Damian Lillard led the Portland Trail Blazers to their first home win of the season, scoring 30 points and notching seven rebounds and six assists. CJ McCollum overcame recent struggles to contribute 23 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Kent Bazemore started against his old team in place of Rodney Hood, who sat out the contest with back spasms. Bazemore scored two key three pointers to change the momentum of the game in overtime. Overall, it was a classic team win as the Blazers bested the Hawks, 124-113.
Here’s what happened.
CJ McCollum opened the game with a clean pull-up jumper. After the Blazers took an early seven-point lead, the Hawks took a time-out to collect themselves, coming back to attack the paint. A block by Kent Bazemore staved off the Hawks, and a massive dunk by Hassan Whiteside, assisted by Anfernee Simons, invigorated the crowd. The Hawks saw daylight at the end of the first due to a foul by Gary Trent, Jr, while a turnover on an attempted dunk by Anfernee Simons gave Atlanta the lead, which they kept at the end of the first, 21-20.
Following a miss by the Hawks, Anthony Tolliver scored a three to start the second, and Trent, Jr. joined the party at the three-point line shortly after. The Blazers’ defense continued to keep Trae Young under control, largely due to the energy of Kent Bazemore. A failed interior move by Skal Labissiere led to a offensive rebound by Tolliver, who kicked it out to Simons for a three. Trae Young scored his first three with just over seven minutes to go in the second, spurring the Hawks to catch up at 6:36, 31-31. After a timeout, rookie Nassir Little checked in. The Blazers retook the lead on a McCollum dunk, but the Hawks regained some energy thanks to Young’s contributions. Bazemore provided a key stop, blocking DeAndre’ Bembry. But the Hawks came back again, pulling even and then ahead, turning the game into a possession-by-possession contest. The Blazers closed out the half ahead of the Hawks, 46-44.
After a foul by Damian Lillard, Trae Young tied the game from the charity stripe. On the other end, Hassan Whiteside pushed in, back to the basket, and scored an easy two before shushing the Hawks’ bench. He made good on his promise, flexing after scoring inside off an assist from CJ McCollum. Whiteside proceeded to do it again with help from Lillard. But turnovers and fouls allowed the Hawks to close the gap, and a steal by DeAndre’ Bembry gave the Hawks further signs of life before they pulled ahead to take a lead of four, 63-59. After a timeout, the Blazers mounted an offensive campaign with a three-guard lineup of Anfernee Simons, CJ McCollum, and Damian Lillard. The additional firepower of Simons allowed the Blazers to tie the game, 75-all, at the end of the third.
Anfernee Simons brought the heat to start play in the fourth, yet it wasn’t enough to hold the Hawks at bay. Damian Lillard took control of the game, driving to the cup, but Jabari Parker blasted back on behalf of the Hawks. A three-pointer from De’Andre Hunter, followed by a failed three from Tolliver and a layup by Tyrone Wallace that drew the foul allowed the Hawks to build a 95-90 lead with 6:20 to play. In the midst of the Blazers attempting to come back, Damian Lillard drew a foul from DeAndre’ Bembry, and Atlanta promptly issued a coach’s challenge on the call. The call changed to a non-shooting foul, and Lillard sank both free throws to pull the Blazers within one. A deep three from Trae Young had the second-year Hawk shushing the crowd, but Hassan Whiteside laid it in on the other end with an assist from Mario Hezonja. Following a Hawks turnover, Whiteside stepped to the line after being fouled, allowing the Blazers to take the lead, 103-102. Portland issued a coach’s challenge after officials called a foul on Hassan Whiteside blocking Trae Young, which they won, awarding the Blazers the ball with just over a minute to go. A McCollum two wasn’t enough to give the Blazers breathing room as Kevin Huerter sunk a corner three to even the game. Portland brought back the three guard lineup, and Lillard sliced to the hoop to score two. Two points from Huerter tied the game, and with .7 left, Simons launched a three that rimmed off the back iron.
The Blazers secured the ball to start overtime. Missed shots by both teams came to an end with a standstill triple from Kent Bazemore. A missed layup by Trae Young returned the ball to the Blazers, and Bazemore scored another three, 113-107. After a Hawks time-out, Kevin Huerter drew the foul from Mario Hezonja. A team effort led to the Blazers’ next points, as Hassan Whiteside cleaned up a Bazemore miss. CJ McCollum scored his first three of the night, building the Blazers’ lead to 118-111. Following another lay-up by McCollum and one from Hezonja, the Hawks attempted to mount a comeback, but Damian Lillard stripped Trae Young, the rookie squad came in, including Jaylen Hoard and Moses Brown. The Blazers won, 124-113.
Analysis and Observations
During the first half, Kent Bazemore’s defense kept Trae Young on lockdown, and it took realignment on the part of the Hawks to counteract what Bazemore brought to the floor. He brought a definite spark to the defense, providing energy when the team needed it most.
Crashing the glass on the offensive end dictated who had control of the game, but defensive rebounds ultimately made the difference. Portland had a season-high total of 61 rebounds, putting them over the top, with 16 offensive rebounds and 45 defensive rebounds. Hassan Whiteside led the Blazers with 11 rebounds.
There were several different lineups tried out tonight, and instead of running isolation after isolation or launching from three, there were attempts to rebound and reset for different reads. This is a real indicator of growth from this Blazers squad, who have struggled to embrace Stotts’ flow offense to its full ability.
Anfernee Simons: the man has ice in his veins. Without pause, he attempted a corner three that would have won the Blazers the game with .7 left. It bounced off the back of the rim, but it showed how Simons is unafraid to take the big shots, while also displaying the faith the team has in Simons’ development.
The contributions from all quarters made it clear that this was a team win to be celebrated. Everyone brought a little something to the court to lift the Blazers over the Hawks. To see this team finally start to mesh is encouraging, as is breaking the skid: this win should help them build confidence.
The Blazers travel to take on the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.