If the 2017-18 Portland Trail Blazers starred in the classic Game Show “Match Game” and the card read, “Blow... (blank)”, several options would come to mind. Blow the lead. Blow it. Blow the offense in unfathomable ways. “Blowout” would be nowhere near the top. It simply never happens when Portland takes the court, no matter how weak the opponent. Until tonight, that is. A team-based approach in which six players ended up in double figures, none scoring more than 20, led to a 110-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Relative records don’t matter. The Blazers showed the chemistry, heart, and consistency that die-hard fans have been hoping to see all season, making the game look easy and the evening enjoyable for all save the visitors.
Hawkin’ up some good stuff.
Portland came out gunning tonight. 8 of their first 19 shots came from three-point land, 5 of the non-threes from 16 feet out or farther. The guns were smoking and targets were dropping. The Blazers built themselves an early 24-12 lead through hot shooting and ball movement. 12 of their first 16 baskets came off of an assist, much higher than their 53% rate on the season.
Over-passing, especially for a team that doesn't do so regularly, can often lead to turnovers. That’s what followed. Portland turned the ball over 5 times in a 4-minute stretch in the second quarter and finished with 10 turnovers at the half. As result, though the Blazers shot 55% from the floor in the first half and held at Atlanta to 37%, they came into the break with just a 52-46 advantage. C.J McCollum led all scorers with 16 points on 6-9 shooting, 4-6 from three.
The best offense is a good defense
The Blazers came out strong in the second half. They went from 54 points to 71 by scoring on seven straight possessions. Partially overlapping that same time period, they strung together seven straight stops. Portland defended the Hawks’ drive and kick game well, holding the drive and getting hands in passing lanes. They used deflections and long rebounds to get good shots on the other end...atypical for this year’s squad. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 in the quarter.
Bring in the closers
The Blazers then started the 4th quarter with four straight baskets and the rout was on. The starters were out of the game with just under 7 minutes left; Portland held a 100-76 lead. The bench brought it home. Smiles graced the court as the Blazers walked off. Every player that entered the game scored tp seal the 21-point victory.
Hail the first 20-point win since opening day!
A season-high 30 assists for the Blazers painted the picture in this one. The ball picked up speed on the dribble and the pass, leading to good shots. As the ball moved, so did the players, both in the half-court and in transition. The offense looked smooth and the players flowed with purpose. 41 points from the Blazer bench came as a result of that unselfishness and activity. Atlanta looked defeated a few minutes into the third and never put up any resistance afterwards. Portland was long overdue for a good win like this.
Ed Davis - Atlanta wanted nothing to do with Ed Davis. His energy was a constant annoyance for a Hawks front court that just couldn't match his heart. When he is able to finish under the basket, he becomes a great weapon to bring off the bench. When Portland passes well, he becomes that much more of a threat.
Pat Connaughton - Tonight Connaughton affected the game in other ways than his jump shot. He used screens to curl for easy baskets, or to trap defenders and flare. His effectiveness off of the screen gets him a few easy buckets every game and is starting to draw attention from defenders. That’s a great sign for Connaughton and the Portland offense.
Neither Damian Lillard nor CJ McCollum are built to be lock-down defenders, but tonight they both did a great job reading passing lanes and causing turnovers. They combined for 5 steals, but they also had deflections that led to other turnovers or late shot clock scrambles.
Oh, and Evan Turner shot 4-5 from the field and hit both of his three-point attempts in 23 minutes.
Peachtree Hoops can’t win them all against the Blazers.
Portland suits up against Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night at 6:00 PM, Pacific.