Portland moves to 2-0 with 'Crash' leading way
Late in the first half Tuesday night at the Rose Garden, the worm turned Portland's way.
Sacramento collapsed like a house of cards in a windstorm.
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, came on like a flame following a gasoline leak.
The result was a 101-79 Portland victory, the second in two nights for a Blazer team that seemed to catch a second wind at just the right time.
After a season-opening 107-103 win over Philadelphia Monday night, the Blazers were a step slow for most of the first half against a Sacramento team that had knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers in its 2011-12 debut the same night.
The Kings 'got what they wanted' to that point, Portland coach Nate McMillan said. 'They had a number of uncontested attempts at the rim, and we were stagnant.'
Sacramento led 44-32 with four minutes left in the second quarter when the Blazers closed the half with a 14-2 rush that sent them into intermission in a 46-46 tie.
When the teams returned for the final two periods, the home quintet dominated most of the rest of the way.
'We had our moments,' Sacramento coach Paul Westphal observed, 'and then we fell apart.'
Gerald Wallace kept the seemingly fatigued Blazers in it early, scoring 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
'You try to play through it, but I was tired. I was really tired,' said Wallace, who also contributed eight rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots and took a pair of charges in a scintillating 36-minute stint. 'I had to push the energy button and try to get my teammates going.'
Toward the end of the first half, 'the defense picked up, and we got to our tempo,' McMillan said. 'We started to get some stops, and then we started to run.'
The Blazers scored 13 of their 17 fast-break points in the second half. More than that, though, they exploited a size advantage, working post-ups and baseline back-picks against smaller defenders.
'We found a lot of mismatches,' said LaMarcus Aldridge, who went for 24 points and eight rebounds, making 10 of 15 shots from the field. 'Nic (Batum) had a bunch of mismatches. Gerald dominated whoever he had on the block.'
Wallace was a whirling dervish, earning his 'Crash' sobriquet while making 8 of 11 shots from the field and 8 of 9 from the line. The 6-7 veteran was particularly effective when McMillan went to a smaller lineup with Aldridge at center, Wallace at power forward and Batum - who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half - at small forward.
'Gerald's energy was great,' McMillan said. 'Whenever we get him at the four, he's doing some aggressive things - trapping, running. He was all over the place. He showed toughness on the boards and blocking shots. He got (John) Salmons in foul trouble early by going at him in the post.
'With Nic and Gerald on the floor, it gives us a lot of speed. That combination this short season has been pretty good for us.'
Aldridge had only two points through the first quarter and a half, then seemed to wake up and find his rhythm.
'I felt really sluggish in the beginning. Dead legs,' he said. 'I kept playing through it, and the second half I played better.
'Gerald played big for us. He carried us through some tough times -scored, rebounded, blocked shots, everything.'
The Kings, Aldridge said, 'had every shot they wanted early. They were getting to the basket, getting open jump shots. We wanted to pick up our defense so we could get into the open court more.'
In due time, that happened.
'They pressured us,' Westphal said. 'Where the X's and O's are, they took away where we wanted our O's to be.'
In the game's first 20 minutes, Sacramento had six turnovers and was 21 for 38 (.553) from the field. Over the game's final 28 minutes, the Kings turned the ball over 14 times and were 10 for 44 (.227) from the field.
'We turned up our tempo on defense, started getting a lot of steals, a lot of stops,' point guard Raymond Felton said. 'They couldn't get to the rim, or even get an open jump shot.
'That's all it was. The first half, our legs just weren't there. The second half, we found some energy somehow, some way. It was a lot of fun.'
A night after a high against the Lakers, the young Kings were brought back to earth.
'At this stage of our development, it's very clear we got beat by a better team tonight,' Westphal said. The Blazers 'were more together, more solid, at both ends of the floor.
'We will get better. I like our team a lot, but this was a step in our development that was painful. It's probably inevitable we'll go through nights like this. We got taught by a more experienced team that is far ahead of us right now. It will be interesting to see how we learn a lesson.'
NOTES - Portland plays host to Denver Thursday night in the final game of a three-game homestand. When informed center Marcus Camby had jokingly told reporters he wished the Blazers had another game Wednesday night, Aldridge cracked, 'He can play by himself. I need a day off. I'm not ready to play tomorrow.' ... Batum was only 4-for-12 shooting but was 6 for 6 from the foul line and grabbed five rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench. ... Blazer guards Felton (2 for 8), Wesley Matthews (4 for 14) and Jamal Crawford (2 for 11) continued to shoot poorly. Through two games, Felton is shooting .273, Matthews .286 and Crawford .333. ... Kurt Thomas had another productive game off the bench for Portland, making 3 of 4 shots and collecting six points and two rebounds in 18 minutes. ... Craig Smith made his first appearance, scoring four points and grabbing three boards in eight minutes. 'Craig came in and gave us a nice lift,' McMillan said. 'We felt like we needed some beef in there and he gives us an offensive presence in the post.' ... the 6-7, 265-pound Smith wears No. 83 because 1983 is his birth year. But what about it being a tight end's number in football? 'That has something to do with it, too,' Smith said. 'People always say I look like a football player. I kind of chose a number that would fit me. I didn't play football in high school, but I got offered some football scholarships.' ... The Blazers outscored the Kings 52-42 in points in the paint - 28-12 in the second half.
Second-year center DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Rookie guard Jimmer Fredette scored 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting in his 24 minutes off the bench. ... Westphal, on whether the 6-2 Fredette is a shooting guard or point guard: 'He's just a good player. Every time he shoots it, he thinks it's going in. He's a smart player. The guys like playing with him, He's not full of himself. He knows he can play, and his teammates know he can play. He's a very good passer and ballhandler. He can play with the ball or without it. Offensively, you don't have to worry about him.' ... Westphal used the 5-9 Isaiah Thomas and Fredette in the backcourt together for several minutes in the third quarter. Portland posted up Fredette with the 6-8 Batum three times before Westphal was forced to remove the rookie. ... Actor Daniel Dae Kim of the TV show 'Hawaii 5-0' and Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney were in the house. ... The Blazers have won 10 of their last 11 meetings with the Kings. ... former Blazer Travis Outlaw was 0 for 5 from the field. He had two points and seven rebounds in 24 reserve minutes for the Kings.