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Blazers Take a Page from the Raptors’ Playbook

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The Trail Blazers’ flare-screen set caught the eye of ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In recent years, the Trail Blazers’ creativity, or lack of it, on offense has become a polarizing discussion. In his most recent edition of 10 Things I Like and Dislike, ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe highlighted at least one new way the Blazers have utilized sets and movement to generate offense.

Borrowing a page from Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s playbook, the Blazers have implemented a double flare screen on each side — a Toronto staple in taking advantage of Norman Powell’s scoring and gravity — and it’s created a new way to get Damian Lillard to the basket.

The set’s effectiveness is directly tied to the respect it garners from opponents. As Lowe notes, there is CJ McCollum’s cut, Lillard’s drive, the pick-and-pop (or roll) threat with Robert Covington or Jusuf Nurkic, and finally, Powell’s accuracy on corner 3-pointers. With all that in mind, Lowe marked this sequence as something to watch moving forward:

“Expect more of this. The Blazers set more flare screens than anyone, so this Canadian import is really a cousin to several of their pet actions.”

He also praised Lillard for how prepared he is in dealing with so many defensive coverages.

“Coverage of Lillard tends to focus on his limitless shooting range. But as has been the case with Stephen Curry, drooling over Lillard’s 35-footers has obscured all the brilliant ways he leverages the threat of those 35-footers.

Lillard doesn’t stand out as an all-world dribbler. He doesn’t have the liquidy razzle-dazzle of Curry or Kyrie Irving. His style is more mechanical, less improvisational. But every season, Lillard returns with something new. Move by move, counter atop counter, he has built a calculated and lethal off-the-dribble game.”

On the season, Lillard has exploited defenses to the tune of 29.8 points per game.

You can read Lowe’s complete story at ESPN+ (subscription required).