Nik Stauskas

Just what the bench ordered: A big game from Big Z

Just what the bench ordered: A big game from Big Z

On Friday night Portland had the difficult task of facing the top team in the league, the Toronto Raptors. But three key things happened, that led to the takedown of the Raptors:

1. After having just three players score in double-figures in Wednesday’s 92-83 loss to Memphis, the Blazers had a total of eight players reach double-digits in their 128-122 win over Toronto.

2. The Trail Blazers’ bench outscored the Raptors’ second unit 58-26. Portland’s reserves are averaging 33.7 points per game, which pegs them at number 22 in the league.

3. All five Trail Blazers' bench players ended the game with a positive Plus-Minus rating on the stats sheet, while all five starters ended in the negative. A rare accomplishment for the bench. 

To say Friday’s performance was a big turnaround game for the Blazers’ bench would be an understatement. Perhaps the biggest individual improvement came from Portland's backup center Zach Collins.

Collins got it done on both ends of the floor against Toronto.  In his 21 minutes of action, Collins was an efficient 6-of-8, scoring 16 points to go along with four rebounds, one steal and one block.

“Obviously, I wasn’t playing very well for a big stretch of, you know, when we were losing, and I try not to think to much about it… I came into every game with a clear head, confident that I was going to play better and finally tonight things went my way,” Collins said.

Collins was averaging 4.6 points per game in his previous 10 games.

“It was just good to see everyone kind of get back into a rhythm and just finally have fun for once,” Collins said.

Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry each scored 13 points apiece as Portland won its third straight home game and snapped a six-game losing streak to the Raptors. 

But, what was it exactly that changed for the bench? Even players were asking that question to each other.

“The first half I kind of turned to Evan and Seth, I asked them what was the difference today and I think it really was just our energy, we were moving the ball well from side to side, we were cutting hard. I think most importantly we were getting stops on the defensive end and kind of run out in transition and not have to call as many plays,” Stauskas said.

The starters recognized just how important the bench was in the win.  

“The bench played extremely well. They came out with energy, extended leads for us. We blew the lead in the fourth quarter after they extended the lead. It was a little role reversal,” McCollum said with a smile.

McCollum also went onto praise Collins' performance in particular. 

“I thought he was great. I thought he attacked the basket. He gotta couple of dunks, putbacks, tip-ins. Defensively, he was at the rim, contesting everything, you know, he was up in coverage on pick and rolls and showed his versatility,” McCollum said.      

The fact that the Trail Blazers were able to get the win, even though all five starters ended the game with a negative plus-minus, proves how much of an impact the bench had on Friday night. All five bench players boasted a positive plus-minus with Collins, Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard all recording a +16.

“It was about time, “ Stauskas said.

“I thought Zach was phenomenal. Zach’s a key to our second unit and when he comes in and he brings that energy to both ends we feed off of that and whether he’s protecting the rim, rebounding, or finishing down on the offensive end. He does a lot of different things for us. It was just really good to see everyone back on track,” Stauskas said.

Collins was also aggressive on the defensive end and was able to stay out of foul trouble, which has become a key for the second year player. Collins finished the game with two personal fouls.

The Blazers’ assist-to-turnover ratio was also stellar on Friday. The Blazers finished with a season-high 29 assists, to just eight turnovers for the game.

“We just did a lot of cutting… We got back to getting stops, that was huge. I thought we moved the ball around. We made them work defensively,” Turner said.

The Blazers’ ball movement was back in full swing and now, as the players said in the locker room, let’s see if this game is a momentum-swinging win.  

How do you beat the NBA's best team? Apparently with the Trail Blazers' bench...

How do you beat the NBA's best team? Apparently with the Trail Blazers' bench...

It was all about the bench Friday night for the Portland Trail Blazers. Totally.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a winning team get all five reserves into the plus category of plus-minus and all five starters on the minus side. But that’s what the Trail Blazers did.

“Their bench was unbelievable,” said Toronto Coach Nick Nurse. “They had 58 points or something like that (actually, it was 58). They just put it on us.

“The Blazers played really fast. They were just flipping the ball around and cutting super hard…. They made the better decisions most of the night. They played with a little more speed than we did tonight.”

The bench played just as it had earlier in the year – a five-man unit playing unselfishly, moving the ball and moving their bodies. But that’s the way that group must play. It doesn't feature a superstar or even a star.

“It’s a matter of playing the right way,” said Seth Curry, who hit five of eight shots, three of five from long distance, had two assists, two steals and no turnovers.

Coach Terry Stotts platooned his two units for most of the game, not by design, he said, but just as it happened circumstantially,

Curry said that helps.

“It does,” he said. “We play a different style than the starting unit. We play at a faster pace. It’s a lot of fun when we have those five guys out there with everybody touching the ball.

“We have Nik, Evan and me who can put the ball on the floor and make plays.

The starters, with two guards who dominate the ball, attempt to get ball and player movement, too, but it’s more difficult with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum having the ball so often.

“Damian and CJ have played that style for a long time and they do it well,” Curry said. “The energy of the second group is a lot different.”

 It was easier to make plays Friday -- the lane was wide open for the second unit because the Raptors chose to stick hard to Meyers Leonard on the perimeter.

“I couldn’t get a look at a three,” Leonard said.

But he got a lot of room for the others to make hard cuts and find openings to the basket.

“That’s what Meyers brings even when he’s not making shots,” Curry said. “He’s a threat out there. That’s the same thing with me and Nik.

“It gets other guys great shots.”

The Blazer bench had 12 assists and only three turnovers. As a team, Portland had a great night with the ball – turning it over just eight times to go with 29 assists.

 “Play faster, move the ball and everybody has the opportunity to make plays,” Curry said of the reserves. “That’s how we played in training camp and how we played to start the season.

“We got back to it tonight and we’ve got to keep it going.”

Of course, it would not be fair to omit the fact that Toronto, the team with the best record in the league, was forced by injuries to play without starters Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry.

But the Blazers, who had lost 10 of their last 15, were happy to take this one any way they could get it.

And especially when the often-maligned bench was very much responsible for it.

Nik Stauskas leaves game with quad contusion, hopeful to not miss time

Nik Stauskas leaves game with quad contusion, hopeful to not miss time

Nik Stauskas left Sunday's game with a right quad contusion and did not return. 

The injury came in the closing seconds of the third quarter when Stauskas drove into the lane. He ran into Gorgui Dieng. Both were slow to get up. 

Stauskas played nine minutes in Sunday's contest, scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.

In the locker room postgame, Stauskas had ice just above his right knee. 

"Gorgui Dieng just tried to take a charge and I just went knee to knee with him, right above my knee cap. He got me right above the muscle, so it's a little bit swollen, a little bit sore, but I'll be alright," Stauskas said. 

The Blazers were leading 90-64 when the injury occurred, so Stauskas and the training staff decided to take precautionary measures and have him go straight to the locker room.

"We just started icing it right away," he said. "We just wanted to get on top of it. It was a blow out so there's no reason to push through it. So, we just kind of shut it down and tried to get on top of it... We just gotta get a lot of treatment in the next 48 hours and hopefully I'll be alright."

Stauskas is hopeful to play Tuesday night when Portland continues its six-game homestand on Tuesday with the Milwaukee Bucks coming to town. 

Winning 3-point line by 30 will erase some defensive miscues

Winning 3-point line by 30 will erase some defensive miscues

Make no mistake, even without Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans are still a handful for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland racked up quarters of 35, 35, 32 and 30 points Thursday night to beat the Pels 132-119 and pretty much won with as little defense as possible.

“In some ways, this was a frustrating game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We never got on track defensively.  The offense was good all night… but defensively, for whatever reason – might have been New Orleans playing really well – but I’m glad we strung together some stops in the fourth quarter and were able to pull away.

“We did a lot of good things on offense. I thought Evan got the assist train going in the second quarter, finding people that got a little spark to us. But like I said, we found ways to score all night. We scored over 30 every quarter.

“Whether it was eight different people hitting threes, assists, transition – we did a lot of good things.”

The Trail Blazers shot 50.6 percent from the floor and an eye-popping 51.4 percent from three-point range. The big difference in the game was that Portland outscored New Orleans by 30 points from the three-point line, a dominance almost impossible to overcome with two-point shots and free throws.

But as Stotts said, most of his team's good things were confined to the offensive end. Yes, the Portland bench scored 50 points, the third time it has reached that total in the young season. But the New Orleans bench actually tallied 51, thanks to a nearly unstoppable, 29-point performance by Julius Randle.

And although the Pelicans shot only 42.6 percent, they captured 14 offensive rebounds and turned them into 19 second-chance points.

Damian Lillard continued his torrid early season scoring production, hitting four of his seven shots from three-point range and finishing with 26 points. Jusuf Nurkic backed him up with 20 on seven of nine shooting.

“We know that our offense is there almost every night,” Nurkic said. “The question is, like in the first half, our defense – you can’t say it was really bad – but it was like, so-so. We know what we need to do to be better defensively and take pride defensively.

“There is no trick there – it is just one on one. We need to be able to guard one on one in this league. And when we know that, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Nurkic was hoping that the Pelicans would have shown up at full strength.

“We were just hoping they all would play,” he said. “If Davis played, it would have been more fun. You don’t want to see that kind of player hurt.”

Turner’s work as the leader of the second unit continues to be rock-solid. He had 14 points (5-11 from the field) along with seven rebounds and seven assists.

“I try to play an all-around game,” he said. “Tonight the guys were making shots, I try to defend and do whatever we have to do to pull it out.

“I just try to do my part.”

Putting Turner together with Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry was a threesome made in basketball heaven. Curry, getting better with every game after sitting out last season, hit three of his four three-point field goal attempts and Stauskas went two for three from that range.

It’s really the first time Turner has been able to fill that second-unit playmaker role in Portland alongside legitimate shooters and it’s worked perfectly.

And with Zach Collins’ defense anchoring that group it’s going to be a Portland advantage almost every night.

But it would still help if the Blazers could find a little more defense somewhere along the line. Of course, there are a couple of dozen other teams in the league right now in this racehorse start to the NBA season, searching for the same thing.

Trail Blazers "bench" the Indiana Pacers

Trail Blazers "bench" the Indiana Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS – Through the first five games of the season, the Portland bench has been making its mark, outscoring benches from other teams and generally holding leads for the starting lineup.

But Monday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, that bench came up with something special that isn’t likely to be duplicated anytime soon.

Evan Turner’s Tribe outscored the Pacers’ bench 54-15 and more amazing, outscored its own starting lineup 54-49. And don’t think that domination was just on offense – the plus-minus for Portland told a big story.

The Trail Blazer starters were minus-17 and the bench was a whopping plus-67.

On this night the Portland bench bailed the starters out against a gritty defensive effort from the Pacers.

Turner, of course, was the ringleader of that effort by the reserves, He was at his passing and shooting best, hitting six of his nine shots , hauling in eight rebounds and flipping three assists. And as you would expect, he had plenty of help.

Nik Stauskas had 10 points and five assists, Zach Collins 17 points, three rebounds and three assists and Caleb Swanigan came back from obscurity to chalk up 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s a team thing,” said Turner trying to deflect the spotlight. “We’ve been stepping up and doing our job, When it came down to the game being close, our starters stepped up and made some big shots and put the game away.

“We’re really confident in our second unit. We think we can go at a lot of second units and prevail.”

Turner’s role is as a point forward, distributing the ball to open teammates, many of whom are outstanding shooters.

“One thing I know for sure,” Turner said with a smile. “When I come in I look for number zero (Damian Lillard). That’s for sure.

“Usually when we’re in there we just keep running but I thought it was huge tonight that we were able to slow it down and turn it into a possession game.”

Stauskas, who is proving to be a better playmaker than advertised, is in heaven. Not only does he like his role – he likes having a role.

“I’ve never really had a role on a team before,” he said. “When I come into a game now I know what my role is. My four years in the league, I’ve never had a defined role and I never knew when my minutes were going to come – if they were going to come at all. It’s hard to get into any kind of rhythm when you play like that.

“I’ve really enjoyed myself out there with this team and we’re all having fun playing with each other.”

Curry, who combines with Stauskas to form a reliable three-point shooting package for Turner to work with, is still feeling his way back after missing all of last season due to injury.

“Still trying to get my full game back after missing a year,” Curry said. “But we’re playing well as a team and I’m trying to do a lot of other things besides score the ball.

“It’s fun when you’ve got ET out there handling the ball and pushing the pace,  We have a good little chemistry going as a bench right now.”

On Monday night, it was a great big chemistry.

Outsiders Roundtable: Is the Blazers bench for real?

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USA Today

Outsiders Roundtable: Is the Blazers bench for real?

The Trail Blazers are 3-1 this season and in large part they have the bench unit to thank for it. Through four games the bench has been a strength, when in previous years it was a weakness. Is the unit for real? Can we expect this all reason long? The Blazers Outsiders give us their thoughts...

JOE SIMONS:  If you're going to love, love with your whole heart. Throw caution to the wind. There is no 'I' in Sauce. And other such cliches. This bench is everything I could ask for: ET, the vet who seems to have finally found his role; Zach, growing into a reliable two-way player; Seth and Sauce, the latest in a long line of Rip City reclamation projects; and (maybe?) Moe in a new role. Yeah, it's only been four games, but so what? Life's too short to be rational. I say the bench is for real, at least until it isn't.

SHAIN BRENDEN: Yes, the Trail Blazers bench has been pivotal in these early games of the season. Yes, Nick Stauskas has been dripping with savory Canadian sauce. Yes, ET has found his role as a facilitator much like a Front of House manager at a Michelin star restaurant carrying multiple plates at one time, delivering them to the right customers efficiently and effortlessly without compromising the plate presentation. Yes, it’s true Zach Collins has been throwing better block parties, (avg 2.7 along with the 5 against LaBrakers), than that neighborhood from the movie The Sandlot… remember that scene? The 4th of July block party when the gang played at night at the lot because the sky was lit with fireworks? Yeah… such a great movie. It’s true, Seth Curry is showing Portland that having a Curry on your team is better than having no curry at all. I love curry, my taste pallet is above average so I’m able to truly appreciate the various flavor explosions it offers. But the big takeaway the Blazers bench has shown us early on in the season is this... The Blazers Outsiders is a good show now with more Outsiders to choose from. Watch it every night, download the My Teams app, and be nice to Dan, Shain, Joe, Chris, Alex and Jake online and in real life.

DAN MARANG: This is the best (offensive) bench unit the Trail Blazers have had under Terry Stotts. It’s literally been a decade since the Blazers could count on their bench to produce points the way Portland has through 4 games. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but here are the things I like so far:

1.    Evan Turner is in the best possible role/position with the Blazers since he signed here in 2016 and it shows. Turner is getting to his spots inside/midrange and finding his teammates on the perimeter
2.    Nik Stauskas is on a redemption tour. Early on his ability to drive and create off the bounce is the single most revelatory thing for me this season. I don’t think anyone saw this coming and it’s a welcome surprise.
3.    Maurice Harkless is better coming off the bench. With the bench unit Harkless moves up in the pecking order and he’s able to pick his spots without worrying about stepping on anyone’s toes in the starting lineup.
4.    Zach Collins is impacting the box score much more than I anticipated. If Collins keeps putting up counting stats alongside his weakside defense, he’ll be ready for more minutes and a bigger role real soon.

The bench isn’t without their defensive warts, especially on the perimeter, but if they can continue to contribute 35+ points a night and keep or even grow leads, then Portland has a great chance to end up in the top four of the conference this season.

ALEX HAIGH: Ok, look: it’s not like I didn’t like our bench last season. Don’t get me started on Pat, Ed and Bazz. Just don’t. But this season, our bench is just a second starting five. Every one of those guys could start and I would feel comfortable with it. Zach shot a perfect game for 17 points against Orlando (even with that banked-in 3-point buzzer beater), ET had 6 assists (it’s nice to see him settle into his role as offensive orchestrator for the second unit) and Seth Curry (before the season started, I called him mild Curry, but now, he might be a spice level 3-4?) came through with a couple dimes and 11 points. Stauskas may not give us consistent Lakers game-esque performances, but I still trust in his shot selection and ability to become open and help space the floor. I’m more than happy, I’m OPTIMISTIC ABOUT OUR FUTURE. I know how dangerous positivity can be as a fan early on, but I’m going all-in this season because, why the hell not?

JAKE MCGRADY: What can I say... I’m extremely surprised and very optimistic from what I have seen from this team and the bench in these last 4 games. Let’s just say scoring does not appear to be a problem for this squad in the slightest. Teamwork makes the dream work, and we are FINALLY seeing some reliable production outside of Dame / CJ / Nurk. ET is actually averaging more than 10pts a game (yes we’re all surprised), Zach is looking outstanding, Nik has had his flashes, Seth is warming up, and Aminu has been strong as well. I’ll take 40pts from the bench ANY game. Screw it, I’m all in.

CHRIS BURKHARDT: It's still very, very early in the season so let's keep this all in perspective. That being said, the Blazers bench has been phenomenal. According to Hoopstats.com the Blazers bench ranked 27th in the league last season averaging 27.6 points per game. This season the bench is averaging 44.0 points per game, making it the fourth best bench scoring unit in the league. The bench is also third in the league in rebounds (20.8), third in assists (11.5), and first in blocks (4.0) per game. This is all because guys are having career years. Zach Collins has nearly doubled his production from last season, Nik Stauskas is averaging career highs across the board, and Evan Turner is having his best statistical season since 2014-15 and is shooting the best field goal percentage of his career (.581). It will be tough to sustain this level of play all season, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they can. 

Blazers' late-game execution overshadows poor shooting night in loss to Wizards

Blazers' late-game execution overshadows poor shooting night in loss to Wizards

CJ McCollum missed 20 shots. Damian Lillard missed 14.

The Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t buy a basket in Monday night’s 125-124 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.

But before the Blazers made their way out of the Moda Center, they weren’t talking about their pile of bricks. Instead they were lamenting late-game execution, the crunch time miscues that let the Wizards steal a win.

“Just how many times we shot ourselves in the foot,” Lillard said when asked what stuck with him after the loss. “Offensive rebounds, giving up open threes, turning the ball over – even our opportunities, we had two chances to win it at the buzzer.

“For me obviously, I looked right back at those two plays. I think the kind of effort that we had, we put ourselves in position to win the game, just didn’t execute on the defensive end or the offensive end as good as we needed to to win it, so I mean, that’s frustrating.”

Lillard had a potential game-winning layup blocked at the end of regulation and another swatted in the closing seconds of overtime. But just to get to the point where Lillard was driving headfirst into the teeth of a waiting defense, the Blazers had to botch a few things.

After Nik Stauskas buried a three-pointer to put the Blazers up three 111-108 with 12.4 seconds left, Portland conceded a game-tying three-point to Bradley Beal, allowing a wide open jumper on a possession in which they intended to commit an intentional foul.

“We were going to foul, they passed it quickly and we weren’t in a position to foul,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They threw it in bounds quickly to Beal. We overreacted to that, we overreacted to the next pass … so yeah, we wanted to foul in that situation.”

In overtime, the Blazers had an impossible time figuring out the John Wall-Markieff Morris two-man game, which resulted in wide open three-pointers for Morris. When Portland finally decided to switch the screen and send Jusuf Nurkic onto Wall, the Wizards point guard banked in an ugly 17-footer. Bad defense followed by bad luck is a tough combination to overcome.

“It was a tough action to deal with but I think we should’ve just switched it from the jump,” Lillard said.

Morris was equally surprised by the Blazers’ defensive choice: “...After the second [three-pointer], I was like ‘Do you really want to keep letting me shoot the ball?’ but I guess, I mean, I work on them every day.”

Outside of the defensive issues, the Blazers also had a crucial turnover with under 90 seconds left in the overtime when McCollum bowled over Beal and was called for a charge with the game tied at 117.

The Wizards had their own share of shooting woes, but they did just enough to survive, propped up by Morris’ career-best long range shooting night and playing the entire fourth quarter and overtime without committing a turnover.

The big things were the missed shots, and Portland had plenty of those to lament on a night where the offense failed to cash in with any consistency. But it was the smaller details, slow and overreactions on defense and a crucial turnover, that finally decided the game.

“It was an ugly game,” McCollum said. “They didn’t shoot well from the field tonight but (we) just gotta execute a little bit better; take care of the ball, offensive rebounds, turnovers. Those little things are what you can control to ultimately change the outcome of the game.”

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Upon further review, Nik Stauskas should have been the hero vs. Wiz

Upon further review, Nik Stauskas should have been the hero vs. Wiz

After further review...  a look back at some video of Monday’s one-point, overtime loss to Washington – because sometimes so much staff happens you can’t remember it all on deadline:

  • Nik Stauskas should have been the game’s hero. His three-point goal with 13 seconds to play would be the game winner in the NBA most of the time. But the Trail Blazers couldn’t manage to foul anybody and Bradley Beal’s three tied the game.
  • Damian Lillard chased the ball and left John Wall open after the inbound pass prior to Beal’s game-tying three-pointer. That left Wall open for a return pass and when he didn’t shoot with two Blazers closing out on him, all he had to do was flip the ball to a wide-open Beal. I think that must be what Coach Terry Stotts meant when he said, “We overreacted to the in-bounds pass.”
  • I’d forgotten all about Wall banking in a critical elbow jump shot with 10.1 seconds to go in overtime. The shot took the Washington lead from 2 to 4.
  • I did not forget, however, Wall missing two foul shots with 6.6 seconds to go that could have/should have cost the Wizards the game.
  • Lillard did a great job of grabbing the rebound off Wall’s second miss and going coast to coast for a try at a game-winning layup.
  • But I would add this: Nik Stauskas was wide open for a three on that drive… not sure if there was time for him to catch and shoot, though – and I’m not the biggest fan of shooting threes when you need only 1 point to tie and 2 to win. Something close to the basket is almost always a higher percentage shot.
  • Speaking of three-point field goals, CJ McCollum was in the midst of perhaps his worst shooting night as a pro but he rose up and hit a clutch three to get Portland within 1 point late in overtime.
  • I assume the next time Lillard needs a late-game drive to the basket, he’ll change his route a little. The Wizards were all over his drives down the left side of the lane, blocking both of his potential game-winners. And on the layup in overtime there were actually two players there in position to make the block. The Portland all-star does favor that side of the floor for his drives to the hoop and Washington seemed to expect it.
  • If you aren’t going to go to Jusuf Nurkic at the post when he’s having his way with smaller players, you should probably just take him out of the game because at the defensive end he’s going to have problems with the pick-and-roll – especially if the Blazers stick with their usual style of switching those plays.
  • If the Morris twins played their entire careers in Moda Center they’d be all-stars.
  • You need to read Jamie Hudson’s post today about the Trail Blazer guards. She makes some great points about their volume of shots. Some nights I think things would work better if Lillard and McCollum pulled back a little and got the ball moving. Ultimately, they’d get better shots and so would everyone else.

 

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On a Hollywood night in Moda, Blazers treated fans to "A Star is Born"

On a Hollywood night in Moda, Blazers treated fans to "A Star is Born"

It was a Hollywood kind of night Thursday in the Moda Center. It was the world premiere of LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers and the paparazi from all over the country were there to chronicle it.

But on this special night, an extra stole the show. Who amongst the sellout opening-night crowd of 19,996 knew they were going to be treated to a basketball version of “A Star is Born”?

Nik Stauskas, the last of the 11 players used by Coach Terry Stotts when he entered at the 2:18 mark of the first quarter, nailed back-to-back three-point shots off feeds from Meyers Leonard to end the period and was off and running on a breathtaking shooting night that finished with 24 points, including 5 of 8 three-point shots.

“Meyers got me open on two good looks in that first quarter,” Stauskas would say afterward. “As a shooter, you get two good looks to go down, things kind of start opening up after that, so I just tried to be aggressive and my teammates did a good job of finding me.”

Stauskas is a big-time shooter and although it may have surprised the Lakers (“The way I was open on the first two shots, I don’t think I was on the scouting report,” he said), but it didn’t shock his teammates.

“We all know he can shoot the crap out of the ball,” said Maurice Harkless. “When a guy is shooting like that you just keep feeding him the ball until he burns out and tonight he was just hot all night.”

Harkless missed the entire preseason schedule but gave his team 18 minutes 26 seconds in his first live-game action since last season. And he did the usual Harkless things – solid defense, had six rebounds, two assists, three blocked shots and seven points.

“He made a lot of good momentum plays, got some key blocks, a tip in,” said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. “… He made a nice three, but I think more it was the energy plays that he made and kept our momentum going.”

The Blazer bench was critical to this 128-119 win.

Only one Portland starter finished in the plus category of plus-minus, while five of the six off the bench were heavy in the plus column, including Zach Collins, who was a game-high plus-24. You can read more about Collins' night in Jamie Hudson's postgame column. 

The Trail Blazer bench scored 55 points and had 16 of the team’s 21 assists, nine of its 10 blocked shots seven of its 13 three-pointers.

“Our bench was terrific,” Stotts said. “Nik got us going. He just got in the groove and the guy can shoot. I mean, we’ve seen it in practice and I was really happy for him to start the season like that with a new team.”

Collins chalked up a triple-six with six rebounds, six blocks and six points and was the defensive anchor for the second unit.

“Zach had a huge night,” said Evan Turner, who had 13 points and six assists off the bench. “He protected the rim and played tough. His recognition and awareness were great.”

Turner promised that this was no one-hit-wonder for his supporting cast of players off the bench.

“This is how we’re going to keep playing,” he said. “We played tough and got stops. We did enough for our stars to come back and put the game away.”

And that’s exactly what the supporting cast is supposed to do for the stars, isn’t it?

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Trail Blazers amassed plenty of assists in preseason -- but turnovers, too

Trail Blazers amassed plenty of assists in preseason -- but turnovers, too

With the preseason out of the way, it’s interesting to look back at the statistics from the games in order to best understand the performances of some of the Trail Blazer players and the overall team. Here are a few nuggets – but please keep in mind, five games are a very small sample size!:

  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each shot exactly 50 percent from the field. Lillard also made 50 percent of his three-point field goals while McCollum hit 38.9 percent.
  • The Trail Blazers made 41.2 percent of their threes as a team over the five games. They shot 46.4 percent overall.
  • They averaged 17.2 turnovers per game.
  • They averaged 25.4 assists per game.
  • Jake Layman shot 51.2 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
  • Zach Collins shot 56.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three.
  • Meyers Leonard shot 78.3 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from three.
  • Nik Stauskas shot 36.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.
  • Seth Curry shot 43.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu made 46.2 percent of his threes.
  • Since players don’t get a full load of minutes in these games, it’s best to evaluate their scoring averages based on an average per 48 minutes. Based on that:
  • McCollum averaged 32.4, Lillard 27.3, Layman 31.0, Jusuf Nurkic 30.0 and Leonard 29.3.