The Portland Trail Blazers finally made a game look easy tonight, blowing past the Sacramento Kings in a 125-99 victory. CJ McCollum was the boxscore star, scoring 37 points on 6-11 shooting from distance, but Carmelo Anthony (13 points) and Enes Kanter (11 points, 15 rebounds) played decisive roles as well.
The opening of this game was all about the offense. McCollum started it, hitting inside and out. Anthony continued the roll with isolation mid-range looks midway through the first. Between them they scored 20 in the period, which was almost as much as the Kings had combined. Sacramento flourished when they got out on the break, particularly off of Portland turnovers, but those moments were comparatively rare. Portland scored 38 in the first, with the Kings managing a modest 24.
Portland’s three-point shooting dried up like a Saltine in the desert in the second quarter. The list of players missing them read like a Who’s Who of the Portland roster. But Anthony and Kanter kept the Blazers buoyed with interior looks. Portland’s interior defense didn’t look great, whether the bench or starters ran it, but Sacramento missed open shots outside as well. When the dust settled, the second unit didn’t just keep the lead the starters had given them, but extended it. Portland ran the margin into the half, leading 66-49 after two.
The Blazers made the game easier in the third by turning up the defense. They forced turnovers, protected the rim, and did almost everything anyone could desire. Better “D” led to easier, quicker looks on offense. Sacramento found themselves having to crowd the paint to prevent layups, leaving the perimeter wide open. This was like ringing the dinner bell for McCollum, who hit four threes in the period. It didn’t take long before the Blazers led by 30 and the game was salted away. Hassan Whiteside bulled inside against Portland’s still-can’t-defend-straight-up interior patrol, but it hardly mattered. The Blazers led 93-69 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter consisted of Portland’s bench players (plus McCollum) dishing and ducking on offense, trying to avoid an onslaught from rookie Tyrese Haliburton on the other end. Things went a bit Looney Tunes with missed dunks and layups, but the Blazers were never really threatened.
CJ McCollum passed Rasheed Wallace for 10th on Portland’s all-time scoring list tonight. In 4-5 games he’ll also pass Mychal Thompson for 9th.
Stay tuned for the extended recap with more notes on the game.
The Blazers welcome the Toronto Raptors to the Moda Center on Monday evening at 7:00PM.