Portland Trail Blazers

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers’ bigs with strong return in first scrimmage

Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers tipped off their scrimmage slate in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

Considering how weird it looked to not have fans in the stands, and to see the coaching staff so spread out behind the bench, it went fairly well for the Blazers in their first outing, especially early on.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said multiple times over the past two weeks that he would treat these scrimmages like preseason games. Thus, with no scouting report on the Pacers, it was all about the Blazers’ read and react performance in this one.

And, Portland’s big lineup didn’t disappoint even with a late scratch with one of their 7-footers.

The Blazers took a two-point lead at the half before the Pacers got hot from long distance.  

FINAL BOX SCORE: Pacers 91, Trail Blazers 88

Here are three quick takeaways from the Blazers first scrimmage:

1. Look out -- Nurk and Zach are back

It seemed fitting that Jusuf Nurkic was the one to put the Trail Blazers on the board with Portland’s first bucket of the game and his first basket since March 25, 2019.

Between Jusuf Nurkic at the five, Zach Collins at the four, and Carmelo Anthony at the three, the Blazers were able to keep the Pacers' success in the paint to a minimum.

In the first half, Indiana went 7-for-16 in the paint.

The Blazers had five blocks in the first half, which is impressive considering Portland averaged 6 blocks per game this past season.

In the second half, it looked like Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was a bit more hesitant to drive to the hoop. The Pacers as a team; however, hit from three and stayed out of the paint a little more than in the first half. That recipe worked against the Blazers Thursday. 

Defense and rebounding are two major categories that the Blazers have improved on though during the hiatus with the addition of their two bigs.

Nurkic finished the scrimmage with 14 points and eight rebounds.

2. Active young Blazers

Between Wenyen Gabriel's physical play down low and Gary Trent Jr. 's bulldog mentality on the defensive end, the Trail Blazers second unit of young players looked like they were all campaigning for more future minutes. The second unit is not necessarily set yet as Coach Stotts will still have to figure out how his 'seeding games' rotation will look. He said he is expecting to play more of a playoff rotation of eight players.

Mario Hezonja also provided instant offense off the bench, showing that he isn’t hesitating with the rock in his hand and confirming that he has improved his jump shot like he has said he has during training camp.

3.Portland’s defensive presence down low will be key going forward

Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside (Achilles) did not suit up for Thursday's scrimmage. It was reported that Whiteside is dealing with a minor Achilles and calf issue. This injury isn’t expected to be a major one, but with an Achilles strain the Blazers are taking every precaution.

Despite not getting a chance to see what Nurkic and Whiteside could do playing alongside each other, the Blazers as a team had active hands on the perimeter, while also clogging the paint.

Portland was without rookie forward Nassir Little, as well, due to Little suffering a concussion during Monday’s practice.

Up Next: The Blazers face the Raptors in Portland’s second scrimmage Sunday.

Portland’s Remaining Scrimmage Schedule:

  • Sunday, July 26 vs. Toronto at 3:00 p.m. PT
  • Tues, July 28 vs. Oklahoma City at 3:00 p.m. PT

Be sure to check back throughout the rest of the day and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!