An undefeated preseason is no longer in the cards for the Portland Trail Blazers. They fell to the Sacramento Kings 121-106 on Sunday, the second matchup between the teams in three days. Harry Giles once again had a terrific showing, putting up a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, adding three assists, two steals, and a block in 26 minutes of action. Gary Trent Jr. was second in scoring on the night, pouring in 17 points in 34 minutes. Derrick Jones Jr. also put in 15 points, including going 7 of 8 from the free throw line.
Hoodie and Nurkic Back in Action
About halfway through the first quarter, Rodney Hood checked into an NBA basketball game for the first time in a year. In the second quarter, Hood posted up Kyle Guy and hit a beautiful turnaround jumper, and boy did it feel good. Hood finished with two points on 1 of 4 shooting along with two rebounds and four assists in 12 minutes. It’s not a stat line worth writing home about, but for someone coming off a notoriously difficult injury, it’s just good to see him out there.
How Hood’s role develops this season will be interesting. Does he come off the bench as the fourth or fifth wing? Will he ever attain some semblance of his pre-Achilles injury form and reclaim a starting spot or a sixth-man role? Right now, it’s hard to see him earning starter minutes with the other wings being healthy and playing solid, but Hood will definitely be a consistent role player.
As for Jusuf Nurkic, he also played limited minutes and did pretty well with them. He only had four points and four boards in 13 minutes, but he also tallied two blocks and redirected traffic in the paint. He even got hit in the face in the second quarter, which is the real indicator of whether or not basketball is back. Nurkic was not totally in game shape during the bubble and was still awesome, so seeing what he can do with an improved roster and full health will be fascinating.
Giles impresses again
Harry Giles continued to endear himself to Blazers fans with another high-energy performance against his former team. He stuffed the stat sheet tonight — or at least as much as one can in the preseason — and displayed his unique combination of athleticism and playmaking. He also once again brought enthusiasm off the bench, even if there was a little less shimmying.
Steve Dewald already touched on this after the last game, but it’s worth reiterating that Portland will host a dogfight for time at the backup center spot. Kanter arguably had the lead before the season started, but Giles seems ready to eat up those minutes. It might just be preseason, but he’s is making a great argument for why he should be the backup five.
No Dame, No CJ
Anfernee Simons was out for the game with a sore hamstring, which meant Portland was down a backup point guard. While it’s been common practice for the Blazers to throw either Dame or CJ in with the second unit to handle point guard duties, there’s not really as big of an incentive to do that in preseason. As a result, we got to see glimpses of what the bench can look like without a true backup point guard.
That backup guard spot was a position that Portland was expected to pad during free agency, but instead they declared Simons their backup for the season. If Simons has to occasionally miss time — due to injury, COVID, or any other reason — then Lillard and McCollum will be the only point guards available. During the regular season one of those two stars will always be with the second unit if Simons is gone, but what if one of those guys gets injured or tests positive? Then who runs the offense? It’s an interesting positional thing that could play a huge role this season.
Portland will now travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets. Their first game will take place on Wednesday with tip-off at 6 p.m. PT.