CJ McCollum scored 31 points and Damian Lillard added 29 as the Portland Trail Blazers edged out Tim Hardaway and the New York Knicks by a score of 118-114. Both teams caught fire from deep as the contest progressed. The Blazers finished 16-35 and the Knicks 13-29 from distance for the game. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 32 points. The Knicks led the majority of the game, but Portland’s star backcourt was too much to handle down the stretch.
The Knicks came into the game shooting the third-worst percentage from 3, at 31.7%. Instead of following suit, the Knicks rained down threes all game. They finished 13 for 29 from deep. Portland didn't do themselves any favors by allowing easy paint touches off the drive. That forced defense collapses and led to open kick outs. Credit goes to New York for effort that remained at a high level for the entire game. Portland’s D was unsatisfactory, but the Knicks were smart, unselfish, made the extra pass, and hit shots.
The Big 3
The Blazers had 3 of the best 4 players in the game in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. That’s usually enough to beat a bad team. Dame and Nurk had the pick and roll working. Nurk controlled the glass and became a force on the interior. CJ was feeling himself tonight. It would be an exaggeration to say they didn’t get any help from their teammates, because guys like Meyers Leonard and Evan Turner had an notable effect on the game, but Portland won with their stars.
This was the only game so far this season that the Blazers opponent was not either a current playoff team or a playoff team last year. That’s an incredible stat. Maybe it’s hard to blame the Blazers for finally taking a game lightly. Portland looked gassed and got outhustled. That said, they competed, and were able to pick themselves back up and make enough plays to get the win. Nurkic was all over the boards tonight, and although he ended up with 4 offensive rebounds and was responsible for multiple others on tip-outs, occupying multiple defenders. With Collins foul-happy and in a small rut, it’s important that Nurkic is playing as well as he is.
CJ McCollum - It’s rare that Lillard doesn't lead the team in shot attempts, but tonight it was for the better. McCollum was smoking today and dragged a win out of the clutches of defeat. Dame struggled late, but CJ was so good, he was able to carry an offensive in dire need of it. He had the whole arsenal going from all three spots.
Evan Turner - Turner was sound statistically tonight and was a game-changer late. Portland has been so much better this season with Turner on the court and tonight was no exception. His defense late on Tim Hardaway was huge (aside from that foul on the three) and his tip-in at the end of the game sealed it.
Al Farouq Aminu - Aminu looked gassed tonight. More than a few times he noticeably did not have the aggression that he normally has. Games like this don’t happen from the Chief very often. He did hit a big 3 late though, which seems to be his thing now.
Meyers Leonard - Meyers struggled defensively and on the boards, falling victim to the length of Mitchell Robinson a few times, but his three 3-pointers tonight were huge for Portland. The Blazers struggled to put points on the board while the big 3 sat, but Meyers was able to keep them close. Don’t look now, but that’s 8 straight games with a three-pointer made by Meyers.
Zach Collins - The Blazers got more foul trouble and another non-factor game from Collins. He’s too good and too important to have a 5 game stretch like he’s having.
Noah Vonleh: The former Blazers forward was fired up for this one. He was emotional and aggressive all night. He hit two 3’s early and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Tomorrow the Blazers head to Milwaukee, finishing up the back-to-back and Game 5 of their 6-game road trip. That’ll be a tough one.