The Portland Trail Blazers are quickly fading in the Pacific Division race, and their slide is taking its toll on coach Maurice Cheeks.
Losers of five straight and nine of 10, the Blazers will look to break out of their funk when they meet the surging Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena.
Following a 96-92 loss to Phoenix on Sunday that dropped Portland to 2-16 on the road this season, Cheeks’ concern was evident. His voice cracked during a postgame interview, and he admitted to reporters that he had been crying.
“Well, we had some shots down the stretch,” Cheeks said. “We just couldn’t finish those shots, just couldn’t convert, just couldn’t make them.”
Zach Randolph scored 25 points to lead the Blazers, who are on their longest losing streak in two seasons. Rasheed Wallace added 19, but he had just six in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.
Jeff McInnis, who has started 26 games this season, did not play, as Cheeks gave increased minutes to second-year guard Qyntel Woods. When someone noted that McInnis was upset after playing just 18 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Dallas, Cheeks had a blunt response.
“You know, we’ve lost nine out of 10 games so I can’t be trying to please guys who are unhappy about this or unhappy about that,” Cheeks said.
The Blazers will likely have a tough time breaking out of their slump against the Pacific-leading Kings.
Sacramento has won five straight, including a 125-100 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. Peja Stojakovic had 31 points and five assists before sitting out the entire fourth quarter, and the Kings finished with a season-high 38 assists on 49 field goals.
“I’ve seen this team have a lot of games this year where we had 30-plus assists and under 10 turnovers. And when you get 38 assists and nine turnovers, you’re really being efficient,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said.
Stojakovic was 5-of-7 from 3-point range and made all eight of his free throws, helping Sacramento win for the ninth time in its last 10.
“I wasn’t forcing any stuff. I was just trying to play off of our guys,” Stojakovic said. “They all move a lot, move the ball around, find open looks and use the clock well. We got a lot of open shots.”