CJ McCollum scored 37 points in a 6–11 three-point throw such as Portland Trail Blazers Clear the ground with Sacramento Kings tonight. McCollum stimulated the Blazers early, late, and everywhere in between, to make sure his teammates could relax and enjoy the evening. Carmelo Anthony and Ennis Kanter took full advantage of off the bench not only grasping, but stretching, CJ’s rim deposited in their arms. The cumulative effort led to a 30-point lead in the third quarter and the bottom line was 125-99.
The Blazers jumped 16-8, 9 points behind McCollum. He scored inside and from afar, confusing the Sacramento defense at every turn. Both teams seemed content to keep him in mid-court early on, which suited Portland guards just fine. The rhythm increased as the quarter progressed. At first this seemed to be in the Blazers ‘favor, with Robert Covington and Derek Jones Jr. passing and overwhelmed, but at least four Kings’ players like the exit, while only two Portlanders do. The Blazers’ defense revealed a bit, especially on the inside. Their attack drifted deep into missed shots. Carmelo Anthony corrected in the middle of the quarter, taking the attack inside (then into a half-field isolation, which turns out to be a good thing when protecting the advance). Milo 8 was scored in this period. 50% of shots, half a dozen assists, and an unbelievable 10 free throws in this period – along with a relatively poor shot from Sacramento – helped the Blazers endure the quarter. They drove 38-24 after one.
Sacramento delivered a revised defense of the area as the second period began. The Portland seat looked confused, save for rare possessions when they found a shot from open distance. The Blazers, on the other hand, had no answer on Hassan Whiteside and Sacramento’s indoor performance. Kings started in, then tossed the ball out as Portland collapsed into the lane … a must-have for anyone who has seen the Blazers defend over the past two years. As soon as Whiteside sits down, Canter makes his way onto the glass. He and Anthony saved the Blazers during the middle minutes of a second, as the three-pointers stubbornly refused to drop. Despite all the problems, the Portland players inherited a 50-38 lead when they scored at the end of the first half. With the table set in front of him, Damien Lillard fired the shots and passed the ball to Joseph Norkitch, tearing apart the Kings’ defense. Sacramento also felt hot at the end of the game, but they didn’t make any progress. Portland led 66-49 at break.
Third and fourth quarters
The Blazers raised their defense to start third, forcing the Kings to take tough passes and shots. When Sacramento tumbled, Portland streak. Lillard concentrated the attack, penetrated and passed it. McCollum became a favorite, shooting three times with a short shot, and pouring 11 more points before the quarter was five minutes old. Jones Jr. and Norkitch got into the act, too. Realistically, anyone who wants to register can. They kept pressing and speeding until the Kings had to cry, “Uncle.”
Terry Stuts kept McCollum until the latter half of the fourth. Realistically, he could have defeated the Kings by himself tonight. Decent midfield play and good rebound kept the competition completely asymmetric. Therese Halliburton was the only Sacramento player to make a fuss in the second half. It looked cool, but it just wasn’t close enough. The Blazers led by 30 points and never looked back, finishing the match with a 26-point lead.
Notes and analysis
CJ McCollum is currently scoring with great effort, and his highlight reel is like a ballerina. Close or deep, off one leg or two, with ball or catch and shoot, everything is in rhythm and buzz. McCollum even drew five foul shots tonight, turning his production from striking to completely unfair. He scored 37 goals in 13-22 shots, 6-11 from deep, with 3 assists and 2 steals in 29 minutes. If the Blazers can stand up a lot and keep the starting guards less than 30 minutes at a game like this, he will look good as the year goes on.
Damien Lillard scored 17 goals, only shooting 1-7 from the arc, but he seemed content to play in the flow and cede the shots to the other players, especially McCollum. But Lillard also found Joseph Norkitch with the help of a married couple, which puts the big guy into action.
Norkitch responded 4-8, 8 rebounds, 10 points in 23 minutes of play. He was as active in defense as he was all season, even running and diving to the ground after a loose ball in the third quarter when the match was actually won. His death was superficial early on, but somewhere in the second quarter the timing is in place and he’s starting to look a bit like the old Nurkic. This is a positive sign for Portland.
Carmelo Anthony was effective early on, making sure the Kings couldn’t shave anything off the lead the Blazers had built in the first half. He only finished shooting 4-12 and might have given himself plenty of permission to attack, but by the time he started losing the militants, the game wins anyway. Even when effective, Carmelo does slow down the attack. The more it rolls, the more stable the second unit. Flip a coin both good and bad; It depends on the position and the opponent. On the plus side, Anthony vigilantly defended in the second half. Still, it’s a walking puzzle. He stands at the center of one of the season’s great philosophical questions: Should he only score the Portland seat or are they supposed to do more?
Anais Kanter joined Anthony on a bench patrol, hitting Sacramento’s hands every time they tried to run effectively. He gave 15 rebounds in 19 minutes. He was pushed by Hassan Whiteside and scored by everyone who came in the lane, but whenever anyone missed the shot, Kanter was there. On the one hand, they are “only” throwbacks, but on the other hand, I don’t have to worry about who’s watching the glass that frees Portland’s defenders to take care of their missions on the ocean.
17-41 (41.5%) 3-point shooting was the biggest “easy button” factor for the Blazers in this game, especially with Kings 8-30 (26.7%) firing at long range. But the tricky statistic is that Portland has forced 15 turns, centered around 10 robberies. The banditry made the attack faster and easier, turning a potential win into a guaranteed win.
Portland’s passing crime looks better than it did two weeks ago. The Blazers had 26 assists in 44 shots. These numbers don’t tell the whole story. They didn’t miss each other or fail to read the opportunities as much as they did early in the season. Sacramento wasn’t defending well, but Portland didn’t let them get a defensive ground either. Aside from McCollum (who was shooting right nearly every time), the Blazers moved their feet and the ball en masse.
Not everything was rosy. The Kings threw an intermittent defense of the area in the second half and the vests were unleashed for a while. Portland settled on odd triple corners rather than breaking them hard. Among shooters and Norkitch’s ability to pass from the center, the area shouldn’t hunt Portland in awe. They are practically made to break it. Let’s see if it evolves if other teams try the same.
Domestic defense also remains a source of grave concern. It’s obscured by the huge scoring margin, but when Sacramento is driving or posting indoors, good things happen to them.
These are small concerns in winning by a large margin. Not only did The Blazers care about business tonight, but they closed the store early and took a little vacation. That’s all you could ask for in a regular season match against Kings. Well done.
Blazers welcome Toronto Raptors To Moda Center Monday evening 7:00 pm.