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CJ McCollum Floater Lifts Trail Blazers Over Spurs

Neither team was fully healthy but one ended up a single point better.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have an impeccable sense of timing. On the evening of the 2018 Golden Globes, they put on show to rival anything Hollywood has to offer, defeating the San Antonio Spurs in dramatic fashion. Granted, the awards show held more star power. The Blazers played without Damian Lillard, while the Spurs went without 4 of their main rotation guys: Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green, and Rudy Gay. Even so, the ending of this game was not to be missed...five stars, two thumbs up, and a shiny statue to CJ McCollum for bringing the final shot home.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet

Portland’s offensive intentions were clear from the tip; they wanted to get to the rack. Drives and dishes, post ups, lobs, Pat Connaughton driving down the lane and dunking...they tried pretty much anything to get free inside. The Blazers put up 20 points within 6 feet of the hoop in the first period alone. They didn’t hit a three until Moe Harkless splashed one with 2 seconds left in the quarter. Shabazz Napier led the charge with 3 assists and a lay-in. Old friend LaMarcus Aldridge got his game working and the Spurs matched Portland for a 27-27 tie after one.

Award for Best Drama

The Blazers continued to find success at the rim in the second quarter. This opened up the outside game, but they couldn't capitalize. Meanwhile San Antonio’s offense rolled. They got good shots and moved the ball faster than Portland’s defense could recover. The Blazers got down as many as 9 in the quarter, but 7 straight points from Jusuf Nurkic late brought them within 5 at the half, 48-53.

The Show Must Go On

The third period continued the night’s themes. Portland’s poor shooting rolled onward, Aldridge remained a problem, and the Spurs’ offensive machine continued to spit out good shots while capitalizing on offensive rebounds. The Blazers found themselves down 12 midway through the period. Though Portland’s defense had a step behind to that point, they were able to get their hands on a few passes and scramble for loose balls as the quarter progressed. Then the Spurs started to get upset with the refs just as Portland’s shots started dropping. Harkless hit a deep jumper. So did Zach Collins. That opened the floodgates, as Napier started tearing through San Antonio’s defense once more. A 23-8 run got the Blazers back in the game, tied 80-80, heading into the fourth with all the momentum.

Best Performance in a Leading Role: CJ McCollum

The fourth quarter went back and forth as both offenses got rolling at the same time. Portland was able to grab a 7-point lead with just over 5 minutes to play, but the Spurs responded with 5 baskets on their next 6 possessions, including a trio of three-pointers from Manu Ginobili.

With San Antonio up 108-107 and 1:27 left to play, LaMarcus Aldridge missed two huge free throws. Then CJ McCollum responded with a drive and bucket to give the Blazers a one-point advantage. After alternating unsuccessful offensive trips, Spurs forward Kyle Anderson went to the free throw line on a questionable call against Al-Farouq Aminu. Anderson hit both free throws to set the stage for the finale.

13 seconds left, Blazers down 110-111 with the ball.

The inbound pass went to McCollum. He took it, drove right, crossed to his left, then threw up a right-handed runner from 6 feet out. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. The ball sat up on the rim long enough for me to lose my voice yelling at it to go down. Eventually, it did, with just 5 seconds remaining.

That’s where the drama ended. On San Antonio’s final possession, Nurkic forced Aldridge into a difficult shot that ricocheted off of the backboard. No one was able to corral the rebound before the game clock expired. Blazers win, 111-110.

The Crowd Goes Wild

The play-by-play may look like Portland struggled early and figured it out late, but tonight’s game flow was more about missing and making decent shots than about effort or execution. The intensity was higher at the end of the game, but the Blazers maintained offensive and defensive integrity throughout the game (as one must when facing the Spurs).

Portland was able to get good shots inside early which opened the floor for perimeter looks that just wouldn't drop. It was clear that if those shots went down, the Blazers would be in the driver’s seat. That’s exactly what happened in the third and it changed the momentum of the game.

Best Performances

Shabazz Napier - CJ McCollum had the best stat line and was deservedly the hero of the game, but Napier had fingerprints all over this win. His defensive gambles paid off. He forced 3 turnovers himself and helped with others. Napier spent the entire night getting to the rim either to finish or get good looks for others. He ended up 6-6 from inside the arc, finding and exploiting holes in the San Antonio defense.

CJ McCollum - CJ has hit some big shots for the Blazers during his tenure, but tonight was as clutch as we’ve ever seen him. He closed out the final four points of the game, including that delicious game-winner. He scored 11 in the fourth quarter alone. CJ is known as a tough-shot maker. With the game on the line, he was able to get to the spots he wanted and finish. His 7 assists helped Portland’s offense as well.

Maurice Harkless - Harkless was a monster tonight, the catalyst for a Blazers bench that became a weapon against the Spurs. His 3 three-point strikes got Portland’s outside game going and his all-around performance was big time, especially after getting the DNP-CD last game. That’s professionalism.

Zach Collins - Collins had an effective game. He hit a three, made a nice little drive from the wing, and executed a few good moves down low. It’s been an up-and-down season for the rookie. Tonight we got to see flashes of his potential.

Rolling Onward


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