Trail Blazers-Kings Preview
After Stephen Curry and mighty Golden State ended their run, the Portland Trail Blazers hope to find the going easier against Seth Curry and the Sacramento Kings.
The Blazers will try to bounce back while inching closer to a playoff berth Tuesday night when they visit Sacramento, which has played well lately despite little incentive to do so.
Stephen Curry finished with 38 points on Sunday when the Warriors snapped Portland's four-game winning streak with a 136-111 home victory. The Blazers (41-37), however, remained just a half game behind free-falling fifth-place Memphis.
Now they have an opportunity to move three games ahead of ninth-place Houston, which will still have five games left after Tuesday. That seems to be incentive enough for coach Terry Stotts to play his starters down the stretch.
"The goal is to win every game," Stotts told the team's official website.
Portland's position is somewhat surprising after losing four starters from a team that won 51 games and ended up with the West's fifth-best record last season. Damian Lillard, the lone returning starter, believes there's motivation to finish fifth again.
"I think it would say a lot about how hard our team worked if we can finish in the same spot that we finished in last season," he said. "If we finish the right way and have our minds right then that's definitely a possibility."
There doesn't appear to be much of a difference in the potential matchups. The Blazers were blown out twice in three meetings with Oklahoma City and dropped the last three of their four-game season series with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Every matchup is going to be tough in the playoffs," CJ McCollum said. "We're going to have our hands full. We just want to give ourselves the best chance."
Portland should be able to take a step forward eight days after building a 28-point lead in cruising to a 105-93 home win over the Kings. Allen Crabbe led the way with 21 points off the bench as the Blazers were able to rest starters in the fourth quarter.
Lillard has averaged 30.7 points while hitting 14 of 26 from 3-point range in his last three trips to Sacramento (31-46). He got back on track Sunday with 38 points and four 3s after averaging 15.8 points on 29.3 percent shooting over his previous five games.
Seth Curry, Stephen's younger brother, had a team-high 21 points last week when the Kings played without Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. All three could be available after Cousins and Rondo were rested in Saturday's 115-106 win at Denver.
Sacramento, currently with the eighth-worst record in the league, loses its first-round pick to Chicago if it falls outside the top 10.
Cousins has averaged 30.3 points over his past four at home against the Blazers.
Gay led the way with 25 points and Curry added 17 on Saturday for Sacramento, which has averaged 113.8 per game while winning four of the past six. Gay has totaled 45 points and 22 rebounds and Curry has scored a combined 38 over the past two.
''You have to play with the guys available,'' Gay said. ''It was a back-to-back (on Saturday) and guys came in and kept our play at the same level.''
With Lillard sidelined on Dec. 27, McCollum stepped up with 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a 98-94 win in the most recent meeting at Sacramento.
Portland has won five in a row and nine of the past 11 in this series.