After Tyreke Evans’(notes) first career triple-double sparked the Sacramento Kings to victory, coach Paul Westphal raved about how the rookie guard has a chance to alter the direction of the franchise.
The Portland Trail Blazers know all about that kind of impact player.
After riding former rookie of the year Brandon Roy(notes) to their fifth win in six games, the Blazers look to continue the surge and tighten their hold on a playoff spot Friday night when they visit Evans and the Kings.
The fourth overall pick in the draft, Evans appears to be the leading candidate to be named the league’s top rookie with averages of 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. The 6-foot-6 20-year-old out of Memphis had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists Wednesday, helping Sacramento (22-43) snap a three-game losing streak with a 113-90 victory over Toronto.
After the game, Westphal pushed Evans as the rookie of the year.
“When you just look at it objectively from day one all the way through now, Tyreke has consistently been up there averaging over 20, five boards and five assists, and really taking steps to change the culture of this team,” Westphal said.
“I really don’t see how anybody else could get a vote if people look at the totality of the season.”
Roy was a runaway rookie of the year in 2006-07, when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists. In his first three seasons, he transformed the Blazers from a perennial lottery team to last year’s Northwest Division co-champs.
Though injuries have decimated Portland (39-28) this season, the team is still in playoff position - largely because of Roy. The Blazers’ lone All-Star, Roy scored 41 points while going 14 for 22 from the field Thursday to help the Blazers rally from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to win 110-105 at Golden State.
Portland improved to 7-2 in its last nine and moved a season-high 11 games over .500. The Blazers are four games ahead of Memphis in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“This was almost like a must-win for us,” Roy said after leading Portland to its first road win over Golden State since Nov. 3, 2004. “This is one of the toughest places for us to win. We knew how big this game was. We wanted this game, but it was tough.”
Blazers coach Nate McMillan was impressed by his team’s performance in the fourth quarter, when it outscored Golden State 27-9. Overall, the Blazers outrebounded the Warriors 53-36 and went 31 for 37 from the free-throw line.
“I’m happy that (the losing streak in Oakland is) over,” McMillan said. “I’m happier about what we did. We pounded them on the boards, we got to the free throw line (and) we went inside.”
Roy has averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field to lead Portland to wins in both of its previous meetings with Sacramento this season. The Blazers have won five straight overall in the series.
In his first two games against the Blazers, Evans has averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 53.6 percent.