The Blazers kept the Hawks at arm’s length nearly all night, before finally dispatching them (Box score). Atlanta was Portland’s second consecutive cupcake road opponent since losing Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending injury. So what did we learn about the Blazers from tonight’s game? Well....
- We didn’t learn very much. Again. For the second straight game, Portland played a clearly-inferior East team who is tanking for a draft pick. It’s hard to really learn much about how Portland would play a better team. However, there was one thing ominous about Portland’s performance:
- Defense optional. Neither team seemed very excited to bring the D tonight, leaving both teams with many open lanes or three’s.
- Portland is way better at making open shots. Shocking, right? The team in 3rd place in the West is a little better at canning wide-open shots than the 12th-best team in the East. Atlanta stuck around for a while, but Portland pulled away early in the second half and never looked back.
- Trae vs. Damian. Nothing else mattered tonight, as Lillard played a guy who looked like he could be the next generation’s Damian. They both feasted on the poor defense, as Lillard enabled the cheat code for 36 points on 25 shots, and Young had 24, but needed 21 shots to get there.
- Anfernee Simons will regale his grandchildren with the story of the day he played Vince Carter. He’ll probably be doing it while his grandkids are watching the still-active Carter playing live
Third-seed Portland is now .5 games ahead of Houston, and own the tiebreak. They have a three-game buffer over the currently-playing fifth-seed Utah Jazz. And they’re 4.5 games ahead of San Antonio and Oklahoma City. With the last two wins, Portland is slowly decreasing their risk of playing the Warriors in the first round.
A date in Detroit tomorrow at 4:00 pm PDT.