Good morning Blazer fans, Antonio here. The Blazers are rolling. Six straight wins, eight of their last nine. They are playing hard, playing together, and playing to win.
Damian Lillard has continued his electric streak, scoring 43 points and 16 assists, as well as another clutch-time shot. Thes Blazers are now 18-10, fourth in the West. Everything is perfect. Let’s take a deeper look.
Defense Holds Strong
Typically, you’re not going to win an NBA game when being outrebounded by 20. But Wednesday night, the Blazers survived despite losing the rebound battle 31-51. The reason the Blazers were able to survive? Believe it or not, defense. Their defense held the team together, and limited offensive putbacks. They forced turnovers and did just enough to sustain them.
A perfect example of Portland’s defense was how Brandon Ingram. Ingram only scored 14 points on 12 shots. When he was defended by Derrick Jones Jr., He only had three points. Jones has been a quiet success for Portland as of late. Against New Orleans, he tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks and steals each.
The defense seems to be coming together for the Blazers. It’s not perfect by any means, but the new defensive schemes for Terry Stotts are coming together. There have been more deflections, steals, and blocks so far. With a competent defense, the Blazers team is tough to stop.
Terry Stotts Deserves Credit
A lot of Blazers fans have been hating on Coach Stotts this season. After a cold start to the season and some suspicious lineups, Terry has pulled this together to command the ship, and he deserves some love.
An early-season complaint was that Stotts relied too much on Carmelo Anthony rather than the young guys. Against the Pelicans, Melo played a rough first half before getting pulled early in the second quarter. Earlier in the season, we may not have seen Stotts do this.
Terry Stotts has not historically coached teams with great depth. His one year with a deep bench, the Blazers made the Conference Finals. Without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers have still won six games straight. I’m intrigued to see what Stotts will do.
Plus, he has Lillard on his side.
It has officially been four weeks since CJ McCollum broke his leg against the Hawks. While it was initially speculated that McCollum would miss 4-6 weeks, CJ will be out at least another two weeks before another reevaluation.
Without their starting guard, the Blazers have done more than keep the ship afloat. They’ve set off for new lands. This time without CJ is still crucial for Portland. In the last three games, Damian Lillard has had to hit three tough shots to win the game. With CJ returning, the load will not all rest on Dame’s shoulders.
This extended time without McCollum also lets Gary Trent and Anfernee Simons develop even more. The two have gotten extended minutes, with Trent putting up 20 points a game as a starter. When CJ returns, Trent’s firepower off the bench will be too much for most NBA teams.
It’s going to be exciting to watch,
Next Up: The Blazers look to win their seventh straight at home vs. the Wizards