The Trail Blazers cruised to a decisive 127-102 victory over the Kings to open their preseason schedule. Damian Lillard got things rolling early and finished with 15 points in 22 minutes of action. Once Portland was ahead, they never looked back. Outside of Lillard, Harry Giles went off against his former team. Giles notched a 18-point, 14-rebound double-double in just 25 minutes of playing time.
Basketball is back. Before the second game gets underway on Sunday, here are three storylines from Friday’s contest.
The Blazers’ offense started the game firing on all cylinders. Fueled by Lillard’s exploits, Portland’s shooters connected on their first seven attempts from beyond the arc. It is hard justify buying stock in a hot quarter in the preseason, but the Blazers’ movements and sets looked ready for actual competition. Enes Kanter, Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. all performed admirably as screeners. Both Lillard and CJ McCollum enjoyed increased space on off-ball movements.
Inside the arc, the Blazers showcased the early framework of a lob-friendly approach for Jones in halfcourt sets. They didn’t always connect, but the blueprint is there for Jones to impact the game from above the rim. Outside of Jones, Kanter and Giles displayed their passing chops throughout the game. Rejoice, the Whiteside black hole is gone.
Perhaps the most promising outcome from Friday’s result was the scoring punch that the second unit provided. Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. picked up where they left off in the bubble. That duo combined for 39 points off the bench. If their scoring holds up, the Blazers’ bench should transform from a weakness to a strength in the 2020-21 season.
New Faces Bring Athleticism
One thing was clear from start to finish on Friday: the Blazers possess length and speed in the frontcourt. Covington and Jones invaded passing lanes, blocked shots and closed gaps quickly on the defensive end. Offensively, Covington made the most of his touches. The former Rockets forward is a decisive passer and shooter. Alongside Covington, Jones put pressure on the Kings with perfectly-timed cuts to the rim. Watch out, the Blazers’ high-powered offense could unlock a new level of efficiency with Covington and Jones in the frontcourt.
Further down the bench, CJ Elleby got to his spots and persevered through a tough start on the offensive end. The rookie from Washington State put up four points and four rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
Reserve Big Battle
Buckle up, the competition for the first big man off the bench should be an interesting one in Portland. Harry Giles, buoyed by 18 points and 14 rebounds, looks like he is a serious contender to secure meaningful minutes in coach Terry Stotts’ rotation. The former Duke big man was comfortable on offense, fought for loose balls and made positive plays on the defensive end. Kanter, who notched four points and 11 rebounds as a starter, endured a less-than-ideal night on the offensive end. The big fella struggled to secure the ball off passes and rebounds.
Once Zach Collins returns, the battle for minutes behind Jusuf Nurkic is going to be tight.
The Kings are sticking around to face the Blazers on Sunday.