Another good preseason game for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland jumped ahead in the first half behind their Big Three and the hot-shooting Anthony Morrow, then slowly built a comfortable cushion on their way to their first preseason victory, beating the Raptors 106-101.
Nurkic had an injury scare early in the game. He came up limping after landing awkwardly, and left for the locker room. He was cleared by the team and returned to the game. Here is video.
The Blazers were led by Nurkic (12 points, 6 rebounds), Morrow (12 points), Damian Lillard (16 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) and CJ McCollum (15 points, 4 assists). Portland spread the scoring around, with nearly every player making a contribution. Nobody played more than 26 minutes.
No matter how hard you try, Collins will get that & 1 pic.twitter.com/xb7JrEo4Qv— NBCS Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) October 6, 2017
The Blazers started the game lit up like a jack-o-lantern. Portland’s starters built a 20-7 lead off an impressive array of drive and dish moves. Toronto had to respect dribble penetration and threatened passes to Jusuf Nurkic. That left the perimeter open for quick passes and sweet conversions from distance. The first unit continued Portland’s early-season habit of forcing turnovers and vacuuming rebounds as well...positive signs. Unfortunately the second unit couldn’t hold the fort, as they failed to close out on three-pointers: literally the only thing preseason Toronto does. The Blazers led 27-26 after one.
The second quarter started in the muck, as both teams’ reserves alternated easy scores with occasional gaffes ... typical preseason fare. Then Anthony Morrow decided that enough was enough and turned a virtual tie into a Portland advantage by hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers in the period. The Raptors never caught up with him, but their attempts to do so left the rim wide open. The Blazers cruised to a 62-52 halftime lead.
Portland maintained the lead and then some in the third. Their offense was far from overwhelming; they pretty much played with two guards tied behind their backs. The defense not only saved their bacon, it allowed them to enjoy it in leisure, slice by tasty slice. Moe Harkless and Caleb Swanigan showed that mobility makes a difference on the defensive end, bothering cutters and shooters, generally making Toronto think twice before getting a shot up. In the preseason, thinking twice is two times too many. Portland led 85-69 after three.
Because it’s preseason and because it’s Portland, no lead is truly safe. Terry Stotts once again went to Mariana Trench-level rotation depths in the fourth period. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Pat Connaughton, Isaiah Briscoe, and Meyers Leonard weren’t entirely equipped to close out the game. The Raptors hit a barrage of three-pointers and layups in the final period as a former 18-point lead dripped down to 5. But time ran out on Toronto’s comeback, which by that point hardly mattered anyway. The Blazers could have stuck Nurkic or McCollum or Lillard back in and ballooned it up again had they wished. The victory was both easy and active...nice to see in the preseason.
The Blazers head to LA for a Sunday afternoon game against the Clippers. But with no television coverage! Stay tuned tonight for more reaction to today’s game.