Kings Host Blazers

Brandon Roy is being asked to become more of a leader for the Portland Trail Blazers. He's already playing that role to a tee against the Sacramento Kings.

After leading the Blazers to a win with an outstanding performance, Roy looks to continue his gritty play against the Kings when the teams meet Thursday night.

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Portland (34-31), in 10th place in the Western Conference, is trying to make a playoff push and coach Nate McMillan wants Roy to become more of a take-charge player. Although Roy is only 23 and a second-year pro, that hasn't stopped McMillan from challenging last season's Rookie of the Year.

"He and I talked a little bit ... and just talked about where we are and what he needs to do," McMillan said.

Roy responded Tuesday night, finishing with 27 points and nine assists and playing at his best during a decisive 12-2 run in the fourth quarter as the Blazers beat Minnesota 103-96.

The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 22.3 points, 6.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent (6-for-13) from 3-point range in the first four games of a road trip that ends Thursday. Portland has won three of those games.

"He just told me with what I've done my rookie season and so far this season, that this teams needs a leader to start to emerge," Roy said of his talk with his coach. "He said, 'The guys are going to follow you and if you come to the game ready to play, they'll be ready to play. I know it's tough in your second year, but you've got to start preparing now.'"

Roy has not had big scoring games in Portland's two contests against Sacramento (28-35) this season, but he played like a leader each time. Roy finished with just 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting in the Blazers' 87-84 win over the Kings on Nov. 23, but made the go-ahead basket with 19 seconds remaining.

On Feb. 19, Roy had 11 points on 5-for-18 shooting in a 105-94 loss to Sacramento, but played a game-high 40 minutes and added eight rebounds and six assists despite battling a chest infection.

On Thursday, the obstacle that Roy may have to overcome is Ron Artest, Sacramento's lockdown defender. Artest returned to the Kings' lineup Sunday night after a two-game absence, finishing with 17 points and a game-high four steals in a 114-113 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Artest, who was sidelined with a sore left foot, is hoping Sacramento can play out the stretch with more consistency.

"Wow, we just stepped up against a good team," Artest said. "It's unfortunate we can't step up against the bad teams."

The Kings were coming off a 111-103 defeat to the Timberwolves on Friday night, becoming just the third team to lose a home game to Minnesota this season.

Sacramento has won only two of its last nine games. The Kings will be trying to win two in a row for the first time since a three-game run from Feb. 19-22.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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