One night after winning their most crucial game 2020-21 on Friday, the Portland Trail Blazers quickly focused again and put on a versatile performance to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 124-102 way. The Blazers were rooted in standout games from Damian Lillard (30 points) and CJ McCollum (27), but had an excellent setback from Norman Powell (18) and Jusuf Nurkic (17).
The Blazers (39-29) are not just winning; over their last seven wins, Portland have flashed teams averaging 19.1 points per game. competition, a more than welcome development heading into the post season. They still track the Mavericks (39-28) with ½ of a game in for No. 5 seed, but added some bigger pillow. If you missed Dave Deckard̵
Prior to tonight, Damian Lillard ranked third in pick-and-roll ball handling possessions (760), and despite missing more than half of the 2020-21 season, Jusuf Nurkic still cracked the league’s 25 most frequent screeners. Each of these statistics should soon see a significant strengthening. As a practical means of getting their Bosnian center involved, Portland used screens to their advantage by using Spurs’ focus on Lillard to get quick 4-on-3 opportunities where Nurkic could search for his drop or punish San Antonio’s rotations. with passes. This, of course, led to a Nurk-to-Norm connection. Did you need to ask at all?
If over / under on how many times we would see a Lillard-and-Nurkic pick-and-roll was 50, let’s just hope they in Vegas packed an extra jersey; there would have been some sweating going on. Or maybe it’s just the Nurk Fever?
The Blazers go back to his arrival in 2016-17 and are a healthy 94-43 – a pace of 56 wins over a schedule of 82 games – when Nurkic takes at least ten shots. Portland is probably not aware of that. This is a gigantic positive because of what it means for the playoffs. If opponents realize they can not just show two on Lillard, it changes the terms and conditions of how to defend him. It’s something worth signing up for.
Earlier this week, CJ McCollum discussed his insistence on not being too high on the Blazers’ late-season tear, for as he knows, Portland will be measured by playoff success. Meanwhile, it looks like he and his backcourt partner are already in postseason mode. Their shot selection is cleaner, there is a more acute focus on defense, and they have been more aggressive in getting to their spots.
McCollum historically attacks the edge and comes more often to the free throw line in the playoffs. He went into that state early tonight. Lillard discussed his role in the aftermath of Brooke Olzendam, noting how important it was to get downhill and put pressure on. His three-point block in the second quarter broke the game open, but he added it with non-stop energy as a facilitator.
Lillard had a game in the first half – a right-handed, right-handed pass to the left corner for Simons, who is not coming to SportsCenter, but the epitome of what he does for a tee. It can not be underestimated how difficult that kind of help is.
Given the absence of Carmelo Anthony tonight, Portland’s balanced attack was much needed. They got a big boost from Simons and Nassir Little at both ends. But this team begins and ends with the Blazers’ star backcourt. And they have come to play.
The Blazers came in on Saturday as the NBA’s No. 4-ranked offensive rebounding team. They were the second best in the month of April. While it may not be as glamorous as a 50-point game from Lillard or a jab-step pull-up from Carmelo Anthony when the Blazers have “one of those nights” on the glass, it’s … I dare say, DVR worthy? Portland bulldozed themselves into 18 offensive rebounds in their win over Spurs, a number that would place itself on top of the entire NBA.
Perhaps most notable of all, Enes Kanter, the NBA’s No. 2 offensive rebounder, only counted one offensive chin. Thanks to Nurkic’s efforts, Kanter was able to put some PTO in and relax a bit. When Nurkic was not working the back-to-back basket or the short roll, he roamed around the glass, tipping away for shots and bullying the Spurs’ defensive line.
As always, the reasons for Portland’s success will vary. Whether it’s teams looking to capitalize on the Blazers’ porous quick defense, the difficulty of covering all of Portland’s shooting range in the perimeter or just Nurkic and Kanter’s great power, it’s a formula that works. Two-thirds of this land is covered by water, and the other third is occupied by the Blazers’ large volume. It served as a key to victory tonight.
Here’s a look at Dave Deckard’s current summary.
Facing Houston in May has historically been a positive mood; The Blazers hope to continue that when they welcome the Rockets on Monday at. 7:30 PT.