PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard thinks his Portland Trail Blazers lack that “killer instinct” to put away games when they should.
Lillard had 36 points and CJ McCollum scored 31 to lead Portland past the Sacramento Kings 122-120 in overtime Friday night.
The victory could have come easier, though. The Blazers were up 106-101 with 1:19 to go in regulation, yet nearly let this one slip away.
“It comes down to just manning up,” Lillard said.
Still, he’ll take the win after the teams traded the lead over the final 2 1/2 minutes in the extra period.
Meyers Leonard made two free throws to give Portland a 121-120 edge with 32 seconds remaining, and Rudy Gay missed a jumper at the other end.
Allen Crabbe hit one of two foul shots for the Trail Blazers with 14.3 seconds left, giving the Kings another opportunity. DeMarcus Cousins missed a jumper and Gay was off target on a 16-foot fadeaway at the buzzer, sealing Portland’s seventh straight victory over Sacramento.
“It’s just having that killer instinct and being able to lock in for longer spans of time,” Lillard said about what the Blazers are missing 10 games into the season.
Portland coach Terry Stotts agreed: “I think we’ve played well in spots. Our goal is to play well for longer periods.”
Cousins led Sacramento with 33 points. Gay had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings, who were coming off a 101-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.
McCollum’s 3-pointer with 1:23 left in overtime gave Portland a 117-115 lead before Gay’s three-point play put Sacramento back ahead.
McCollum added a 19-footer to put Portland in front, but a loose ball foul on the Blazers gave Sacramento’s Darren Collison two free throws. He made both, giving the Kings a 120-119 lead with 33.8 seconds left.
Cousins said Sacramento’s issues have mirrored Lillard’s assessment of his own team.
“Throughout this whole season we’ve shown flashes of who we can be, but we’ve got to get past that stage of showing flashes and be the team that we want to be,” Cousins said.
Leonard made his first start of the season for the Blazers, who were without forward Al-Farouq Aminu for the second straight game because of a left calf injury.
Aminu started the first eight games for the Blazers, averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds before he was hurt Tuesday night early in Portland’s 124-121 victory over Phoenix.
Addressing the media before Friday night’s game, Stotts said Aminu would be re-evaluated after two weeks.
Leonard’s thunderous dunk put the Blazers up 32-27 late in the first quarter, and they led by 12 en route to a 62-57 advantage at the break. McCollum led all scorers at halftime with 16 points.
Cousins’ fadeaway in the third quarter tied the game at 68, and Gay hit a 3-pointer to put the Kings in front. Lillard nailed a 3 from far outside the arc to give Portland back the lead at 79-76.
The Blazers held an 84-83 edge to start the fourth but fell behind 95-88 after a pair of free throws with 6:31 left. Crabbe’s jumper put Portland in front before Lillard hit another 3 to make it 99-95.
Cousins’ 3-pointer pulled the Kings to 106-104 with less than a minute to go in regulation, and his layup tied it with 9.7 seconds left. Lillard’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
Portland was coming off a 111-80 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
Kings: Collison returned to the Kings this week after an eight-game suspension to start the season. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery after an incident at his Sacramento-area home in May.
Trail Blazers: Leonard and Cousins got into it in the first quarter and received offsetting technicals. Cousins has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors of late, including some involving the Blazers. … Portland is 5-0 when Lillard and McCollum both score at least 30 points.
BLOWING THE WHISTLE
Cousins can’t understand why he’s not getting foul calls.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t know what I have to do. I just don’t understand it. I have to play through a lot. I’m not really rewarded for it, but I’m just trying to stay mentally strong through it.”
Lillard has 306 points, most by a Trail Blazers player in the opening 10 games of a season. He’s also the first to score 30 or more points six times in the first 10 games of a season.
Kings: Sacramento hosts San Antonio next Wednesday.
Trail Blazers: Portland hosts the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.