The Portland Trail Blazers stayed hot by torching the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon. For the seventh time in eight games, Damian Lillard crested the 30-point mark, but it was Gerald Henderson and Meyers Leonard who stole the show with excellent shooting off the bench. CSNNW brings us inside the locker room.
The way you’ve started the last two games, you personally, was that intentional or was that just taking what you see?
Some of both. I think it’s important on this road trip and from here on out to just come out and set the tone on both ends of the floor—and it’s taking what they give me. I’m able to attack. I’m able to get some easy shots early, see the ball go in, and then just ride it out from there, and from that point on feel the game out, and that’s what I’ve done.
I’ve been just trying to come out and be in attack mode and set the tone from the start of games. That’s all it was. I saw the ball go in a couple times and it’s just been necessary, just to go out there and be in attack mode and kind of get our team in that aggressive mindset. Tonight, the ball was going in, so I rolled it out. Coach kept calling plays where I would be in position to score and, like I said, the ball was going in. As the game went on, I just kind of went with how the game was going.
Is this as good as you’ve felt in your career? Are you playing as well as you’ve played?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s just the growth, you know? Over time, the game slows down, you get more comfortable taking certain shots, you’re able to make certain shots better because you worked on it so much, you just feel the game better and you put your time in so you’re more confident in what you could do in certain situations, and I think that’s where I am now.
Can you comment on how—just, February, you guys went 9-2—Obviously, no one saw that coming. Can you describe what that month was like?
It’s been fun just because we would play well then we would drop games then we would play well then we would drop games then we would play a good half then a bad half, and now we putting it together and I think we’ve become a lot more consistent. It’s just been fun to see so many guys play well and it translate to wins. For us to be able to do it as a group, it’s been really fun to be a part of.
Dame came out like a heavyweight champ, swinging some haymakers. He got a good rhythm in the first quarter. He was aggressive, put the onus on the defense; put some pressure on the defense and carried us.
Are you running out of ways to describe what’s going on around here? I mean, did this keep building momentum, momentum? It’s like a snowball that just keeps getting bigger.
Yeah, I think we’re figuring it out. I think that’s the biggest thing: Chemistry. Everybody’s figuring out their roles and playing at a high level, the bench is doing a great job of knocking down shots and defending. Besides the end of the game, I think we defended really well the entire game.
Talk a little bit about—they cut it to four; Meyers got 11 straight—just talk about that.
Yeah, 11 straight. Meyers played really well tonight. He was aggressive; he didn’t turn down shots, and when they ran him off the 3-point line he still was able to get to the hole, use the floaters, and it showed a very good arsenal of moves.
I think that’s what we’ve done the last month or more than that. We brought defensive intensity at the start, and then offensively I got guys that can score and make plays. Everyone just kind of does what they do, play their roles and, you know, are very unselfish too.
Were you disappointed with the one miss [indiscernible] perfect?
Ah, man. I was trying to hit that, but it’s all good.
Gerald, you’ve been around a lot of teams. Have you ever been a part of something that’s just honestly come together like this? You guys are seemingly invincible right now.
Yeah, maybe not quite like this. I think I’ve been on a team in Charlotte, made the playoffs, and actually very similar to this. Very similar to this. We kind of struggled for a bit and then, when it was time to go and make the playoffs, we kind of just went on a roll. So I’d say it’s really similar to this. We just have to continue to play our defense and offensively stay unselfish and just stick to the details and I think we’ll be alright.
Gerald, will you describe what it’s like to be in the role you guys are in right now?
You play with a lot of confidence. It’s collective confidence. Everybody goes out there and kind of knows what’s expected of them and we try to hold each other accountable. Guys go out there, play hard, and—for the most part—it’s shown pretty much good results.
I feel pretty special, number one because we got a win—two in a row to start this road trip—but I got it going a little there late third quarter, so it felt pretty good to do it in front of a lot of my hometown people.
How many were out there?
I would say probably 150-200. I had some before the game, but then I also had a 50-person suite for all my closest family and friends, so it’s pretty neat to do it here and to get a win.
Who organized that?
My wife was on top of most of it, and then I got a couple people back home that helped take care of a lot of things. I got a lot of good people around me, man, so that’s what keeps me going.
Meyers, what do you think is the best thing about the way you guys are playing?
Just the trust and unselfishness. I noticed when Dame came back in the second quarter, he was kind of deferring to CJ, and he had 20 in the first quarter. I’m like ‘What’s this guy doing?’ Then all of a sudden CJ got it going, so the fact that—I don’t know. Maybe I picked up on that, maybe it was just the fact that CJ was open—but just the unselfish play, the trust in the next guy. Down the stretch, CJ hits [Mason] Plumlee at the window, swing to Gerald in the corner for three; just little plays here and there on both ends, playing hard, and just trusting each other, man. It’s a really fun team to play for and we just have to keep it rolling the way we’re going.