The third edition of reviewing each Portland Trail Blazers player’s best game of the 2019-20 season features the team’s two sophomores: Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. Both assumed a much bigger role this year than they did as rookies. For Simons, that was expected – for Trent Jr., not so much.
Simons started the season strong but fell into a slump for a good portion of the schedule. Before the league’s suspension, the second-year guard was starting to rediscover his groove offensively.
His best game of the season came against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 12 – Portland’s last contest before the All-Star break. Although they lost, 104-111, Simons posted the only positive plus-minus on the roster in 28 minutes of play. He recorded 22 points and seven rebounds on 7/12 shooting and six three-pointers.
Simons made his presence known early by ending the first quarter with a triple to bring the Blazers within four points. He made another 30 seconds in to the second quarter to keep it a two-possession game.
He wrapped up the second quarter with back-to-back threes, assisted by CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, respectively. The first was made possible by an offensive rebound by Simons, and the second in transition off a defensive rebound by him. His personal 6-0 run brought Portland to within two – a pair of Jaren Jackson free throws to end the half returned the lead to four.
Toward the end of the third, Simons converted his fifth triple in as many attempts thanks to Trevor Ariza’s awareness to make the extra pass. It capped off a 9-0 run for the Blazers and once again brought the lead back down to four.
Simons’ last five points came in a span of 30 seconds with 2:30 remaining in the game, but at that point Memphis’ lead was too much for his offensive burst to matter. On a night when Lillard uncharacteristically scored 20 points on 7/19 shooting, Simons stepped up to efficiently fill the offensive void.
Gary Trent Jr.
A switch flipped on Trent Jr.’s 21st birthday, when he scored 30 points in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder; he averaged 12.2 points, 1.1 steals and 2.1 threes over the next 23 games. Although missing the flashy stats of some of those matchups, his performance on February 6 was undeniably his best of the season on a team level.
That game, the Blazers squeaked out a much-needed win against the San Antonio Spurs 125-117. In 24 minutes, Trent Jr. recorded 18 points, four assists and one block on 6/7 shooting (all three-pointers).
His third of six three-pointers came with 8:33 left in the fourth to recapture Portland’s lead. It was a warning to the Spurs of what was to come.
Between the 3:47 and 2:13 mark in the fourth, Trent Jr. nailed THREE triples. The lead grew from a shaky nine to an out-of-reach 13 thanks to his late barrage.
The first three-pointer came in transition – a signature Carmelo Anthony pump fake drew two defenders and he made the extra pass to his wide-open teammate in the corner. The second again came from Anthony finding the hot hand, this time on the wing. The third and final nail in San Antonio’s coffin resulted from a drive-and-kick by Lillard. Trent Jr. knocked that shot down right in front of Portland’s bench and all his teammates flailed around in celebration.
Without Trent Jr.’s hot shooting to ice the game, Portland may have lost a crucial opportunity to climb the standings. At the time of the season’s suspension, the Blazers had a 0.5-game lead on the Spurs for the ninth spot but hold the season tiebreaker thanks to the February victory spearheaded by the sophomore guard.