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Blazers Coach Chauncey Billups Likes Simons-Ayton Pairing

A healthy team makes for a happier coach.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers earned a rare 109-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. After the game, Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups took the microphone in front of assembled media to discuss his feelings on the victory and his roster.

You can see the interview here. Key excerpts are below.

On the play of Deandre Ayton versus his former team:

I liked everything about DA’s game to be honest with you. I loved his aggressiveness. A lot of times I run plays for him early just to get him aggressive and going. Of course you have a little extra juice against your [former] team, but I told myself over the last couple days, I said, “I need to start just playing him more.” We’ve gotta find a way to get some rhythm. 40 [minutes] is a lot, to be honest with you. But he did it. He’s in phenomenal shape. He never asked to come out or anything. I just thought he had a phenomenal game the whole way through. Some of those shots he missed...I was just happy he took them, to be honest with you.

On his team’s improved defense in this game:

After the first quarter, there’s usually a team that starts fast. We talked about trying to have a better first quarter. Shoot, we just weren’t able to get it done. We came in at the half...and I said, “Man, our defense would be so much better if we’d take care of the ball. If we just take care of it.” We had 10 turnovers, which is how they got their 36 points in the first quarter. We did better every quarter after that, but in the second half, only 4 turnovers. If they have to play against our halfcourt defense, I feel good. I feel like we give ourselves at least a chance.

...Defensively we scrapped... we were everywhere. I thought we did a good job, with the exception of a couple times, finishing our possessions with rebounds and just going just running.

On the evolving synergy of his team, particularly between Ayton and Anfernee Simons:

Those guys haven’t played with each other very much. There was some instances in the game today that happened, when they started blitzing and DA was catching the ball high up the floor, I thought he made some excellent passes: on time, on target to our guys. Well that hasn’t happened that much. Because obviously Ant gets a different coverage than everybody. I think those two will just continue to get better and better and more comfortable with each other. And then we’ll start, on the back side of it, getting more comfortable with DA and giving him some reads with guys cutting out of the corner or sliding down to the corner on the cut. To be honest, I like that they stayed aggressive the whole time and just kinda figured it out.

Billups also discussed using the zone defense and switching defense to change the opponent rhythm, on the continuing growth of the team, the benefit of shot-making and play-making from guards, and needing to start games stronger.