Best and worst of the Trail Blazers 5-2 road trip
Best and Worst
The Trail Blazers have not played a home game since Feb. 13th when Portland defeated the Warriors 129-107. The All-Star break followed then the Blazers' longest road trip of the season. On Tuesday, Portland wrapped up its seven-game trip with a disappointing loss to the Grizzlies. With that loss, Portland went to 5-2 on the trip.
It was still a successful trip and as CJ McCollum put it, “if you would’ve told me before the road trip that we’d go 5-2 on the trip, I would’ve said, I’d take it.”
Yes, 5-2 on this trip is still considered a big positive, but dang, 6-1 sounded a lot better. Let’s go through some of the best and worst moments from the road...
BEST part of the trip #1: Multiple guys stepping up
Both Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu have always brought the defensive toughness, but the two starting forwards had some big all-around games on this trip and that didn’t go unnoticed.
“Aside from the new guys and Nurk playing the way he has played these first two games, I think [Aminu and Harkless] have really been a spark for us -- rebounding, defensively, you know, communication, just the activity of both of them out there together is a lot to deal with for opposing teams,” Lillard said after beating Philly for their second straight win on the trip.
Harkless then recorded his first double-double of the season last Wednesday in the Blazers 97-92 win over the Celtics. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds. There’s no doubt that Harkless is back to feeling healthy and not dealing with knee soreness like he had been all season.
BEST part of the trip #2: The additions of Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter
In Enes Kanter’s Blazer debut he did not disappoint. Kanter quickly showed Blazers fans what he will bring to this team on the offensive end as he made his first seven shots of the game and finished with 18 points.
Rodney Hood has now played in a total of 11 games for Portland. After his debut on February 2nd he had not scored in double figures since then until the Blazers beat the Hornets on Sunday. Hood had a career-high 21 points in the fourth quarter and ended up with a season-high 27 points, all coming in the second half, on an impressive 9-of-14 shooting.
“My teammates did a great job of setting me screens and getting me open. The best way to shoot your way out of a slump is just to keep shooting,” Hood said after Sunday’s win.
BEST part of the trip #3: Pulling off a morning victory over Philly
We’ve talked about the multiple scoring threats that this Blazers’ squad currently has and Jake Layman has definitely become a staple for this team in the scoring department. With Evan Turner out for last Saturday’s game against the Sixers because of knee soreness, Layman and Rodney Hood saw the floor a little bit more.
Layman showed once again why he has earned a spot in the Blazers’ rotation. He drove to the hoop hard and finished with a driving dunk early in the second quarter and then followed that up two possessions later with a block on Sixers' All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Layman led the team in rebounds with 11, while Jusuf Nurkic scored team-high 24 points in the 130-115 win over the 76ers.
WORST part of the trip #1: Kawhi ruined the party
Kawhi Leonard scored the go-ahead basket with three seconds left in Friday’s game as the Raptors held on to beat the Trail Blazers 119-117.
It was a heartbreaking way to lose especially since the Blazers had clawed their way back after being down 16 points. Not to mention, this game ended the Trail Blazers five game-winning streak.
“They really disrupted us defensively. They made it hard for us at the offensive end. We just stayed with it. We were physical, defensively – just a great effort. We stuck with it. It came down to one shot and [Kawhi] made a tough shot,” Damian Lillard said postgame in Toronto.
WORST part of the trip #2: Defensive issues vs. Conley and Wright
Grizzlies PG Mike Conley and backup PG Delon Wright each scored career-highs on Tuesday night. Conley scored 40 points on 12-of-18 shooting, while Wright added 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting in Memphis’ 120-111 win over Portland on Tuesday.
“You’ve got to give credit to Memphis. We had a 16-point lead. They kept playing, they kept defending, Mike Conley was outstanding, had his shot was going, he was directing the offense, got into us defensively. Memphis played really well and they deserved to win the game… We didn’t play very well with a lead in the first half. Again give a lot of credit to Memphis and how they’re playing,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters after Tuesday’s loss.
WORST part of the trip #3: Giving up the final game of the trip
It felt like a let down after such an impressive trip after the Blazers were not able to hold off the Grizzlies. Fans aren’t the only ones who felt that pain.
“We kind of just let up… We turned the ball over... We put ourselves in a bad position… Our plan was, once we got to this point, was to go home 6-1 -- that would’ve been great for us… A long trip, a lot of tough games… I think we could say it was a good trip. It would’ve been a great trip if we would’ve been 6-1...” Lillard told reporters after Tuesday’s loss.
But, you can bet the Blazers are happy to be coming home after being on the road for the past 15 days. “Now we’ve got to move forward and get ready for the Thunder,” CJ McCollum told our Dwight Jaynes.