The Portland Trail Blazers established their longest winning streak of the season by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-93 for their fourth straight victory on Sunday. Players note strong defense leading to sharp execution as the cause for the team's recent successes. CSNNW brings us inside the Blazers' locker room:
That road trip we were 0-5, that set us back a little bit, and coach told us we had a good stretch coming up. As long as we take care of business at home we’ll be fine, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately, and I think we got two more games left in this little home stand and, like you said, keep taking care of business and take it one game at a time.
Winning the way you did tonight, not scoring 100 points, does that reaffirm the work you guys have put in defensively these weeks of practice and stuff like that?
For sure. It’s a great sign for us because it’s going to be games where Damian [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum] are not shooting great from the field and we have to rely on the defensive end. I say it all the time, when them two rolling, we can beat pretty much anybody without playing any defense just because they can make tough shots, they can get a lot of threes, they can get a lot of easy buckets, they going to get fouled—but it’s those games where they don’t have it going where we have to lock in on the defensive end.
He does a lot of little things. His athleticism, his length is huge down the stretch for us. Guys get into the paint. If the big ends up out of position, he’s that guy that’s coming over blocking shots, and he’s hitting those corner threes when the shot clock is down. He always ends up being that guy that gets the ball with 2.5 seconds on the shot clock and he got to head-fake a guy and hit a tough three, but that’s who he’s been for us. He’s been there on the defensive end when guys make mistakes to cover it up, he’s hit big shots for us, and he’s got tips on the offensive glass and got us extra possessions, deflections. He’s always communicating and always talking. He plays the game with that type of energy and that type of urgency, so he’s huge for us.
Is there any truth to the notion that a guy that’s really good on defense like that, that it can be carried over to the rest of the team?
Oh, definitely. It can be contagious. I can remember plenty of times where he just got up into his man, reaching at the ball, being physical, and you could tell that he’s really into it. Once he does that, they swing the ball, the next guy is going to do the same thing, so I think he’s been great about that all year.
For us, he’s a little bit of a hard guy to get to know, just because he doesn’t like talking to us. What’s maybe something that people don’t know about him?
See, I think y’all starting to think that a lot of these dudes more quiet than they are. They probably don’t say a lot to y’all because they are guys that just get their work done and they move on, but Chief is not the most quiet guy. He’s not super talkative, but he’s not…
Give us some insight. What’s he like?
If he ain’t going to give y’all nothing, I ain’t going to give y’all nothing. I’m on his team, so y’all is just going to have to see over time. Y’all going to have to catch him in his moments.
Over the last couple games, we defended better, we’ve shared the ball better, and we played more complete games, so that’s led to us being able to win four in a row.
Coach was talking about you guys finishing games as well.
Yeah, the past couple games we have been able to pull away from teams and sometimes our starters will sit the last couple minutes, but tonight they had a last minute push, we had to get a few stops to close out the game, make a few free throws, and we did that, so we’re showing signs of growth.
What’d you think of Karl-Anthony Towns’ performance tonight?
I mean, he’s been that way all season long. Usually with rookies, you expect them to have more ups and downs than he’s having, but he’s a special player, and I think the way he played tonight is what the league is starting to expect from him.
Dame, how nice has it been having a stretch where you guys have played at home for a long period of time?
I think it’s been good for us. We’ve had a lot of time to practice, we’ve been able to go over schemes, and get deeper into our scouting report because we have more time. Being able to go to our own houses, you know, it means something to me to be able to sleep in my own bed and be on my own time, so it’s been a great home stand for us. We got to just try to close it on Toronto now.
That’s big that we’re winning those games now. No matter the team. It doesn’t matter if San Antonio had been here tonight, or Minnesota. A win is a win and we got four in a row. Now we just have to continue to figure out what we can do better; particularly down the stretch to try to maybe keep those leads or get them even larger and keep moving forward.
Why are you winning those close games now?
I think our ability to execute down the stretch has been better, but it starts on the defensive end, to be honest. Locked into tendencies, boxing out, finishing plays, and just really knowing what they want to do. Then, down on the offensive end, figuring out what’s working on that given night—Dame/CJ mid-pick-and-rolls, playing in transition—there’s different things that work throughout the flow of the game, but again, our ability to execute and stay focused on both ends is continuing to be more fine-tuned, and I think that’s why we’re pulling out more wins.
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