After enduring one of the most painful home losses in recent memory to the Los Angeles Lakers the night before, the Portland Trail Blazers desperately needed a pick-me-up Monday against the San Antonio Spurs. They got it in the form of a 147-127, defense-be-damned win in front of an anxious Moda Center crowd.
Damian Lillard led the way with a dominating 37 points and 12 assists. Jusuf Nurkic had a near triple-double with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists.
After playing only 15 minutes Sunday, Nurkic found himself in a much better suited matchup tonight against fellow large human being Jakob Poeltl. Both big men were effective early at what they do best - being bigger than everybody else rolling in the direction of the basket. Nurkic got the Blazers going early with a pair of layups out of the pick-and-roll with Lillard, but Poeltl answered right pack with a two of his own at the other end. A Nurkic three midway through the quarter gave him 10 points, but Portland still trailed 19-16.
Things started to open up as Anfernee Simons found his stroke from deep, knocking down a trio of threes that helped vault the Blazers into the lead. A pair of Doug McDermott triples in the final minute briefly stalled the momentum, but Nassir Little had the final word, coolly draining 26-foot step back at the buzzer that gave Portland a 40-38 lead after one.
The second quarter was like a bad sequel to the first; almost identically the same and without any meaningful improvement. Again, the Blazer offense was sluggish for about half the period before catching fire, but this time, the all offense; no defense story was starting to feel cliche. Lillard and Nurkic continued to do most of the heavy lifting for the Portland offense, but no matter how many points they put on the board, the Spurs refused to be left behind. Former Blazer Zach Collins and Romeo Langford played with energy and were a handful attacking the basket, where San Antonio thrives.
Although Portland tied a season-high for points in a half, they still failed to take a lead into to the break. Both teams went into the locker room deadlocked at 74.
The Spurs are not a competitive team. This game had no business being tied long past introductions. The Blazers needed to come out of the gates and put San Antonio away immediately, less risk another full-blown meltdown. And that’s exactly what happened.
The offensive explosion kept on rolling uninterrupted, and this time, the Spurs couldn’t keep up. Lillard and Nurkic continued to work the two-man game to perfection and steadily kept the Portland offense chugging along. Lillard had 19 points in the quarter and helped the Blazers regain a 103-95 lead midway through the period, but it was Shaedon Sharpe who put the game away.
The at-times-tantalizing rookie had one of the best offense stretches of his young career. Shortly after checking in, Sharpe finished a fast break with a soaring one-handed alley-oop jam, and then followed that up with a pair of contested step back threes. The latter of which put Portland up by 19 points with just 1:28 to go. Sharpe had 10 of his 19 points in the quarter and the Blazers went into the final frame comfortably ahead 119-101.
Although the starters got another short run, the outcome was never in doubt and Portland was able to cruise to a victory without much resistance.
Stay tuned for our extended recap coming soon!
The Blazers will get a day off before hosting the Utah Jazz on Wednesday evening - tip is set for 7 p.m. Pacific.