For a couple of temporary spurts all the way through their preseason house opener in opposition to the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers seemed like the workforce maximum expected: gamers flying around the court docket at a frenetic, vigorous tempo, Damian Lillard main the fee with an elite offensive assault, and due to this fact, wins to observe.
Unfortunately, as evidenced in the 118-101 loss, the ones positives weren’t sustained over a 48-minute body. Still a piece in development, the Blazers’ preseason dropping streak prolonged to 9 with this night’s defeat. It wasn’t all unhealthy, despite the fact that it wasn’t all just right. Here are some things that stood out:
Well, if there’s something we will say for positive, it’s that Damian Lillard came about.
Lillard’s record of elite field ranking performances runs so long as a CVS receipt. And whilst those tune-up video games received’t depend against that, it used to be encouraging to look him construct upon Monday’s go back and extra shake off the rust. All informed, he poured in 21 issues (on simply 10 photographs) with 5 rebounds and 6 assists in 24 mins, along side a couple of defensive performs for the spotlight reel.
The 12 months is 2022, however that Lillard-to-Nurkic connection used to be in 2020 shape. Portland ran the traditional rub movements, pindowns and drag displays for his or her All-Star guard, placing him in optimum place to get to his spots. By the time he’d risen up for his 2nd three-point try, the Jazz defenders had been taking a look at him the way in which a tender scholar would in the event that they noticed their trainer out of doors of faculty: with vast eyes and amazement.
When Lillard wasn’t letting it fly, he presented his commonplace dose of pocket passes to Nurkic — who appears to be like to be an extremely-featured choice over again this 12 months — along side 5 visits to the charity stripe. Save for the ones 5 first-half turnovers, it used to be industry as standard.
Lillard instructions best billing, however the remainder of the crowd proved noteworthy as neatly. Heading into this night, the Blazers had long past “zero-for” in their remaining 8 preseason video games, and for the reason that the loss of preseason good fortune type of bled into the common season remaining 12 months, you may’ve watched this 12 months’s exhibitions with a extra hopeful eye.
They confirmed that attainable in spurts of a workforce that appears poised to make a postseason run; early into the second one quarter, they spread out an eight-point lead, in which it seemed like they had been a couple of stops clear of turning it right into a runaway. There used to be any other vigorous run to start out the 3rd quarter, anchored by means of the affect play of Jerami Grant that were given the Moda Center rocking the place you concept they’d draw back.
But inside of that failure to place their boots at the Jazz’s throats, a couple of of remaining 12 months’s traits once more reared its unsightly head: (1) the lack to shield the 3-point line, because the Jazz hit on 45.5 p.c on 33 makes an attempt, after which (2) turnovers, a host the Blazers had been a few of the league’s maximum common in committing. To their credit score, they did power them too, and that helped gasoline a 54-54 halftime standstill, and a nip-and-tuck fight right through.
The 2nd 1/2 highlighted a 3rd of some of the Blazers’ obtrusive flaws from a season in the past: the battle to shield with out fouling. Albeit, a few of the ones whistles proved debatable, however they stored Portland from making an instance out of a workforce anticipated to be a few of the NBA’s worst.
Ultimately, that incapability to make the most of that slight merit proved to be the detriment, because the gritty Jazz had been in a position to tug away overdue in the 3rd, and into the fourth. Given the quantity of athleticism this 12 months’s Blazers roster, they had been in a position to attract a couple of oohs and aahs from the Moda Center crowd, however they weren’t in a position to show that into issues as simply.
Player Notes and Long-Term Thoughts:
A couple of weeks in the past, Chauncey Billups mentioned how the Blazers’ intensity chart — essentially on the beginning small ahead spot — may just glance a bit of bit otherwise each and every evening to account for various fighters and matchups. After beginning with Josh Hart in the opener, he went with Justise Winslow to start out this one.
Given their competitiveness and effort, it’s arduous to argue that you’ll want to cross improper with both one. Winslow became in an eight-point, four-rebound, four-assist, four-steal recreation in simply 19 mins this night, taking a look comfortable with the starters. Hart, predictably, impacted the sport together with his rebound and coast-to-coast play.
You may just type of inform that he used to be urgent the problem possibly, in looking to get Shaedon Sharpe a very easy basket or contact, however to counter that, his talent to create for others provides an additional size for Lillard and Simons’ off-ball play. As for Sharpe, the commentators made observe of his talent to get to his spots with fluidity. We’re nonetheless left to look forward to the floodgates to totally open on that offensive repertoire, despite the fact that. And on protection, he’s put in place steadily to be a bottom defender. He’s appearing the IQ and technology, although he isn’t tremendous competitive in that regard. There’s development there.
And talking of Lillard and Simons: it seemed somewhat very similar to the way in which that the Blazers ran the Lillard-McCollum backcourt, the place the 2 would get started in combination, after which Simons would go out the primary and 3rd quarters early, however go back to complete them. The mins had been staggered rather, and it will have to be attention-grabbing to look how the plus-minus numbers glance with them in combination vs. one-on, one-off.
The Pick-and-Roll Switches:
With now two preseason video games to investigate, one can start placing in combination some attainable traits to look forward to in the long-term. In identical style to Monday’s 102-97 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers’ protection effort concerned a switch-heavy method that left them in fantastic (and infrequently disadvantageous) scenarios.
On Monday, it felt noteworthy in staring at how time and again Anfernee Simons were given caught in post-up scenarios protecting the likes of Kawhi Leonard, or even Ivica Zubac. It’s additionally been simple to remember of the way steadily Nurkic will get stuck in the ones one-on-one scenarios in opposition to opposing guards. Here’s to hoping he’s as much as that problem on a night-to-night foundation.
A Surge of Energy:
When Chauncey Billups and the Blazers’ team of workers flip at the tape of this night’s recreation, one would bet that they’re going to be more than happy with the trouble and depth of Keon Johnson. Ultimately, it stays unclear the place he stands in the totem pole for enjoying time alongside the wings, but when we’ve discovered anything else about Chauncey Billups’ tenets and personal tastes, it’s that should you play arduous — and Johnson did, attacking passing lanes and turning in fast defense-to-offense performs — you’ll contact the ground.
You can just about pencil in an vigorous, “oh my goodness” form of play from Nassir Little on a nightly foundation, and Justise Winslow were given in on it as neatly. He used to be an aggressor in a memorable, fantastic hustle play, flying out in defensive transition to dam an alley-oop layup try all the way through that temporary 3rd quarter run. Even in a loss, the root is being constructed.
Other Miscellaneous Notes:
— Jerami Grant appears to be like relaxed anywhere he’s, and in specific in taking pictures that catch-and-shoot triple. This additionally marks the second one recreation in which he’s pinned a shot off the glass for an emphatic block. His mini-takeover in the 3rd quarter will have to had been the defining second for a Blazers win, if all went proper.
— Turnovers stay a fixture. The basketball would possibly as neatly had been deep fried the way in which they’ve performed scorching potato and misplaced it, but it surely may well be too early to name it an all-out factor. Oftentimes over the past two video games, Portland has left the bottom with out a plan of the place to throw the ball. This marks 33 turnovers over the primary two video games.
Portland closes out preseason play in opposition to RA’ANANA Maccabi on the Moda Center on Thursday, Oct. 6