SACRAMENTO -- Uninspired defense had been the norm for the slumping Sacramento Kings in recent weeks.
Ron Artest helped solve that problem Thursday night, playing high intensity defense and scoring 22 points for the Kings in a 96-85 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Sacramento had allowed 100 or more points to 11 opponents in a row and lost seven of those games, including discouraging defeats to Miami, Atlanta, Minnesota and the Clippers.
Following three days off after Sunday's victory over the Lakers, the Kings put the emphasis on defense and responded with a solid effort in forcing 20 turnovers and holding Portland to 38 percent shooting.
"The defense was as good as I've seen us play in a long time," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "We had a couple of days to practice and concentrate on defense. It showed tonight. Defense had become a big concern for us."
It was Artest getting after it in two practice sessions this week and continuing that effort against the Blazers, who have dropped two of three this season to Sacramento. He had nine points and three steals to help the Kings take a 34-27 first quarter lead.
"I wanted to come out with energy and try to set the tone," said Artest, who had a season-high six steals. "This time of year you have to fight through fatigue, play hard, and see what happens."
Former San Antonio reserve Beno Udrih had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Kings, who snapped a two-game losing streak at Arco Arena.
"Beno has grown quite a bit in his first time in a starting role," Theus said. "The last three or four weeks he's gotten very comfortable and confident."
Brad Miller had 14 points and seven rebounds, John Salmons scored 11 points and Mikki Moore added 10 for the Kings.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 points, Travis Outlaw had 13 points and Martell Webster added 10 for Portland.
WIZARDS 101, CAVALIERS 99, at Washington -- Caron Butler unleashed a month's worth of pent-up energy on his 28th birthday, returning to the Washington lineup after a 16-game injury absence to score 19 points. Butler, whose hip injury sent the Wizards into a February slump, scored the game's opening basket, survived some rough contact and made six of his first eight shots. LeBron James missed a potential game-winning 27-footer as time expired.
ODEN PRACTICES -- Greg Oden practiced with Portland for the first time since right knee surgery ended the No. 1 draft pick's debut season before it started six months ago.