The Trail Blazers secured their second victory in four outings with a 103-88 win over the Kings on Sunday. The short-staffed Blazers turned to defense and their role players to pull out a wire-to-wire victory over the Kings. Anfernee Simons, who has now put together a string of stellar performances, notched 31 points and six assists. In the post, Jusuf Nurkic feasted on the Kings’ struggling defense. The Bosnian big fella finished one assist shy of a triple double on Sunday.
With wins in short supply this season, let’s enjoy a second look at the Blazers’ performance against the Kings.
Let’s forget the individual offensive performances to kick things off. Sunday’s victory was earned through defense. Starting at the point of attack, the Blazers’ manned their one-on-one assignments competently. Yes, I mentioned competently and Blazers in the same sentence that refers to defense. By winning their individual assignments, secondary defenders were finally free to roam inside passing lanes. Robert Covington was the clear winner in this arrangement. The veteran forward recorded three steals, his second multi-steal game in his past five outings.
If a play started to come apart, the Blazers recovered with purpose. The Kings’ shooters consistently heard footsteps when the ball was swung around the three-point line, a welcome surprise for Portland’s defense. In the paint, the Blazers held the Kings to eight offensive rebounds. Sacramento entered tonight’s contest averaging 10.4 offensive rebounds per game.
The Blazers entered Sunday’s game with the worst defensive rating in the NBA. That billing did not stop them from holding the Kings to 88 points on 38.8 percent shooting from the field.
Blossoming Point Guard
Simons’ six assist stood out just as much as his 31 points tonight. It certainly looks like the action on the floor is slowing down for the 22-year-old guard. Throughout the game, Simons found open shooters after collapsing the Kings defense around him. He fed Nassir Little and Ben McLemore on the perimeter. Doing his best Damian Lillard impression, Simons teamed up with Nurkic for solid pick-and-roll actions.
Was it perfect? No. But Simons clearly established control of the contest whenever it felt like momentum could shift. That might be the true indicator of Simons’ progression toward becoming a lead guard.
Odds & Ends
- Trendon Watford has all the ingredients to become a bright spot from the 2021-22 season. The undrafted rookie continued to show off his offensive chops. He is regularly in position to make the right play and he isn’t afraid of taking control of the ball. The Blazers even trusted Watford to run a designed play out of a timeout in the second half. The result of that play: a smooth two points.
- If the Blazers pack it in before the deadline, Ben McLemore could emerge as a desirable buyout candidate. He is instant offense and comfortable in a defined role. Contenders could do much worse after the trade deadline passes.
- Nurkic lived up to expectations tonight. The Kings are the worst team in the league when it comes to surrendering points in the paint. The Blazers’ big fella received the memo and put his stamp on the game. He dominated the glass and nearly completed a triple double.
The Blazers return to action on Monday with a make-up game against the Nets.