Since the calendar hit 2018, it’s been impossible to spell “Portland Trail Blazers” without Damian Lillard. Over the last couple weeks it’s been impossible to spell “Damian Lillard” without three-pointers. If you don’t understand how that alphabet works, you haven’t been watching the Blazers play during their current 8-game winning streak. You’re not alone; evidently the New York Knicks haven’t either. The lottery-bound, road-weary Knicks spent the entire first half letting Lillard and his teammates get all kinds of open looks from three-point land. By the time intermission hit, the Blazers had hit enough long balls to send their fans into a diabetic coma. A wee bit of intensity in the second half was enough to send Portland sailing to a 111-87 victory, setting up a titanic matchup on Friday night pitting The Streak against the current World Champions.
You Really Should Read the Scouting Report...
Isn't New York supposed to be one of the media capitals of the world? Somehow, word must have never got around to the Knicks that Damian Lillard has been on fire lately. because they did nothing to cool the flame. On multiple occasions, Dame found himself holding the ball with plenty of breathing room. The New York guards were going under ball screens, losing Lillard in rotations, and making very little effort to deny him the ball. Consequently, Lillard finished with 24 points in the first half on 5/7 from three-point land. Others caught on. Al-Farouq Aminu, Pat Connaughton, Zach Collins, and CJ McCollum all added a three ball, (two from Connaughton) on their way to 10 triples combined before halftime.
Portland led by as many as 15 in the first half and, combined with long-distance success, it felt like the inevitable rout was on. The Blazers players may have felt it too; they started to play like it was already over. Instead, the Knicks capitalized on Portland’s sloppiness, forcing 9 turnovers in the half. They moved the ball around well offensively, something they don’t normally do, and were able to get good looks as a result.
Knicks big man Enes Kanter rewarded the Blazers for the offer sheet that led to the massive contract he is now enjoying by forcing 3 fouls each to both Collins and Jusuf Nurkic and Collins, putting a lot of pressure on Portland’s front court.
This series of unfortunate events shrank the Blazers’ once-comfortable lead to 57-52 at the half.
You Twos, You Lose
Portland would go on to score 54 points in the second half. Just 12 of those points came from two-point field goals. The Blazers finished the game shooting an astounding 20-33 (60.6%) from 3 and added 21 free throws. Dame led the charge by going 2-7 from inside the arc and 8-11 outside of it. The Knicks finally started trying to knock him off the arc and pressure him, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. Lillard also got to the line 11 times, converting 9 foul shots. He finished with 37. Typical Dame.
Both teams elevated their intensity in the second half but a focused Blazer team was much better than the re-focused Knicks team. Five minutes into the half, the Blazers had already extended the lead to 16. They would never look back. The starters got to rest at the end of the game as both benches emptied. Portland finished off the Knicks easily, winning by 24.
Portland’s second-half intensity, evident from the opening play after the break, was enough to break the Knicks. The ball picked up speed offensively and the Blazers passed up good shots to get great ones. That’s how a team ends up shooting 60 percent from three-point range.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Blazers greatest insurance policy—their offensive rebounding— was paying out big time. The Trail Blazers had 20 turnovers and only 2 fast break points, but they were able to grab 15 offensive rebounds to keep the Knicks from making a serious push.
The three-point barrage was the highlight of the game (the Blazers would end up hitting 20) but Portland’s defense kept the opponent down. After giving up 52 points in the first half, the Blazers held New York to just 35 in the second. Offensive and defensive contributions could be found up and down the lineup.
The Knicks are a bad team; they just are. But this was still a good win for Portland, as they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and coming off of an emotional road game. No matter what factors played into it, 8 straight wins is an impressive feat.
The fellas -
Damian Lillard - This guy is running around with cheat codes on. It’s unreal. I’ve talked about him enough though, lets give someone else some pub.
CJ McCollum - McCollum embodied the Blazers tonight. He shot 2-11 on twos and 5-7 on threes, finishing with 3 offensive rebounds. CJ led the game in +/- and was the guy who stood out when the Blazers started clamping down defensively. His effort was as good as his shooting was...well, his 3-point shooting anyway.
Ed Davis/Zach Collins - These two combined for 24 rebounds, 7 offensive. They both struggled offensively, especially Collins, but it’s so valuable to have guys that can change the game without needing the ball in their hands. Effort, defense, extra possessions...this tandem can be a weapon even when they combine to shoot 2-12 from the floor.
Wade Baldwin - Baldwin got his first minute and point of the season! Congratulations Wade!
Up Next for You
Posting and Toasting will not be boasting.
The 8-game winning streak will get a serious test when the Blazers face the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at 7:00 PM, Pacific.