Damian Lillard was in mid, post, whatever-season form you want to call it as the Blazers never really looked to be worried against a new-look Spurs squad searching for identity.
Random thoughts and takeaways:
- Effortless. On the night Lillard was presented his award for earning All-NBA First Team honors last season, he turned in a performance worthy of the mantle, and while making it look easy. For the second time in as many games so far this season, Lillard barely looked to break a sweat as he calmly and efficiently turned in another “Oh, Dame has 29 points? That’s nice” seemingly ho-hum if it weren’t an All-Star stat-line performance. He added 9 assists on the night and didn’t commit a turnover in what could easily be called a floor general’s clinic.
- On the Double. For better or worse, Terry Stotts has historically been opposed to using double-teams and has preferred to let his guys play honest, one-on-one defense. Tonight he broke that rule. From the get-go the Blazers would routinely send a second defender at LaMarcus Aldridge, usually when he got the ball on the left baseline - which many Portland fans will remember as his favorite spot - and it paid off. Aldridge scored only 12 points as having a second defender roaming his blind spot clearly gave him trouble.
- Amin-No! Amin-Yes? Following up a dreadful 1-10 opener - including 0-6 from long range - Al-Farouq Aminu got back on a track, knocking down 3 of his 5 shots - two from deep - and looking much more like his former self. This is exactly what you want to get from Chief - not trying to do too much and hitting open shots. But it was on the defensive end where he really shined, being part of the effort slowing down the aforementioned Aldridge.
- Pass the Sauce. Future Blazer legend Nik Stauskas didn’t follow up his explosive debut with another memorable feat, but he was part of a bench that continued to look compelling. Six players combined to score 41 points and brought a balance that has been missing from the second unit for quite some time. Zach Collins led the way with 11 points and 5 boards, but the group as a whole appears to be mightily capable of being a positive force - and not just a stopgap - as the season goes forward.
- Foolish. The annual Blazers Edge fantasy draft took place this evening and somehow the field allowed yours truly to snag both Lillard and CJ McCollum - at economical positions, no less. They’ll all rue the day.
The Blazers will face its first Eastern Conference opponent Monday, when the Washington Wizards visit the Moda Center and wrap up a three-game homestand to begin the season. Tip is set for 7 pm.