HOUSTON - It took about a quarter and a half for the Trail Blazers, who were on the second night of back-to-back, to completely take advantage of the Rockets switching defense.
It was then a night full of mismatches, easy buckets, big men pounding it down low, and Blazers’ guards exploiting the Rockets bigs on the perimeter.
It was a second half full of Blazers offense as Portland cruised to a 104-85 victory over Houston.
Portland’s big three of Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, and CJ McCollum all scored in double digits. Lillard went an efficient 8-for-10 from the field and had 22 points, while Nurkic added 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. McCollum scored 19 points after hitting 3-of-6 from three-point range.
“They was switching everything. They were switching all of our plays. I just think it took as a little while to figure out how to attack it… Nurk did a great job in the paint early finishing, and late. CJ got in the paint and drew some fouls. I was able to get in to the paint score some buckets and hit a few guys for shots. I think from there we just had the remedy for switching all of our stuff.” Lillard said.
“I think early on we were just being indecisive and then towards the latter part of the game we began to get aggressive and either live with taking a jump shot or getting all the way to the hole or dropping it off to the big,” McCollum said.
For the game Portland shot 47.5% from the field and 40% from deep. Coach Stotts was pleased with his team adjustments in the second half after the first quarter’s sloppy play.
“Their switching gave us a lot of trouble early on. The first quarter and a half was kinda tough to watch…We kept it simple. Dame made a lot of good reads. CJ made some good drives…just by playing isolation. I wasn’t pretty basketball but it was good to get a win,” Stotts said.
FEED THE BIGS
Blazer fans were treated to great play around the basket in Houston.
Whether it was a Bosnian Beast dunk or a Jake Layman slashing lay-in, Portland took care of business down low. Layman went 3-of-5 from the floor for seven points.
And, with the Rockets frontcourt so focused on guards in the pick and roll, that led to Nurkic and Zach Collins getting wide open looks.
“I think when they threw the ball in the post, Nurk did a great job tonight and he got a lot of buckets down there,” Collins said.
“We just did a good job being aggressive. Nurk gave us a post presence, he finished around the basket. We tried to take advantage of certain matchups where smalls are on bigs and bigs are on smalls for us to try to get to certain spots to pull up or get to all the way to the basket,” McCollum said.
Even though, at times, it may seem like taking candy from a baby when a 7-footer matches up against 6-foot guard, but that’s not the reality and Collins was quick to remind everyone that when you post up a smaller guy, this is the NBA, and the help defense will be on its way.
“When you have a smaller guy on you, you want to go get a bucket. You’re thinking in some sense it might be easier because they’re smaller than you, but it’s tough because you know that if you make your move, help is coming so you’ve got to find that open guy… You just got to be really patient, you gotta look at all of your options and just know that scoring is not your only option,” Collins said.
ET IN THE POST
Time and time again this season we have seen Evan Turner take smaller guards down to the post and work his post up game. ET felt the team just needed time to figure out the Rockets’ scheme.
“It’s a second night of a back-to-back we weren’t really prepared for the switching or whatever to start off right away, but we adjusted pretty well. We found mismatches. I think we took our time to find mismatches. They did a great job of holding us with the switches, switching aggressively and we tried to, I think, we rushed a little bit and once the second half hit we kind of took time and got the ball to where we wanted to,” Turner said.
Turner had five points, seven rebounds, and two assists in Tuesday’s victory. Being point forward vs. a team that likes to switch on ball screens can be not only a benefit for Turner, but for the team when he’s getting others involved…
“I try to get to the post, you know what I’m saying, do what anybody else would do. Or you know with our shooters, sometimes we find kick outs… I’m fairly comfortable in the post. I’m pretty comfortable with the movement and our system. In the post I feel like it’s going to be an advantage,” Turner said.
HEADING HOME HAPPY
So often the game is about taking what the defense gives you and for the Blazers in the final game of the road trip marked a night of exploiting the Rockets’ ‘D’ while also holding them to just 32.3% shooting. That’s what you call a good game on both ends.
And, as Lillard put it in the locker room postgame, coming into this road trip if someone would’ve said the Blazers would go 3-1, everyone would’ve been happy with that heading back to Portland.