As a whole, the Portland Trail Blazers appeared tired on Tuesday night, but were able to hold off the Sacramento Kings with the help of Moe Harkless and his seemingly boundless energy. His 20 points marked a season-high and his 16 rebounds marked a career-high. CSNNW brings us inside the locker room.
He was a monster out there, man. Unbelievable.
He's really kind of changed your guys' late season. How?
He just brings us something different than everybody else. He's a guy that can play the three, he can play the four, he can guard every position. He's long, he's super athletic, he's just hard to control. He's disrupting teams' offense with his length.
Offensively, he's a guy that can space the court, he can knock down jumpers, take guys off the dribble, he can hit free throws, but on the glass, he's a real problem. When you got a smaller guy on him that's not strong enough to keep him off the glass, when a bigger guy is not quick enough, he can move around guys.
We had a lot of possessions where he was getting the ball off the rim and keeping it alive, or tip-dunking, getting steals and deflections. He's been huge for us over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks.
There was a time when he wasn't even in the rotation, and then it took the sprained ankle for him to get in. Can you remember a season changing so much on one guy's opportunity or one guy's sprained ankle?
Outside of last season when Wes [Matthews] went down and [Arron] Afflalo went down and CJ came in and everybody was like 'Oooh!' We already knew CJ was really good. Other than that, I haven't. I've always felt that he could have that type of impact, it was just up to him. Being in the rotation inconsistently early in the season, it's hard to really have that type of energy and have that type of impact when you might play eight or nine minutes and not play the second half.
Me and him, we spoke a lot, and he kept his mind right. So credit to him. He kept working, he showed up. When the time came, because he stayed prepared and he stayed mentally with the team, he came in and dominated. He's been strong from that point until now.
He’s strong. He showed a good motor; he got out in transition and ran. Early on, he hit some threes. I think that kind of got him going and allowed him to get into rhythm. He drove to the basket, finished strong, rebounded at a high level, and did a lot of things for us down the stretch that we needed.
How’d you right the ship after that first half?
Defensively, we got some stops. We made it more tough on them. Obviously DeMarcus Cousins is a load down there. He gets a lot of fouls, is able to kind of throw his body around and do a lot of different stuff that most 7-footers can’t do because he’s agile. Once he got a little tired, we tried to get out and run, put him in pick-and-rolls and move the ball around and get good shots.
How important was offensive rebounding for you tonight with 26 second-chance points?
It was big. Mason [Plumlee], and Ed [Davis], all the big guys did a great job of keeping balls alive, knocking them back out, allowing us to have extra possessions, and that stuff is huge. When the defense has to play 50 seconds or longer, that kind of is deflating on their part.
What sort of feelings do you have playing against a team that passed you up in the draft? The Kings, you know, you were on their radar, so how does it feel coming in here playing really well?
I look forward to playing them. I feel like it’s a good arena—well lit for me—and the ball usually goes in when I’m here. Like you said, I worked out for them twice and I thought they were going to draft me, but it’s over with now, so I just try to go hoop.
I got a feel. This game is a lot about consistency, and when you get consistent playing time, your play becomes more consistent. I got a feel for the game right now, we got a lot of good chemistry, and we rolling right now, so just got to keep going.
What are you guys trying to work on getting ready for the playoffs?
Just the little things. I mean, we got to start the game a little better. Tonight, defensively, we came out and we were a little sluggish. Part of that could be because three games in four nights, but we got to do a better job and execution as well. We got to do a better job executing offensively.
How important is it for you guys to get that fifth slot? You guys really want that don’t you? That fifth playoff spot?
We see that we can get it, but we’re focusing on ourselves. If we just take it game-by-game and just worry about what we can do, I think we’ll be fine either way. We’re not scared of playing anybody, so if we get the fifth slot, cool, if not, then we’ll be in OKC.