The Portland Trail Blazers passed their biggest test so far this season on Tuesday night, defeating the upstart Milwaukee Bucks 118-103 thanks to a masterful performance from CJ McCollum, who finished the game with a season-high 40 points. It was the second loss for the Bucks on the year and Portland’s fifth win in their last six games.
Both teams got out to a hot start, each shooting 50% from three-point land in the first quarter. The Blazers jumped out to a double digit lead in the second period, but Giannis Antetokounmpo rallied the Bucks back to make it a six point game at the break. Portland pulled ahead with a 34 point third quarter, led by McCollum’s 19, taking a 14-point lead into the final stanza. Though Milwaukee was able to stay within shouting distance until the final buzzer, the Blazers held on for the celebration-worthy victory.
Both the Blazers and Bucks finished this game right around the 40% mark in terms of three-point shooting, a predictable conclusion considering the stellar start. All told the final lines were nearly identical, as Portland finished 16-42 to Milwaukee’s 17-43. The Blazers made seven of their 16 in the first quarter alone, the most for any quarter this season.
The Blazers had seven different players hit a triple, and six of them hit two or more, led by McCollum’s five. They used excellent ball movement, particularly in the second unit, and utilized the dribble hand-off to get quality looks throughout the night.
CJ Goes Off
This was a vintage performance for McCollum, who has been mired in a slump through the early season. While he led the team with five made threes, he was also exceptional from mid-range, as the Bucks had no answer for the screen-and-roll game he had working with Jusuf Nurkic. CJ finished the night an efficient 17-26 overall from the field, and rounded out his 40 points with five rebounds, six assists and four steals.
He also added Donte DiVincenzo to the Burned Victims’ Unit, leaving the poor rookie in his wake on this nasty crossover:
It wasn’t just the Greek Freak who was clicking for the Bucks. Though the early MVP candidate pulled down nine rebounds and dished out six assists in addition to his 23 points, he got tremendous help from both Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, who each scored 22.
While Giannis was able to get to the rim at will, Middleton and Lopez became sharpshooters from distance, with Lopez knocking down six from beyond the arc. In addition to his marksmanship, Middleton also had eight points and six assists, despite playing much of the night in foul trouble.
The Other Guys
Evan Turner put together a masterful performance that got overshadowed (understandably) by CJ’s big night. He had 16 points, 11 boards and four assists 32 minutes off the bench, and was a team-high +21 for the game.
Jusuf Nurkic put in a well-rounded outing as well, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes, and also had to be mindful of foul trouble throughout.
Damian Lillard (13) and Jake Layman (10) also both scored in double figures, while Zach Collins (9) came just short of that mark.
The Blazers host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night in the penultimate game of the homestand.