Led by a stellar performance from Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers easily dispatched the Spurs 121-108. After a rocky start, Portland captured a lead in the second quarter that they would never relinquish. Former Blazers cornerstone LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to get his offense going, which put all the pressure on newcomer DeMar DeRozan. Adding to the Spurs’ struggles was an electric second-half performance from CJ McCollum. Both Lillard and McCollum shot 9-15 from the field, and they combined for 53 points in Portland’s impressive victory.
DeRozan Keeps Spurs Afloat
Both sides struggled to shoot efficiently in the first quarter. San Antonio managed to keep pace with Portland by utilizing DeRozan. The former Raptors star looked to exploit McCollum on the defensive end throughout the opening period. DeRozan successfully used his size to his advantage over McCollum in the post, and supplemented those attempts with open looks off screens. Despite shooting a dismal 33 percent from the field in the first quarter, the Spurs managed to stay level thanks to DeRozan’s 9 points.
The Bench Sets The Trap
Even without an explosion from Nik Stauskas, Portland’s second unit set the stage for victory. Evan Turner got the offense going once the second unit arrived. Turner picked up where he left off against the Lakers by finding open teammates after collapsing the defense.
Thanks to the energy provided by the bench, the Blazers’ three-point shooting quickly recovered. With a slight lead in hand, a rested Lillard returned to action ready to build a larger one. Once Lillard had done his damage, the free-flowing pace that followed allowed McCollum to explode for 24 points of his own. The Spurs couldn’t keep pace with the constant attack from the Blazers. Fresh face after fresh face built and maintained a double-digit lead that Portland would never surrender.
Remove LaMarcus From The Equation
The Blazers sent help towards LaMarcus Aldridge all night. With defenders constantly closing in, Aldridge couldn’t establish his rhythm. As the game went on, Al-Farouq Aminu masterfully executed Portland’s defensive gameplan. Aminu effortlessly altered shots in the paint and rotated out to the perimeter when needed.
As if his offensive struggles weren’t bad enough, the Blazers made it a point to attack Aldridge on offense. Lillard looked to exploit the big fella in pick-and-rolls in the second half. Whether it was pulling back for an open three-pointer, or darting to the basket, Lillard was a nightmare for Aldridge.
Aldridge finished the night with 12 points in 37 minutes of action.
Zach Collins was once again utilized in the rotation tasked with closing out the game. Jusuf Nurkic finished with better boxscore numbers, but it was Collins that took part in the final run for coach Terry Stotts.
Lillard’s offensive production off screens in the fourth quarter is partly due to the outside shooting of Collins. On defense, the second-year big man continued to make things difficult. He wasn’t as dominant as he was against the Lakers, but he rallied past early foul trouble to play sturdy defense down the stretch.
San Antonio failed to find a way to slow down Lillard for the majority of the game. Lillard routinely got to his favorite spots, and he set up his teammates with open looks along the way. He finished with 29 points and 9 assists.
McCollum recorded 24 points after a relatively slow start. He was the hottest hand on the court for long stretches of the second half. McCollum connected on four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.
Unlike his outing against the Lakers, Stauskas struggled to get clean spot-up shots. Instead, Stauskas was forced to find opportunities off the dribble. The results weren’t pretty. Stauskas went 1-5 from the field for 3 points.
The Blazers will look to stay unbeaten when they host the Wizards on Monday.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com