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  • 31 Aug 2014

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Blazers get inside the Kings

The Trail Blazers solved the puzzle Wednesday that had been the Sacramento Kings.

Portland pounded the inside all night against the Kings, who played without center DeMarcus Cousins, and the Blazers cruised to a 109-91 victory at the Rose Garden.

The win gave Portland a 2-2 split of the season series and avenged Portland's 108-96 loss Sunday at Sacramento.

“A solid win for us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We tightened up our defense in the second and third quarters and made our runs because of our defense. We got energy into the game.”

Cousins, a 6-11, 270-pounder, was suspended for Sunday’s game after a halftime altercation with Kings coach Keith Smart in Sacramento’s previous outing. Cousins was reinstated from the suspension on Monday, but he did not make the trip to Portland.

Without Cousins in the middle, the Blazers (14-13) dominated the Kings (9-19) in the paint (50-36) and in rebounding (53-35).

"(Cousins) is a good shot blocker,” said Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds. “He protects the rim well, so guys went to the basket more with him being out tonight.”

Blazers center J.J. Hickson scored 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for his ninth consecutive double-double -- the longest streak since Kermit Washington had nine straight in 1980.

“It’s a good individual stat,” Hickson said. “But I’m looking at the bigger picture with the team. I’m just playing hard. I’m just a piece of the puzzle doing my job.”

Portland also moved the ball around the court exceptionally well before the announced sellout crowd of 20,545. The Blazers finished with a season-high 31 assists.

Point guard Damian Lillard finished with 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and said he was happy with the team's assist total.

“We were moving the ball really well," he said, "and that just shows how much more we trust each other now, making plays for each other and guys having enough confidence to make shots.”

Portland’s defense was solid throughout the night, holding the Kings to 35 of 86 (.407) from the field.

John Salmons led the Kings with 19 points. Isaiah Thomas scored 12 points off the bench, and Jason Thompson added 11 points.

“We knew that we got away from it in Sacramento,” Lillard said, of Portland's game plan. “We focused more on defense (Wednesday). The last game, we just lost it, they took us to the rim and got what they wanted on offense. We just had to make it a point to play better defense.”

The Blazers were 44 of 87 (.506) from the field in the win.

“I wouldn’t even say that we shot exceptionally well,” Stotts said. “We didn’t necessarily shoot the 3 well. A lot of it was dunks. For us to shoot 25 of 36 in the paint, you take away our shots in the paint, we didn’t necessarily shoot the ball that well. But a lot of those dunks were created off our defense and our ball activity.”

Both offenses came out hot in the first quarter, as Portland pulled out to a 31-26 lead. The Blazers connected on 13 of 23 (.565), while the Kings shot 11 of 21 (.524).

In the second quarter, the numbers began to change.

“Our guys tried to do some decent things out on the floor, but (the Blazers) made some adjustments (from Sunday),” Smart said.

The Blazers got a big contribution from backup shooting guard Will Barton, who scored 10 of his career-high 14 points in the half.

The Blazers put a punctuation mark on the first half when Nicolas Batum connected on a last-second 3-pointer from the right side of the arc that gave Portland a 62-44 lead.

“Damian ran, and I was just open,” said Batum, who ended the night with 18 points. “He gave me the ball, and I jacked it up and that was it. We finished the first half in a good way. We kept scoring and kept scoring.”

The Blazers were relentless in the third quarter and extended their lead to 91-67. Portland's reserves were able to play a good portion of the fourth quarter.

The Blazers will play the Los Angeles Lakers on the road on Friday before returning home to play the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

“We wanted to get a win before we go out on the road,” Aldridge said.