NEW YORK –- CJ McCollum, who just happened to score 31 points, best summed up his team’s 118-114 win over the lowly (4-14) New York Knicks Tuesday night:
“We won. That’s the biggest thing right now. At the end of the season, nobody’s going to go back and say, ‘Oh, you only beat this team by two or three points.’ We just have to get wins by any means necessary.”
Exactly. It really doesn’t matter how it came about, the Trail Blazers survived 50.6 field-goal shooting by New York and their own 70.6 percent free-throw shooting, to come from 10 points behind in the third quarter and post a win that was a struggle all night.
“CJ got hot at the right time,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We were kind of struggling. We went back to staggering (the minutes on the floor) of Dame and CJ in the second half and CJ took advantage of that opportunity when we really needed it.”
McCollum hit two long three-point shots from the left wing, a layup and then another three to help Portland extend what was a four-point lead out to 11. In the fourth quarter he scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting, including three of his four three-pointers.
With Lillard on the bench, he had the ball in his hands more and made the Knicks pay.
The Trail Blazers were full of praise for their pesky opponents.
“I thought the Knicks played a really good game,” Stotts said. “They played hard. They made a lot of shots and were very competitive. I don’t think their record shows how well they were playing.”
This one was close down the stretch and perhaps the biggest play of the game was an Evan Turner rebound and putback from the right side with 9.5 seconds to play that doubled his team’s lead from two to four.
“Evan’s tip at the end was big-time,” Stotts said.
Turner is experienced enough that it’s no accident when he ends up in the right place at the right time in a big moment.
“Shot clock was winding down. I had seen a couple of times during the game where I could have gotten a tip-in,” Turner said. “I figured on that shot there might be a bunch of mix-ups so I saw when Dame shot it that it could be a free ball. ‘Nurk’ should have gotten an assist on it – he tipped it to me. I just put it in.
“A big play and a big team win. Credit the New York Knicks – they played a tough, hard-fought game.”
Turner isn’t necessarily pleased with the way fouls are being called these days in the NBA. Maybe the whistles are blowing a little too often?
“What made it tough, we could have made it a 15-point lead but in the NBA you can’t touch any-damn-body. You really can’t. It’s getting ridiculous.”
The road trip gets nothing but tougher for the Trail Blazers, with two of the best teams in the league ahead – Milwaukee Wednesday night and Golden State Friday.