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“Big Night” Jusuf Nurkic Helps Blazers Cool Off Rockets

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James Harden came within one basket of another 40 point night but the Blazers took the game handily.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers stopped the 40-point streak of James Harden and the Houston Rockets’ six-game win streak all in one blow tonight, vanquishing their Western Conference rivals 110-101. Harden missed a layup as time expired that would have given him his fifth straight 40-point game. By that point it was academic, as Jusuf Nurkic had already given Portland 25 points, 15 rebounds, and a tidy win.

Battle of the Benches

Last time these two teams played back in mid-December, Portland’s bench was dominated by the reserve trio of Daniel House, Gerald Green, and Nene. That night, those three players combined for 35 points on 14-21 shooting compared to 13 points on 5-15 shooting from Portland’s reserves.

Tonight the Blazers’ second unit netted their 15th point with six minutes left in the second quarter..a substantial improvement. They managed to outscore Houston’s bench 23-22. The margin was narrow, but good enough to support the starters and help get the win.

Beard Care

There’s no secret about the key to containing the Rockets offense. Everything starts and ends with the most famous beard in NBA history, James Harden. Harden is averaging over 40 points per game over his last 10 games. He score 38 on Portland, but it took him 35 shots to get there. The Blazers’ defense, most notably Evan Turner, hounded him all game and gave up few open looks. Overall, a great job by the entire Blazer roster in making life difficult for last year’s MVP.

Analysis

This was a big game for Portland, a back-to-back against the NBA’s hottest team. After losing a heartbreaker last night, they could have decided to lie down, but that didn't happen. The defense on Harden was huge, as was the great play of Nurkic, CJ McCollum (24 points), and Damian Lillard (17 points and 12 assists). Portland’s bench almost coughed up a lead in the fourth quarter but the played well enough to hand the advantage back to the starters to close it out. Portland out-hustled the Rockets for the most part and did a terrific job limiting fouls. The Rockets shot 12 free throws as a team, Harden accounting for only 7 against a season average of 11 per game.

In short, this was a great team effort overall and a huge gut check win for the Blazers.

The Fellas

Jusuf Nurkic: Wow. Nurk is giving us that fever again. He finished with 25 points on 11-18 shooting, 15 rebounds (6 offensive), and 3 assists. His post game is more balanced lately and he single-handedly solidifies the glass for the Blazers. When he was out, Houston especially Clint Capela, feasted on rebounds. Nurkic made the difference tonight.

Houston tried not to switch off of Nurkic out of fear of him posting smaller defenders into a mismatch. That opened up opportunities for Portland’s ball handlers.

CJ McCollum: CJ Had a good night shooting the ball, timing his buckets with value. His most important shot was a three in transition with 8:23 left in the fourth after the Rockets had worked a 16-point deficit down to 5. That bucket changed the whole momentum of the game. CJ came up big later as well.

Evan Turner: Turner is a very good defender overall, but it goes unnoticed most of the time, as his defensive game lacks flash. Games like this one demonstrate his true value on the defensive side of the ball. He was a step ahead of Harden all night, and although Harden put up 38, Turner forced him into difficult looks. Harden shot 37 percent for the game while committing 7 turnovers. ET also contributed 14 points

James Ennis: Cal State Long Beach shoutout! (my alma matter). Unfortunately, Kevin Calabro called it UC Long Beach during the game (deep exhale).

Up Next:

The Blazers take on Noah Vonleh and the Knicks at the Moda Center on Monday the 7th.

Boxscore

Instant Recap

Why not celebrate the big win by donating tickets to help kids in need see the Blazers play the Brooklyn Nets on March 25th? Here’s how!

To donate tickets to kids for Blazer’s Edge Night against the Nets on 3/25/19:

Click this link or copy/paste into your address bar: https://rosequarter.com/groupnights/

Enter the Promo Code: BLAZERSEDGE

Go through the purchase process just as if you were buying tickets for yourself.

If you order through this link with this code, tickets will be automatically donated and designated at Will Call with your order. No need to do anything else, it’s just that easy!

If you run into difficulty or wish to donate more tickets than the online service will allow, contact our Ticket Representative, Alec Botts, at 503.963.3926.