In a game where they lacked their best player and their opponent lacked...well, everyone, the Portland Trail Blazers took down the Orlando Magic 112-105. Norman Powell and CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 22 points each, with Powell’s total being the most by a Blazer in their debut ever. Chuma Okeke was the leading scorer for the Magic with 22 points.
Here are six observations from tonight’s game.
Norm Powell...Pretty Good!
Norman Powell played his first game as a Portland Trail Blazer and he was pretty dang good! He scored 22 points, made his open threes, showed a general proficiency at getting to his spots, and played what I would consider league average defense. Oh, and he scored the most points in a Blazer debut ever according to Lamar Hurd. I would say all of those things are, as mentioned earlier, pretty good!
When the trade happened yesterday, one thing that was unquestionable was that the Blazers got better for this season. He does everything that Gary Trent Jr. did, but better. There’s certainly some uncertainty surrounding his future with Portland, but he showed tonight how he can elevate an offense with his play. The short-term future with Powell seems bright.
Jusuf Nurkic is Back!
Within the first minute of the game, Jusuf Nurkic made his presence known. He helped Derrick Jones Jr. trap a Magic player and force a steal. It was the exact kind of defensive play that makes me very excited for Nurkic to not be on a minutes restriction.
His overall numbers were solid, too. He had eight points and eight boards in just 19 minutes. He had four turnovers, which wasn’t good, but that was partially because he was testing the Magic’s defense with his passing. He looked fairly comfortable offensively as well, using some crafty footwork down low. Not perfect, but just fine. It was nice to see Nurkic out there.
No Dame, No Problem?
Not only did the Blazers win tonight, they won without Damian Lillard. What does that mean for the Blazers moving forward? I mean, not much. They played a Magic squad with only eight players available. It’s good that they won; I just don’t think it means that much considering it’s against a short-handed Orlando squad. The best thing to come out of it is the fact that the Blazers get two wins on the back-to-back, and that they did so without Lillard.
McCollum Back to Struggling
It was not a particularly great night for CJ McCollum. He went 8-for-26 from the floor and just 2-for-11 from three. He had six assists and it was nice that he had a shooter like Powell to help, but regardless, the shots were not falling tonight.
That has mostly been the trend for McCollum outside of a couple good games against Dallas and Miami. But it doesn’t look like he isn’t getting to his spots or anything like that. Shots just aren’t falling at the moment. I would be more worried if his flurry of hesitation dribbles and crossovers weren’t resulting in open shots, but it seems like they are. He just needs to find his rhythm.
Nassir Little Comes Back Down to Earth
After a scorching hot February, it looks like the shots are no longer falling for Nassir Little. He was 0-for-4 tonight and 0-for-2 from outside, and that’s kind of been the norm. He’s made only 26.1% of his threes in his last 10 games, and today certainly did not help. I wrote fairly recently that I thought that Little’s recent shooting boon was real. I’m hoping still that I’m not wrong.
Anfernee Simons Heating Up
While Little struggled from the field, Anfernee Simons thrived. He was 5-for-7 from three, all of those shots coming from outside. That’s particularly encouraging because Simons is most valuable to this team as a spot-up shooter. It’s also the second straight game where he’s hit five threes. It’s simple; the better Simons shoots from three, the better the Blazers’ second unit plays.
Next up, the Blazers will stay in Florida for a matchup against the Toronto Raptors (and some former teammates) on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.