BROOKLYN – One thing is for sure… The Portland Trail Blazers are loaded with offensive weapons.
And, CJ McCollum said it best after the Blazers 113-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night:
“It’s a good problem to have.”
Unlike what fans have become accustom to for the past few seasons with Damian Lillard and McCollum leading the offensive charge, on Thursday night, it was all about Jusuf Nurkic and newly acquired backup Enes Kanter.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts knows it’s a luxury to have two big men who can finish around the rim.
“We’re going to spread the wealth, I guess,” Stotts said in regards to the Blazers’ rotations and who is going to get minutes. “We’ve been good offensively most of the season. I think we’re probably improved now with Enes Kanter... So offense is going to be fine. We’ll find ways to score.”
Nurkic finished with 27 points in the win, which ties a season-high, to along with his 12 rebounds after shooting an efficient 10-of-15 from the floor.
The Bosnian Beast bodied up the young Jarret Allen in Thursday night’s win as Nurkic notched his 27th double-double of the season.
Nurkic had it going early when the rest of the Blazers seemed to be shaking off that post All-Star break rust.
At the break, he was the only Trail Blazer in double figures with 10 points.
“Nurk was great. He changed the game, made them have to really double team down in the paint, he attracted a lot of attention, finished strong, was efficient, he helped us a lot,” McCollum said.
But when Nurkic got into foul trouble in the second half that meant more minutes for the newest Trail Blazer.
“It’s not a break for other teams. You come out with Nurk,who is huge, banging guys down low, getting the ball in the paint and then when Nurk’s out of the game you come in with Enes and he’s the same. He’s strong, he’s banging, he’s making those guys work… They’ve got their work cut out for them in the paint,” Lillard said.
Nurkic feels the Blazers offense could see a bit of a change for this second half of the season.
“I feel like with Enes we’re gonna play a little bit more in the post,” Nurkic added.
Kanter logged 20 minutes in his debut for the Trail Blazers. He made his first seven shots and ended the game with 18 points after going 8-of-9 from the floor. Kanter also had nine rebounds with four of those coming on the offensive end.
“I didn’t expect [Kanter] to just be that comfortable… But he played in exactly the way I knew he was capable of – on the offensive glass, scoring on the block. I think that type of game from him, I think that’s something that we can really use,” Lillard said.
Both Nurkic and Kanter realize that with their size there is a big possibility they will create mismatches.
“Somebody is gonna need to guard two big fellas out there,” Nurkic said with a smile.
“Jusuf is one of the biggest men in the league. He kind of plays like I do – physical game, rebounding, post-ups and face-up shots. I think we just want to get better from now,” Kanter said.
Lillard also mentioned how having Nurkic and Kanter both being so effective down low could open up more driving lanes for he and McCollum.
While McCollum pointed out that the Blazers could now be heading to the free throw line a little bit more because of Nurkic and Kanter’s play.
“They’re gonna change the dynamic for a lot of teams and how they guard us. Obviously they’re able to draw fouls, draw a lot of attention, get us in the bonus a little bit earlier and present some different challenges for a lot of teams,” McCollum said.
Nurkic and the rest of the Blazers will look to now take advantage of the Philadelphia 76ers who will be playing without Joel Embiid when the Blazers visit Philly on Saturday.