SACRAMENTO, CA - Minus a pair of their biggest players, the Sacramento Kings couldn't fend off one of the NBA's more talented teams.
The Kings hope that the return of rookie forward Thomas Robinson can help them avoid a third straight loss as they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
Robinson served the second contest of his two-game suspension on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, a ban handed down after he elbowed the Detroit Pistons' Jonas Jerebko in the throat during last Wednesday's win.
Compounding the loss of the 6-foot-10 Robinson was that starting center DeMarcus Cousins was forced to miss Sunday's game versus the Lakers as well after he was hit with a two-game suspension for confronting San Antonio announcer Sean Elliot in what the league deemed a hostile manner following a loss on Friday to the Spurs.
Without the two big men, Los Angeles' Dwight Howard paced his team to a 103-90 win with 23 points and 18 rebounds.
"I thought our guys had to play out of position a lot against some very talented big guys and I thought overall they did a good job. They showed some fight, kept themselves pretty close in the game," noted Kings head coach Keith Smart. "The game got away, but we got back in it a little bit. There's a lot of positives."
Jason Thompson started in place of Cousins, recording a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Travis Outlaw also made a start and had 11 points, while Jimmer Fredette netted a team-leading 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting in nearly 11 minutes of work off the bench.
Sacramento will play four straight and seven of its next eight at home and will look to get that stretch off on a positive note by handing Portland its fifth loss in a row.
The Trail Blazers stayed in a rut on Monday night by dropping a 95-87 decision to the Atlanta Hawks. J.J. Hickson set a pair of season highs with 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Nicolas Batum dropped in 11 of his 19 points in the third quarter.
Portland took its first lead of the game at 82-80 at the 5:40 mark in the third, but Atlanta settled down and rallied back in front.
"Similar to last game, we get ourselves in a hole and compete and play our butts off and come up short," said Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously the negative is that we didn't come out of the gate very well and it took all game to get there. The positive is that we buckled down defensively."
Wesley Matthews was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line and ended with 17 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge continued to set up his teammates for points.
Portland's leading scorer matched a career high with seven assists in Saturday's loss to the Spurs, then bettered that on Monday night with eight helpers. Aldridge is averaging 5.6 assists per game over his last five contests and leads the Trail Blazers with 20.7 points per game on the season.
The most recent matchup between these teams was a thriller as the Kings' Marcus Thornton hit a 17-foot jumper with just 3.4 seconds left in the game to give his club a 104-103 victory on April 15.
It was only Sacramento's third victory in the last 14 encounters overall.
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