The Trial Blazers extended their current winning streak to three games on Friday with a 128-109 victory over the East-leading Nets. Damian Lillard erupted in the second half and finished the game with a stellar 32 points. Outside of Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell combined for 44 points. That trio carried the load for the Blazers in a game that featured an offensive explosion in the second half. For the short-handed Nets, Kyrie Irving supplied 28 points in the loss.
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The Set Up
The Blazers endured a 2-of-11 opening frame from distance, but found their legs in the second half. Unlike previous struggles this month, Portland’s offense adjusted and focused on getting the ball inside. Jusuf Nurkic feasted on the Nets’ small-ball lineup and was active in pick-and-roll sets. On the perimeter, both Lillard and Norman Powell kept their heads up when slicing to the cup—often connecting with the big fella underneath the rim.
Without torching the nets from distance, the Blazers still managed to rack up 14 assists in the first half—a far cry from Portland’s previous slogs through isolation-heavy sets. As Portland searched for its three-point shot, Nurkic scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half.
Like most of April, nothing was easy for Lillard in the first half. He took a shot to the torso early in the first quarter and ate an elbow from DeAndre Jordan a few moments later. Regardless of those knocks, Lillard kept with it and worked through Brooklyn’s attacking defense to establish a rhythm.
In the third quarter, Lillard utilized every trick in his book to record 16 points. From creating space off the dribble to running his defender into a sturdy screens, Lillard exploited every inch of space that he was given. In the fourth quarter, with the Blazers ahead by double-digits, Lillard put the game on ice with a pair of quick three-pointers.
Friday’s 32-point effort marked just the second time in April that Lillard crossed the 30-point threshold. The last time he reached that mark was against the Bucks in the first game of the month.
Unlike Lillard, Norman Powell failed to get rolling from distance. But that did not slow the former Raptors guard down. Utilizing his wide and powerful frame, Powell burned both Tyler Johnson and Landry Shamet en route to the rim. Thanks to his work inside the arc, Powell recorded 19 points and a perfect 6-of-6 shooting performance from the free throw line.
Controlling the Pace
It is tough to read into it too much given the Nets’ short bench, but it was odd to see a team try to slow down the pace against the Blazers. Typically, speed and a pulse results in a plethora of points against Portland’s awful defense. Instead, it was Blazers who surprisingly tried to pick things up at certain points in the contest. In the end, both teams combined for a pedestrian 18 points in transition.
Melo Turns Back the Clock
Carmelo Anthony executed a gorgeous put-back dunk in the second quarter. Yes, Melo can hunt for his shots and kill possessions. But watching him get to work at 36 years old is still worthy of appreciation. In 20 minutes off the bench, Melo notched 15 points on 11 attempts from the field.
The Blazers return to action on Sunday with a visit to Boston to face the Celtics.