The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets for the second time this week, this time on the road. Another big night from CJ McCollum was accompanied by meaningful contributions from the rest of the team. Despite their success without Damian Lillard (foot), the Blazers are eager for his return. CSNNW brings us inside the locker room.
I finally saw a shot go in, so that’s all I really need, man. Coaches kept telling me to shoot, saw one go in, and just felt confident, just keep putting them up. I had a nice little stretch and, yeah, just kept putting them up.
What was different, defensively, in that fourth quarter where you guys were able to get that lead and maintain it?
Coach kept preaching it, man. All we needed to do was get stops. Offensively, it was flowing for us. It got kind of ragged here and there, but for the most part I feel like our offense was flowing pretty good and we just needed to get stops defensively. I feel like when we get stops defensively, I feel like that leads to run-outs for us, and especially when we go small lineup too, so we got the stops that we needed and made plays.
How much do you think fatigue played in it for them? I mean, [Will] Barton 10 minutes through three after playing 50 last night.
Yeah, we knew that that was going to be to our advantage as well—them playing so many minutes last night, and them getting in late as well, so we made a conscious effort to make sure we ran, you know, get up and down and make sure that we got the shots that we needed to get late down the stretch.
I just needed to get to playing like I can play. We won this game. I played pretty well, but we got another game tomorrow. That’s kind of just how I look at things. I’ve had some good games, had some good moments, but I just need to play more consistent. That’s what this league’s about. You know, 19 point tonight is good, it helped us win, played some good defense so I’m happy about it, but I want to just repeat tomorrow and do the same things that are going to help us win a basketball game.
Is it meaningful to you, even as a veteran on this team, just to be out there in the fourth quarter?
Yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m used to. Sitting on the bench and watching… you know, coach is going to go what he feels is the right squad at the end of the games and you got to stick with, obviously, what coach picks, but it’s always good to know that he has that trust in you and you’re game is at a point where you’re in that group that’s going to finish the game. That’s what I’ve done most of my career.
Do you like the Kobe [Bryant] comparisons from Dame at the end of the game?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten those comparisons, like, my whole life almost, because Kobe—he’s been my favorite player, even to this day, besides myself, but you know it’s all good an fun.
How did you guys sort of pull away in the end? It was, kind of got to slog in the third quarter. What changed?
Man, it was a sloppy game tonight; a lot of turnover, slow pace, but we did enough things well in the fourth quarter; getting stops, forcing turnovers, getting easy baskets. Once we stopped fouling, they stopped calling fouls, we was able to get some stops and win the game.
Was it good to see Gerald kind of get it going? He said he had some pretty bad struggles the past couple weeks.
Yeah, he looked good in shoot around. I don’t think he missed a shot for about 10 minutes, so he carried that over to the game tonight and he was assertive, aggressive, and made plays, and it was what we needed.
CJ, for you, the Nuggets are giving you extra attention. That’s what teams have been doing. How are you able to get off some good looks?
We do a good job of running the right sets. We got big guys like Meyeres [Leonard] that set great screens for me. He does a great job of making contact on the bigs. Ed Davis makes really good contact, Mason Plumlee, they’re making contact on those screens, so when they’re hitting guys on screens, it’s really easy for me to kind of get off and get space and make the right decision. So I’d say we credit them and then once I hit a couple shots, I’m going to make some tough, contested shots, and it’sgoing to be a long night for the opposition.
It sounds like Damian is going to come back sometime soon, but in this game, though, it seems like you guys really got production from almost everyone on the roster. It seems like that’s been the theme—
Yeah, it’s unfortunate Dame hasn’t been able to play, but it’s been good for guys like Moe [Harkless]. He’s getting more minutes and he’s stepping up and he’s showing what he’s capable of, and other guys are playing well. So when Dame comes back, everybody’s going to go back to their normal roles, but now they’ll be comfortable and knock down big shots down the stretch, they’ll be comfortable playing big minutes in big games. So Dame need to come back now. I think it’s about time. The foot, I think it’s healed.
As a journalism graduate, what did you think of his post game—
I thought his delivery was pretty good. He had some great setup for the questions and he didn’t ask us cliché questions. He took it to locker room, you know, talked about Kobe. He talked a little bit about what it’s like to play without him. So I think he hit some areas that the fans were interested in, which is great for CSN and Comcast Sports and all those things.
It seems like tonight, it’s been kind of a theme with Damian out, that production all the way up and down the roster, I think you got something from everyone tonight.
I thought, you look at the minutes, a lot of guys contributed a lot of minutes and they were productive on the court and, you know, it was a good team win for us because a lot of people contributed in different ways throughout the game.
You got a great game from CJ again.
Well, you know, we need CJ to do what he’s doing. He has a great knack for scoring, but I think he’s defending his position well, I think he’s running the offense well, and it goes beyond, I think, just scoring.
How do you think the players dealth with the way the game was being called? A lot of free throws…
Well, I don’t know what it was in the third quarter. That was the tough quarter as far as free throws and fouls. Like I said, we fought through that quarter and managed to be tied, so then going into the fourth quarter, it was like starting fresh.
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