After a brief hiatus, the Portland Trail Blazers looked as though the added rest served them well. Led by Damian Lillard, the Blazers started hot and later outlasted the feisty New York Knicks, 116-113 at the Moda Center. With the win, Portland improves to 9-6 on the season.
After welcoming the arrival of twin girls on Friday, Lillard came into tonight’s contest with newfound “Dad Energy,” seemingly without a care in the world (except maybe sleep). For much of the night, Lillard acted as the calm and collected composer to the Blazers’ offensive symphony, carefully picking his own spots while beautifully conducting those around him towards success. 15 of his hyper-efficient 39 points came in the first quarter, and he didn’t miss a shot until the second half as Portland decimated the NBA’s top-ranked scoring defense.
Instead, it was the Blazers showing all the hustle, at least early on. Derrick Jones Jr. matched his previous season-high of 10 points in just the opening period, on his way to a new high of 14, while Portland quickly built a double-digit lead that would would end up being just enough to carry them to victory.
When it was time for the starters to rest, the hot hand carried over to the second unit. Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. were cooking from deep, combining for 22 points in just the second quarter as coach Terry Stotts rode the bench longer than usual. The Blazers led by 20 at the break, and by as much as 25 early in the third before the Knicks started to show some grit.
New York ended up outscoring Portland 27-19 in the third period, and continued to ride that momentum into the final stretch behind the scrappy play of Immanuel Quickley, who finished with a team-high 31 points off the bench—just ahead of Julius Randle’s 25 points. The flood of outside shooting that lifted the Blazers before was starting to evaporate, and New York’s ratcheted up defensive pressure forced Portland into three straight careless turnovers in the final two minutes, leaving the door wide open for the Knicks who continued to slowly chip away.
The lead would get trimmed as close as three points multiple times, but the winding clock was in the Blazers’ favor and they were able to ice the game at the free throw line in an agonizing, drawn out finish. Crisis averted. The plastic goes back over the panic button.
The Blazers will wrap up the 7-game homestand tomorrow against the Oklahoma City Thunder - tip is set for 7:00 p.m.