In their final home preseason game, the Trail Blazers took an early eight point lead, and never let up in a dominating win over the Maccabi Haifa Greens.
How it Happened:
The Greens actually kept it close early in the first with the help of some poor shooting from the Portland starters. Then the Blazers bench came in shooting flames, turning a 27-19 lead at the end of the first quarter into a 54-35 lead at the half. Chris Kaman recovered from a couple early mental mistakes to have a dominating first half scoring and on the boards. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on the night.
The starters finished off the game from there, shooting 75% from the field in the third quarter while forcing Maccabi Haifa leading scorer Jeff Allen into foul trouble. LaMarcus Aldridge had 10 points, but shot just 4 of 11 from the field. Damian Lillard recovered in the third quarter, but was clearly rusty from missing the last few games with an injured knee.
The Good News:
1) The bench was on fire, nearly outscoring the opposing squad by themselves at halftime, 35-30. By the end of the night, all Blazers players had played and scored at least once.
2) Wesley Matthews had a field day on the defensive end of the court. Players he was assigned to guard ended up shooting just one of eight from the field.
3) What else is there to say? The game was out of reach long before the fourth quarter started. While Maccabi Haifa may be a first-class team in Israel, coming off a second title game appearance in two years, the talent disparity was clear. Brody Angley led the Greens with 18 points, but 13 of them were scored in the fourth quarter when Will Barton and company were more concerned with starting an impromptu dunk contest.
The Bad News:
1) Meyers Leonard had an okay night on offense, bringing the crowd out of their seat with a two-handed alley-oop conversion, but his poor defense caused him to be pulled early. Several times he was slow on the defensive rotation, leaving his man wide open in the corner.
2) Damian Lillard was clearly trying to work his way back from his injury, missing shots that he normally makes and making too many mistakes passing the ball. While he heated up in the third quarter, he will need to keep working to be back in season shape.
Highlight of the Game:
Two big moments for Portland this time. The first was a stutter-step drive to the basket by CJ McCollum, completely fooling his defender, which he followed with an underhanded layup.
The second was much louder, a perfect drive by Will Barton before Greens center Alex Chubrevich could rotate, setting Barton up for a double-pump reverse two-handed jam.
Thomas Robinson and Allen Crabbe did not see the floor until seven minutes were left in the fourth, bringing questions about their role in the rotation going forward.
Barton had a strong night dunking the basketball, but was overly aggressive on defense to try and setup fast-break opportunities for himself. He also did not come into the game until late in the third quarter.
Dorell Wright had a strong first half, but did not play at all in the second half, with Barton playing small forward instead.
Robin Lopez was the most consistent starter, with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Lopez and Kaman look to be forming a powerful center rotation for Portland.