The Portland Trail Blazers routed the Houston Rockets 96-79 on Saturday afternoon. In the absence of Noah Vonleh (ankle) and Allen Crabbe (gastritis), Moe Harkless and Gerald Henderson stepped up in a major way. CSNNW takes us inside the locker room:
It feels good, first of all, just to get back out there and play a little bit?
Yeah, man. It’s great. It was awesome. Any chance you get to be able to get out on the court, obviously in front of my friends and family, it definitely meant a lot; especially the biggest thing is that we came away and got the win.
How many people did you have here tonight?
I had a good 20 people. I cut it down from last time we were here.
How many of those did you have to pay for?
Actually, it’s a team full of great guys. A lot of guys didn’t use them today, so I was able to get them.
And how is it to play against [Patrick] Beverley? I wanted to ask you that.
He kind of reminds me of myself. You come in, you want to work hard, you want to pick up full court and be a pest. Sometimes guys need that on the team, and you need that in the league—somebody that’s just not going to back down, that’s going to pick the best player up and make them work for everything. At the end of the day, you respect it.
How much has your defense improved since early in the season? Can you look at it from a point guard perspective and talk about that a little bit?
Man, I think it’s improved, definitely, since day one, because you get to go out there and, in practice, I’m going against CJ [McCollum] and Damian [Lillard], two of the best point guards in the league. I think it’s just the help side defense is something I really had to work on and continue to fight over ball screens. I think we have a great coaching staff and they show me film. Even when I’m not in, I watch film of those two and just try to picture myself to get better at it, even when I’m not on the court.
Just coming in bringing energy, and then it translates to the offensive end.
You had a good game offensively and you got the opportunity to guard [James] Harden, which is never easy, but you guys did a good job of it.
James is a good player, he knows how to score, he knows how to draw fouls, so sometimes it’s very difficult to guard him, but he got his 30, but we felt like we did a good job of containing some of the other guys.
Particularly, they didn’t have a bench player score until the fourth quarter. It seemed like you guys were able to [indiscernible] everyone else did.
Like I said, we did a good job of trying to keep the other guys from scoring. I thought the whole game, defensively, we were very active, we had hands everywhere, forced a lot of turnovers and tough shots, so James, you know, he’s not going to be able to take every shot. So I think everyone had a good mindset going into the game.
How important is it for you to come out and hit a couple threes early and get yourself going?
It’s really big to go out there and just—it was open, so I shot them and they went in and that kind of got us going. That first three, I think, was the first points of the game, so, I mean, I just keep shooting when I’m open and keep being aggressive, so just knock them down today.
What about guarding Harden?
He’s going to get his buckets, man, But I just tried to slow him down. I think I did a pretty good job doing that; especially in the first half. I mean, he got to the free throw line a lot, but I can’t control that.
Pretty hard not to foul him sometimes, isn’t it?
Yeah, you know, he’s really good at drawing fouls, so I was just trying hard to keep my hands up and out of the way, try and go for the ball when he put it up, but, like I said, he got to the free throw line a lot in the third quarter. I think he shot, like, 10 free throws in the third quarter, but I just got to a better job not fouling next time.
What was it like for you having not played a lot of minutes, and then all of a sudden somebody gets hurt and you’re the guy that starts. Were you surprised at that?
A little bit, but I just stay locked in the whole time, even when I wasn’t playing at all. Just stay locked in, stay ready, just kept working every day. I knew it would come back around.
Did coach come to you and say, ‘You’re going to get the Harden assignment to start with’?
Yeah, he kind of said it at shoot around, but I told coach that I wanted to guard guys like that before, so he gave me the opportunity and, like I said, I think I did a pretty good job tonight.
After starting the last game and having some minutes, but not nearly as much as you had tonight, does it feel like it was a progression or was it just—you just played better tonight?
I definitely think I just played better tonight. Last game, I hadn’t played in, like, six games or something like that. It kind of caught me off guard when he told me I was starting, so I think a little bit of it was rust, but tonight I just went out there and just played. Like you said, making those first two shots—that was big for me as well.
Guy hit me in the head. It wasn’t intentional.
It was just an elbow, maybe?
Yeah, elbow. Yeah.
Did you get stitches?
I’m not sure, actually. I haven’t looked at it. They numb it up so you can’t really feel it, so I’m not sure.
Mason, you and Dame have been figuring stuff out and so forth, [indiscernible] moving in space [indiscernible].
Yeah, it’s just more time together on the floor, getting a better feel for where he likes to get screens, and then he’s finding me very well the last couple games. Really, I think since the New Year he’s been finding guys, getting guys involved, and hitting them in scoring positions.
It was a nice win for you guys.
Very good win.
Obviously, coming to you, it’s clear what’s ahead of you, and after the first game you lost here, [indiscernible] play harder?
Yeah, that first loss was tough. Also that stretch when we took that loss—that was a rough stretch, so we knew they were going to make a good run in the second half, and they did, but we were able to finish the game, be a little more mature with the lead, and we finished well.
Mason, when they come out and blitz the pick-and-roll like these guys do, what’s your responsibility on that? Can you talk about what you have to do in that situation?
Just get to the open area and then make them pay. They put two guys on one, you got to make them pay because you have an advantage in the pocket. I thought we did a good job of that tonight, and we’ll continue to do that.
You turn and most of the time it looked like you’re trying to attack the rim and look for people that are open to pass to.
Definitely. Somebody’s going to be open, because it’s just numbers at that point. It’s going to be 4-on-3, so just got to make the most of it.
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