There is something inherently friendly about the home-and-home back-to-back in the NBA. Like something that should only happen in cricket, or fencing, it feels downright gentlemanly. It makes you wonder whether the players themselves suggested to just “run it back.” Hell, the occasion even warranted a special video package from the Kings’ TV broadcast. But of course, it’s really just a quirk of the NBA schedule and while Saturday’s version started out in a friendly manner, it ended with the same cruel inevitability of a normal game.
The centers were at work early, with DeMarcus Cousins scoring the Kings’ first four points before Robin Lopez matched with four of his own. Then some of the other bigs pitched in with LaMarcus Aldridge and Jason Thompson each splashing jumpers. Even Joel Freeland joined in the long-range lovefest with a jumper of his own. All this positive energy must have made Kings coach Mike Malone feel especially generous because he decided to play Jimmer Fredette and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, both of whom had received DNPs on Friday. The good nature even extended to the defense (or lack thereof), with only 10 total free throws in the first half.
But the second half put an end to the geniality. Portland worked the ball around in the perpetual motion of the “Flow” offense to open up Wes Matthews and Dorrell Wright for some threes. Add in the continual brilliance of Aldridge on the pick-and-pop, and soon the Blazers had opened up a 22-point lead. It certainly didn’t help for Sacramento that John Salmons and Marcus Thornton continued their prolific bricklaying (they finished a combined 2 for 11). The Kings sideline reporter attributed this to the fact that all players go through slumps, as if Salmons has been an effective player sometime in the last five years.
However, the Kings weren’t about to roll over. Or rather, DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t about to roll over. He led two very impressive one-man fast breaks en route to 33 total points and 11 free-throw attempts. In the half court, he plowed his way through double teams to loft up deft hook shots. Unfortunately for the Kings, this was not enough to overcome Portland’s 45 percent shooting from three-point range, as well as the Blazers’ 19 offensive rebounds.
The Blazers and Kings will meet again in January, when this autumn weekend rendezvous will exist only as a distant memory. And perhaps in the throes of the long, hard NBA season, the two teams will look back wistfully at these contests as an example of a more genteel time in their lives. Or maybe they’ll just play an early-January NBA basketball game. After all, chivalry is dead.