Hello Blazers fans, Antonio here. While I took a break studying for my college finals, the Blazers lost. And lost. And lost some more. Every time I would check the score while finishing up projects, it was another heartbreaker. One point losses to Boston and Los Angeles, a two point loss to Memphis. Portland had lost five straight.
After an entire month of mediocre play, the Blazers finally looked like a playoff team on Tuesday night with a 21 point drubbing over a banged up Indiana Pacers team. Despite their opponents missing three starters, Portland dominated and asserted themselves, and I had fun watching a Blazer game for the first time in a long time. Let’s take a closer look.
Dame Dabbles in Defense
After his MVP start to the season, Damian Lillard has struggled as of late. In the Blazers 0-5 strtech, he never shot better than 40% from the field. After missing three games due to hamstring tightness, Dame still looked fatigued. His impressive offensive output was not the same.
Dame was not a world beater on the offensive side on Tuesday. Lillard shot 6/14 from the field and scored 23 points. Instead he stepped up defensively. It did not matter who he was guarding, but Dame Dolla got his hands dirty. Malcolm Brogdan, a player Lillard was often featured against, shot a dismal 1/7 from behind the arc. Dame has never been known for his defense, but his willingness to change it up shows how valuable he is, even when struggling offensively.
Anfernee Simons, the Human Flamethrower
To say that Anfernee Simons is hot may be an understatement. The Blazers reserve is shooting at unprecedented rates. Over his last five games, Simons is shooting 17/22, or 77% from three. He’s currently putting up Gary Trent bubble numbers and not even batting an eye. And against Indiana, he was in another dimension.
Simons hit his first nine threes, a Blazer record, and one short of the NBA record (A lot of sources are saying it is an NBA record, but Klay Thompson started 10/10 from three in 2019). Besides on quick pull-up, most of his shots were good, open looks. Simons finished with a game high 27 points, all from three, as well as four assists and four rebounds.
Here’s the thing. Anfernee has dazzled before. He had 26 earlier in the season against the Thunder, and started off last season hot. Who’s to say he stays this way. Well, he’s been doing more than just shooting. Anfernee will not shoot 77% from three the rest of the season. However, he will stay in the rotation because of his high-IQ play of late. Smart passes, good rebounding, and excellent floor spacing have made Anfernee a weapon, not a liability.
Starters Get Some Rest
After a flurry of close games where Blazers starters were playing heavy minutes, Tuesday was a much needed rest. Portland led Indiana by 40 midway through the third quarter, and all starters sat in the fourth. When Anfernee checked out with seven minutes to play, no rotation players were in the game either.
While the rest for the starters is good, it’s always nice to see the unsung guys get some action. Harry Giles played well, and TJ Lead got his first action as a Blazer. Keljin Blevins may only be on the team because he’s Lillard’s cousin, but it’s fun to see him play. Rookie CJ Elleby developed as well. Any day that 15 Blazers play and I get to throw around some bench players’ names is a good day.
Let’s hope that Portland can end their slump and finish the season strong.
Next Up: The Grizzlies (again), but this time in Memphis.
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