The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the NBA's hottest teams for more than a month, but that hasn't helped them climb higher in a competitive Western Conference.
The Trail Blazers could move up by taking advantage of struggling teams in their next two games, beginning Saturday night at Arco Arena as they go for a seventh straight win over the Sacramento Kings.
Portland (46-30) was eighth in the West on Feb. 22 before winning 14 of 18, but the Blazers have reached no higher than seventh over that stretch. However, they enter Saturday within one game of sixth-place Oklahoma City.
After beating New York 118-90 to clinch a playoff berth Wednesday night, they had a four-game win streak snapped the following evening with a 109-92 loss in Denver.
"I don't know if it was a letdown. It might have been," said swingman Brandon Roy, who missed 13 of 16 shots and scored 14 points. "We didn't have that sense of urgency. You could tell our energy was a little zapped. We were trying to make pushes, and we couldn't get a number of guys to play well at one time."
Finishing a three-game road trip against Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers, who have lost 13 of 15, could help the Blazers recharge. They have won their past two games at Arco Arena by an average of 18.5 points and the last six matchups with the Kings by 14.0 per game - including a pair of wins last month.
Portland held Sacramento to seven points over the final 8:10 in an 88-81 home win March 9 and cruised to a 110-94 victory at Arco three days later. Roy scored 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting in that latest matchup and he has led the Blazers with 24.2 per game on 58.0 percent shooting during the win streak over the Kings.
This time, Roy and the Blazers face a Sacramento team trying to avoid tying a season high with a seventh consecutive loss.
The Kings lost for the 12th time in 15 games Wednesday night against a Minnesota team that had been mired in a 16-game losing streak. Sacramento had three players score at least 20 points, led by Carl Landry's 22, but the Kings were outrebounded 46-33 and allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 56.1 percent in the 108-99 loss.
"It's always something, isn't it?" coach Paul Westphal told the league's official Web site. "We shot well and didn't turn the ball over - but couldn't rebound. We couldn't get stops, that's for sure."
Sacramento fell to 6-39 when giving up more than 100 points.
Things got worse for Westphal's team after the loss with the news that starting center Spencer Hawes will miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury. He was averaging 10.0 points and 6.1 rebounds in his third NBA season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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