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3 Trends that Should Last from Blazers-Kings Opening Night

A trio of habits the Blazers aren’t likely to break.

Portland Trail Blazers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Sacramento Kings in Game 1 of their 2022-23 season schedule, the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag exploded with claims and questions regarding the team. We’re reviewing some of those today. We’ve already talked about three things Portland fans are probably overemphasizing after the victory. We looked at three more things you might not have noticed. Having examined porridges too hot and too cold, let’s now look at things that are just right, trends we can reasonably expect to repeat through the year.

3 Things Right Down the Middle for Portland in Game 1

1. Run for Your Life

The Blazers scored 20 points in transition against the Kings. The number itself isn’t remarkable; plenty of teams can do that. But Portland has been at or near the bottom of the league in fast break points since time immemorial. Running has not been a point of emphasis for them.

With Jerami Grant, Josh Hart, and Anfernee Simons playing big minutes, that appears to be changing. Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic are natural halfcourt players, but they’re finally outnumbered by teammates with enough talent to make a difference. Every turnover and rebound last night was followed by a quick look up the floor. Often, at least one Portland player would be streaking out. The Blazers moved the ball ahead quickly and tried to convert.

Running hard is not going to de-emphasize Lillard as Portland’s bread-and-butter star. Most of the time, fast breaks don’t work. But converting easy layups takes pressure off of Portland’s halfcourt offense. They can miss a couple more shots. They don’t need 25 apiece from their starting guards. Most importantly, they can squeeze production out of their wing players without also spending time setting those players up or living with their dribbles. It’s like found money, and Portland made bank last night.

This should continue throughout the season. Effectiveness will depend on the opponent, of course, but it’s nice to know the Blazers are trying, at least.

2. Inside Ball

The Blazers made a concerted effort to get the ball into the lane on halfcourt sets. They weren’t penetrating to set up threes. They actually converted layups and step-backs in the lane, to the tune of 56 points in the paint. They also attempted 33 free throws. Those numbers stand against only 28 three-point shots attempted. That’s a huge inversion from years prior.

This is going to be a point of emphasis this year because it has to be. Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard aside, the Blazers are stocked with situational shooters this year, not pure shooters. Living and dying by the three-point shot would leave them vulnerable. Slashing and scoring fits their profile far better. Look for paint points to stay high throughout the season.

A couple of cautions remain.

Opponents are going to figure this out too. They’re likely to pack the paint, forcing the Blazers to score from the perimeter. If those shots don’t fall, inside scoring is going to diminish. There aren’t enough free throws in the world to make up for it, especially against the league’s better teams.

Also, if the Blazers can’t defend the arc well, those two-point halfcourt shots aren’t going to keep up with opposing longer balanced by Portland’s own three-point production. Three-point deficit may become a byword before the season is over.

3. Josh Hart is Sweet

Both Jerami Grant and Josh Hart had great games against Sacramento. Grant may go up and down, but odds are that Hart is going to Hart no matter what the situation. He wasn’t anywhere near being a focus against the Kings. His stat line still read 8-11 shooting, 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. He was the second-leading rebounder behind Grant, the second-leading assist man behind Lillard, and was one of four starters scoring between 19-23 points.

This is simply what Josh Hart does. He’s the guy on the roster you forget, then he refuses to let you. The Blazers are going to be between a rock and a hard place with him, as he’s coming up on an option year with his contract. He’s likely to make their choices as difficult as possible, and that’ll be a good thing.

What things do you think people are overrating, underrating, or missing after Portland’s debut last night? Share in the comments below!