The Portland Trail Blazers cruised to their first four-game winning streak of the season by dismantling the Chicago Bulls at home, 124-108. CJ McCollum dazzled with a career-high 50 points in just three quarters of action. This game was decided early, as Portland maintained a 20-point advantage for the majority of the contest.
CJ McCollum and Evan Turner got the points flowing for the Blazers in the opening minutes, which quickly translated to an early double-digit lead for Portland. It became clear that McCollum was in for a special quarter, as it appeared that he was incapable of missing. When Chicago attempted to take McCollum’s three-point looks away, he simply darted inside to convert lightly-contested midrange shots. The Bulls couldn’t find an answer on the offensive end either, and fell behind by 21 at the 6:40 mark. McCollum’s 28 points set a new franchise record for points in a quarter, and the Blazers enjoyed a eye-popping 43-19 advantage after the opening frame as a result.
Coach Terry Stotts wasn’t tempted by McCollum’s record-breaking first quarter, and elected to stick to his normal rotations as the second quarter got underway. With CJ on the bench, it took a few moments for the Blazers to re-discover their rhythm on offense. Chicago managed to climb within 20 points after Bobby Portis parlayed sloppy Portland possessions into points in the paint. The Blazers settled down after a timeout at the 3:50 mark and finished the quarter with an 8-5 run. Portland completed the half with an impressive 67-44 lead.
Blazers Keep Their Foot On The Accelerator
The Blazers emerged from the locker room determined to make this an early night. After a quiet four points in the second quarter, McCollum returned to his net-torching ways. Thanks to his 18 points in the period, the Bulls were never able to climb within a respectable distance. Zach LaVine did put 11 points on the board for Chicago in the third, which kept the score from becoming completely absurd. The Blazers finished the quarter in complete control with a 102-75 advantage.
Despite calls from the crowd, Stotts resisted the urge to put McCollum back into a already-decided contest. The Blazers instead elected to dish out minutes to their lesser-utilized players. With both benches emptied, Portland cruised to their first four-game winning streak of the season.
Don’t Forget The Defense
CJ McCollum’s explosive performance captured the headlines, but it was Portland’s defense that helped secure this blowout victory. As the made field goals piled up on the offensive end, Portland’s commitment to preventing easy shots paved the way for a early 20-point lead. The Bulls finished the first half with a paltry 30.8 field goal percentage, and were only able to lift it to 41.4 percent at the game’s conclusion.
Extra passes got the offense going. Yes the Bulls were without a few of their regulars, but the Blazers offense looked sharp throughout the night. The ball seamlessly moved from inside-out to outside-in, allowing Portland to finish the night with 21 assists. The final assist number would have likely been even higher if the starting backcourt continued to see minutes in the fourth quarter.
Portland didn’t play down to its competition. It has been a common theme throughout this season for the Blazers to allow teams that lag behind them in the standings to stick around in games, but tonight was completely different. After maintaining a large lead for the majority of the contest, the Blazers were able to rest their starters on the second night of a back-to-back.
It’s CJ’s World, We’re Just Living In It
CJ McCollum’s 50-point outburst is an outing that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He recorded 50 points in just 29 minutes on 25 shots from the field. Along with his career-high scoring night, McCollum nabbed 5 rebounds and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic both flirted with double-doubles despite taking a backseat to McCollum. Lillard finished with 13 points and 7 assists, while Nurkic put up 12 points to go along with his 9 rebounds.
Pat Connaughton looked sharp and confident in his 22 minutes of action. The former Notre Dame star got some extended work in the fourth quarter, but he also shot the ball well from outside while operating inside the normal rotation. Connaughton went 3-of-7 from the field and finished with 10 points.
Searching For Five Straight
Our friends at Blog A Bull have seen enough of CJ McCollum for awhile.
The Blazers will head across the border to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com