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Artest, Kings turn back Trail Blazers

Mar 14, 2008 - 5:50 AM By Tom Galland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- Despite an off night from their leading scorer, the Sacramento Kings' offense was clicking early once again.

Ron Artest scored 22 points and grabbed six steals to lead the Kings to their second straight win, a 96-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Arco Arena on Thursday night.

Sacramento built on an impressive showing in a surprise road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, which ended a stretch of eight losses in nine games.

"We wanted to keep that energy from LA and basically we did that tonight," said point guard Beno Udrih, who scored 14 points and dished out seven assists. "We played hard 48 minutes and that's why we won."

Artest had four steals and connected on all four of his field goals in the first quarter to help Sacramento break out quickly, paving the way for the wire-to-wire win.

"I'm over the agony of the possibility of not making the playoffs," said Artest, who had missed two games with what was termed a sore foot before returning to face the Lakers. "I was pretty frustrated with that. Now I'm just going out there and playing hard."

"I'm kind of at a loss with this one," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "The way we played blindsided me. I thought we had momentum going into the game. But to start the way we did was horrible."

Kings guard Kevin Martin, coming off a career-high 48 points in his last home game and Sacramento's leading scorer at 23 points per game, was held to six points on 2-of-11 shooting but it didn't matter.

"It was a great win for us," Martin said. "Everyone did their job, that's what we need to do every night. Everybody has pride in this locker room so we're not just going to let (teams) come in and get an easy win. We went down (to Los Angeles) and played hard and it carried over to tonight."

The Kings buried 71 percent of their shots in the first quarter to gain control, then extended the lead to 17 points just over five minutes into the second quarter as the Blazers went ice cold.

Portland missed 10-of-11 shots to start the quarter, helping the Kings grab a 58-44 lead at the break.

"We had three days to really get back to having a couple days of practiced and concentrated a lot on defense in those three days," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "I think it showed tonight that we had some days (of) practice."

The Blazers held Sacramento without a field goal for a nine-minute stretch of the third quarter to claw back into the game. Brandon Roy tipped in his own miss with under 90 seconds left in the third to close the gap to 72-64.

Sacramento responded quickly, scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter for a 78-63 lead before the Blazers again rallied.

Portland third-year guard Jarrett Jack converted two free throws to cap an 8-0 run that pulled Portland within 80-73 with eight minutes to go.

Again, the Kings responded, pushing back to a 15-point lead. Artest's two-hand dunk at the three-minute mark sealed the win, putting the Kings ahead, 94-79.

Roy led Portland with 21 points, but the Blazers struggled with 39 percent shooting in the finale of a five-game road trip.

"We started the game off with four turnovers but were still in the ballgame," Roy said. "The starters came out and did not set the tone. Then the guys that came in off the bench did not come in and set it either. It just kind of snowballed after that. We just could not get a flow to our game tonight."

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