Kings win in runaway, and Batum, Matthews go down

The Trail Blazers’ 99-80 loss to lowly Sacramento Saturday night at the Rose Garden was bad enough.

Injuries to starters Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews were anything but salve to the wounds.

Batum, who injured his back in Wednesday’s loss at Indiana, decided to make a go of it as a game-time decision. Portland’s starting small forward moved gingerly around the court until leaving for good in the third quarter after getting called for a charge on a drive to the basket.

Moments later, Matthews joined him in the locker room after taking a hard fall and injuring a hip for the second time in the game.

The prognosis for both was uncertain, though Batum said he might decide to skip Monday’s date with Toronto — Portland’s second on its current six-game homestand — to try to be ready for Thursday’s matchup with San Antonio.

“We hope they’re OK,” said Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, speaking for the Blazer organization and its legions of supporters. “We don’t need those two guys out for any stretch of time. We don’t want there to be anything serious wrong with them.”

Batum gamely tried to play but was no factor, making 1 of 5 shots from the field and contributing five points, two rebounds and two assists with four turnovers in 17 minutes.

“He tried,” said Coach Terry Stotts, whose Blazers dropped to 8-12. “He just didn’t have it. You could tell he wasn’t as aggressive as he normally is. He gave it a go, but he just wasn’t right.”

Batum was second-guessing his decision to play.

“Tonight was kind of my fault,” he said. “I didn’t help the team when I was on the court. Should have sat out to take care of my back. I played bad and my back got worse. This one’s on me.

“I couldn’t push my legs. I had no power. I was kind of lost. I couldn’t do anything. I have to take care of it. When I play like that, I don’t help the team.”

Matthews strained a hip flexor twice, the second time during a fourth-quarter collision that left him on the floor for a minute or two before being helped up and escorted toward the locker room. His 250-game streak of consecutive games — he has never missed a game in his four NBA seasons — ranks second among current players to the 332-game skein of Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

An injury to his team’s top two wing players was exactly what Stotts didn’t need. Returning home after a seven-game road streak, the Blazers were hoping to do some damage on the homestand that also includes games with New Orleans, Denver and Phoenix.

“You’d like to think you can go in and rattle off some wins,” Stotts said, “but it’s not that easy.”

Not when you play as the Blazers did Saturday night.

Sacramento broke open a tight game early in the third quarter and never looked back, claiming its third straight win to improve to 7-12.

Center DeMarcus Cousins collected 19 points and 12 rebounds and John Salmons contributed season highs in points (19) and assists (11) for the Kings, who avenged a 93-76 setback to the Trail Blazers Nov. 23 at Sacramento.

“Sacramento played harder and better than we did,” Stotts said. “We were out of sorts offensively all night, whether turnovers or finishing at the rim or spacing. It was just a rough night at both ends.”

Portland shot only .387 from the field, but the biggest statistic was turnovers. The Blazers committed 19 of them — nine in the first quarter — leading to 30 Sacramento points. The Kings’ 10 giveaways resulted in eight Portland points.

“Nine turnovers in the first quarter got us off to a bad start,” Stotts said. “That set the tone for the rest of the game. It was a loose, complacent start.”

Aldridge had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, but the all-star made only 5 of 14 shots from the field.

“A tough night for us,” Aldridge said. “We started out sluggish, especially myself. It was one of those nights when I couldn’t find my legs. I was tired. We fought back in it, but we ended up letting it slip away from us.”

Sometimes a team plays tired on the first game back after a long road trip.

“We had a day off and a practice day between games,” said center J.J. Hickson, the only Blazer to show much energy with 14 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes for his 10th double-double. “That’s no excuse. Even if we were tired, this is what we get paid to do. We have to come out and be professionals. We came out flat and stayed flat the whole game.

“It’s disappointing to lose to any team at home, especially a team below .500. Got to get those wins. We’d have liked to protect homecourt tonight, but we couldn’t get it done.”

NOTES: Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans (knee) sat for the second straight game. ... Sacramento started the third quarter on a 14-6 run that increased a 43-41 halftime lead to 57-47. The margin was 12 at 77-65 after three quarters and the Blazers never cut the deficit inside single digits the rest of the way. ... Former Blazer Travis Outlaw had scored only 19 points in five games for Sacramento. The veteran small forward entered the game in the third quarter and matched a season-high with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 17 minutes. Outlaw on the Blazers: “ It’s a young team, with L.A. and Nicolas being the veterans. Everybody’s trying to define their roles. They have a great, young point guard (in Damian Lillard). The season is 82 games. You can see a lot of potential in him. He’s going to be a great pro." ... It was the 10th straight game Batum has failed to shot 50 percent from the field. He is 33 for 100 over that stretch. ... The Kings had a huge edge in points in the paint (36-22) and second-chance points (25-10). ... The victory was only Sacramento’s 18th in 94 visits to Portland dating to 1970 when the Kings were in Kansas City.

Count Sacramento coach Keith Smart as one who believes Lillard is the lead candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. The Weber State product finished with 12 points and nine assists, making only 5 of 13 shots and committing four turnovers in 39 minutes. “Lillard is one of those guys who comes along not that often,” Smart said before the game. “His poise on the floor is well beyond his years. There are little checkoff points when I evaluate point guards that I notice about him. He never looks directly to where he wants to go with the ball. There’s always some peripheral vision, where he looks and sees where players are. On the pick-and-roll, he knows how to go a foot and a half before its impact to still be able to dance around it. That’s a veteran move. He can shoot and he can pass with both hands. I’m still trying to find what this kid’s weaknesses are from an offensive standpoint.

Smart said he has offered advice to Cousins, the Kings’ 22-year-old center: “I told him, ‘You put too much pressure on yourself to be an all-star, all-pro, all-defense and Olympian. Forget those things. You have the rest of your career to get to that. Focus on rebounding. Get 20 rebounds a night. You do that, you’ll finish with 18 to 25 points a night.’ “ ... Former Oregon guard Aaron Brooks, who played in China last season, had 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 2 for 4 from beyond the arc, for the Kings. “I played overseas, also,” Smart said. “You can play decent and still get 20, 25 points. Now you come back to the NBA and you have to learn to play with that pace all the time. That was happening with him early in the year. He has to impact the game with his speed. The last couple of games, he’s been able to do that.”

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