NBA Basketball

Kings host the Trail Blazers to open the new year

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings hope to begin 2019 with the same winning trend with which they finished 2018 when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

The game matches teams that split difficult home-and-home series in the past week.

The Trail Blazers won 110-109 at Golden State on Thursday before the two-time defending champs turned the tables in a 115-105 triumph in the rematch in Portland on Saturday.

Unfazed, the Trail Blazers responded with one of their most impressive efforts of the season in a 129-95 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Sunday night.

The most encouraging aspect of the win over the 76ers was the performance of CJ McCollum, who entered the game having shot just 38.7 percent overall and 22.5 percent on 3-pointers while averaging 16.9 points in his previous eight outings.

McCollum torched the 76ers for 35 points, hitting 13 of his 18 shots and four of his seven 3-point attempts.

"It's not fun missing shots," McCollum sighed to reporters after the game. "Especially when you know you can make them. It's never fun. It's never a good experience."

McCollum has scored 30 or more points in four of his 11 career starts against the Kings but struggled against them in their last two meetings last season, limited to a total of 22 points on 10-for-31 shooting.

The Trail Blazers won both those games, including 118-100 in February in their most recent visit to Sacramento.

The clubs have not met this season.

While the Trail Blazers were dealing with the Warriors, the Kings were dueling the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 117-116 at home on Thursday before falling 121-114 in the rematch on Sunday.

Thursday's win improved the Kings to a season-best-tying three games over .500 at 19-16.

Their next goal: Get that 20th win as soon as possible.

"We're two games above .500 and we have a great Portland team coming in," high-scoring guard Buddy Hield told reporters after Sunday's loss. "We had our minds on going into 2019 with 20 wins, but we have more work to do."

The game matches two of the highest scoring backcourts in the NBA.

McCollum began the week tied for 19th in the league in scoring at 21.2 points per game, while backcourt mate Damian Lillard was sixth at 26.8.

That made them the third-highest scoring backcourt tandem in the NBA behind Golden State's Stephen Curry (28.5) and Klay Thompson (21.2), and Houston's James Harden (36.8) and Chris Paul (15.6).

The Kings' Hield (19.7) and De'Aaron Fox (18.3) were fifth.

Hield enters the new year in a shooting slump, having totaled 38 points in his last three games on 13-for-43 shooting overall and 4-for-19 on 3's.

Hield has never had much luck against the Trail Blazers. They have him to eight or fewer points in four of their five career meetings.

The Kings have won their last three home games, beating Memphis and New Orleans before dispatching of the Lakers.

Updated December 31, 2018

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