The Portland Trail Blazers fended off the Utah Jazz in a narrow 115-111 victory on Sunday night. For the first time ever, both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum tallied 30+ points. CSNNW brings us inside the locker room.
I’m shooting the ball well, but I think it’s because of the way we’re playing as a team. We getting stops, we getting out, we’re playing fast, guys are trusting each other, making the right plays, executing well. It’s a lot of things that—a lot had to happen.
And you’re continuing to win, too. That’s 10 out of 11 now? I think 13 of the last 16, or 14 or something.
Like I said, over the past couple weeks we haven’t changed anything. We’ve been as consistent as we’ve been all season when it comes to playing physical, having our hands active, trusting each other, being together, and that’s what’s been working for us.
When you hit the threes in a row there in the second half, did something go off that you wanted to take control there?
You know, we ran a play that we usually get something good out of, and it kind of messed it up. They had a miscommunication and I stepped back and I hit one. It felt good. I saw one go in and then I saw another one go in, and once you see two go in, I know that I can get rolling in that situation, and I was able to at the right time.
[Indiscernible] league to sustain win streaks. There’s a lot of peaks and valleys. Are you concerned at all that you guys have hit a peak and you’re going to go through a valley?
I think we’ve played well and we’ve lost a game and we’ve been able to pick it back up. I think we won’t have to worry about that if we continue to do the things that we’ve been doing. It doesn’t mean we going to win every game, but if we continue to do it, it’ll allow us to at least be consistent.
Obviously—what you said before—the tie breaker, trying to get to 3-1 against them. That’s huge. Based on where their positioning is right now in the playoffs, all that stuff, it’s a lot more important than beating the Warriors.
What do you like most about the way this team’s playing right now?
I think we’re moving the ball, we’re doing a good job of pushing in transition. When we get stops defensively, we’re really hard to guard because we’ve got a lot of guys that can create, a lot of guys that can finish in the paint, and a lot of different guys—Mason [Plumlee] can push the ball, Chief [Al-Farouq Aminu] can push it, Moe [Harkless], G [Gerald Henderson] can push it, so once we get stops, man, we’re tough.
Gerald said he thinks you guys have found your identity during this stretch. What would you describe this team’s identity as?
We go out there and hoop, we play hard, we’ve been defending a lot better since they challenged us a month ago, and I think that’s the biggest thing defensively. We lock in, we help each other, we stunt, we’re active with our hands. Offensively, there’s not a lot of teams that can guard us, so we’re going to be able to get what we want, but defensively we got to make it tough on people.
These two games kind of reflective of, or illustrative of what lies ahead with the schedule. Do you feel like this team’s proven that you’re ready for what’s ahead?
Definitely, but at the same time, 26 games left—one game at a time. We got Brooklyn coming in, try to take care of them. That’s where our focus is at right now, but we’ve done a good job of winning as of late, and playing at a high level the last 17, 18 games, so continue to build on that and the sky’s the limit.
We needed this one, even more so than Golden State.
What do you think the best thing is about the way you guys are playing right now?
Just really how everybody’s contributing. You got a lot of guys playing at a high level and people are playing together. I think it’s fun to play when everybody’s sharing the ball and being unselfish.
What do you attribute that to? Is it just something that’s contagious?
I just think it’s us having more time together. We had a good pre-season, had a good training camp, but really until you get the game action and some shared experience together, it can’t really move forward how you want to, and I think that’s happening for us slowly but surely.
Mase, what do you make of Maurice. I mean, he was completely out of the rotation, now he’s making such an impact. What are you seeing from him?
Well, he kept working when he wasn’t playing, he was real professional about it, he didn’t get down, he stayed positive, and he knows he can play. The first game he started, he really helped us and he’s just playing really, really well, man. Like I was telling him [points to off-screen media member] earlier, he’s a low maintenance teammate. He gets offensive rebounds, he cuts without the ball, he really makes things easier for everybody on the floor—and he’s a good defender too. Really good defender.
A lot of guys at this point in the season, though, they fall out of the rotation and be like, ‘I guess that’s it.’
They don’t get back in.
But that’s the NBA, man. He knows we’ve all been there… well, most of us have been out of the rotation at one point or another. Just got to stay in shape and stay ready for the opportunity. He’s made the most of it, and it’s really—it’s given us a different look when he goes to the four, and like I said, we don’t have anyone that cuts as well as he does without the ball, and I think that’s really opened up things for other people.
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