2001 and matched Oscar Robertson's franchise standard from 1964. Cousins, whose 128 points over the last three games are the most of any player this season in such a span, also pulled down 12 boards for his 11th straight double-double.

The Kings (20-24) had their five-game win streak snapped, as Cousins fouled out in the second extra session.

''It was a tough loss. I was just sitting here (in the locker room) thinking how a lot of the plays early on could have changed the game,'' Cousins said. ''But I think through all of the mistakes, we all left it on the floor. You hate to lose games like this.''

Bouncing back won't be easy since Sacramento is 2-9 in the second half of back-to-back sets.

The defeat also cut Sacramento's lead for the West's eighth playoff spot over Portland (20-26) to one game. The Trail Blazers are percentage points ahead of Utah for ninth in the conference.

That's why Portland placed extra emphasis on this contest in Monday's practice.

"They're in the spot that we want to be in," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "It's a huge game, tomorrow doesn't decide anything but it's another great opportunity for us on our home court and we're going to go out there and play like it."

Lillard was out when Portland won 98-94 at Sacramento the lone time these teams met Dec. 27. Cousins scored 36 points, and the Trail Blazers are well aware he's probably even tougher to stop now.

"He's a handful," Lillard said. "He could come out tomorrow and have a huge game but it has to be against a group, we gotta make it a tough game for him and make him get rid of that ball."

Lillard will match up for the first time against NBA assist leader Rajon Rondo, who had 20 assists for the second time this season Monday to match the NBA's season high. Rondo is averaging 13.6 assists in his last 12 games.

"Boogie (Cousins) is a scorer and a really aggressive player and Rondo is a facilitator so it works out perfect," Lillard said. "They're both really competitive, they're both really smart."

Rondo guides an offense that entered the week averaging 101.8 possessions per 48 minutes to rank second. Lillard leads the NBA with an average of 8.1 minutes per game of possession.

The Blazers have won four of six after Saturday's 121-103 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers. Lillard scored 36 and C.J. McCollum turned in his second straight 28-point effort.

McCollum had 35 points and 11 rebounds the last time these teams met.

The Kings' Rudy Gay returned Monday after missing two straight games with a bruised heel but may sit out Tuesday due to a swollen eye.

Comments

More NBA