Good morning Blazers fans, Antonio here. For the second time in three games, the Blazers jumped out early and dominated an inferior team. The Cleveland Cavaliers were no match for the balanced Portland attack. Four players scored 20 or more as the Blazers waltzed to a 19 point win.
Even without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers are rolling on all cylinders and look like a contending team. They’ve won three straight and five of their last six, and now only sit a half-game back of fourth in the West. Things are looking up for Damian Lillard & Co.
Everybody Gets in the Action
These last two games, Damian Lillard has not shot the ball well. Lillard has not hit a three in the last seven quarters of action and has shot below 35% from the field. Against Cleveland, he was 0/6 from three and scored only 20 points. Last season, any game where Lillard scored 20 meant trouble.
This season, Lillard has some players to fall back on. Gary Trent, Carmelo Anthony, and Enes Kanter all scored over 20 points. Trent led the team with 24 points on 12 shots, while Kanter chipped in 21 and 13 boards. Anthony continued his hot streak as well, chipping in 23. These supporting players show that Dame doesn’t have to go Super-Saiyan to win every game. That’s a great sign.
Kanter Dominates Cavs Bigs
The Cavs are stacked with big men galore. Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen, Javale McGee, to name a few. But in this center-stacked game, Blazers center Enes Kanter was the one to step up. At the end of the first quarter, Kanter had racked up 10 points and six rebounds, leaving Andre Drummond in the dust.
Kanter has been Portland’s unsung hero this season. When Hassan Whiteside was hurt last year, Terry Stotts would have to turn to Anthony Tolliver or Caleb Swanigan. This year, Kanter stepped in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic and has not missed a beat.
Kanter is averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds as a starter and is shooting extremely efficiently. He hasn’t even bothered taking a three this year, focusing primarily on his inside scoring.
Blazers fans are thanking their lucky stars for this Olshey trade that has reaped benefits for both sides.
Taking Care of Business
Just like with the Magic game on Tuesday, the Blazers once again made things look easy. All too often, the team plays down to its opponent and blows leads for close games. Both games this year against the Bulls are great examples.
So what’s changed from a few weeks ago? Chemistry. Portland has one of the most tight-knit squads year in and year out. Lillard and McCollum make sure that every player knows how valuable they are to the team. And players buy in. Look at how Melo’s attitude about being a bench player has changed. How Rodney Hood has willingly stepped his minutes back. How Harry Giles is comfortable with his role.
When a team plays with chemistry, they become a better version of themselves. We saw the poor man’s version of the Blazers to start the season. Now we’re seeing a team that is hungry for more and ready to prove the doubters wrong. All they need is something to motivate them.
Well, that ought to do it.
Next Up: A Valentine’s Day affair with the Dallas Mavericks.