Staying ready to shoot.
These are all key components to the Trail Blazers 106-98 victory over the Pacers and Portland’s first game without starting shooting guard CJ McCollum.
Just as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts talked about in his pregame interview, it was a collective group who found themselves getting extra minutes with McCollum out.
Jake Layman got the starting nod in place of McCollum, but then Rodney Hood started the second half. Hood, Layman and Seth Curry, are all expected to get more minutes with McCollum sidelined.
Also, as expected, Damian Lillard carried the load as he notched his ninth double-double of the season by the end of the third quarter. Lillard finished with 30 points and 15 assists, which is a new season-high in assists and just one shy form tying his career-high.
With 15 assists on the night it shows how the game plan is to play as a team in McCollum’s absence. Lillard discussed how it’s not about playing hero ball during this stretch without his running mate.
“I think having a guy that’s such a huge part of our team go down and not be out there, it’s not gonna be just me going out there trying to be the hero. It’s going to have to be done by committee,” Lillard told Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam immediately after the game.
“Against a very good team, we had a lot of guys step up. It was really encouraging and that’s how we’re going to have to play,” Lillard added.
ENERGY PLAYS AND CHASE DOWN BLOCKS
Zach Collins also saw the floor more, which proves Coach Stotts is going to fill McCollum’s minutes in a variety of ways.
Collins made sure to make the most of the opportunity early and Coach Stotts was quick to recognize him postgame.
“Collins came in and made a lot of energy plays. I thought we scored more off of our energy than anything else,” Stotts said.
Even though this is just Collins’ second year in the league, he showed his wisdom in the locker room.
“[CJ] brings so much to our team... We just gotta come together and pick up the slack. Without him on the floor -- that’s a lot of buckets that we have to come up with and obviously, Dame has a lot on his shoulders and now that teams have to focus a lot more on him without CJ, we’ve got to help him out a little bit, just come together” Collins said.
Collins also noted that he always wants to “make energy plays that gets the crowd in to it,” and that’s exactly what he did midway through the second quarter with a chase down block on Tyreke Evans.
So, what goes through Collins’ mind when he’s going up for a chase down block like that?
“Move as fast as I can,” Collins said with a big smile.
“I need to get a little faster, but just try to get there as quickly as I can and try to time it right,” Collins said.
BE READY TO CATCH AND SHOOT
Al-Farouq Aminu picked up some of the scoring slack. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from three in the third quarter as he ignited the Blazers’ offense in the second half.
For Chief, it’s all about making sure he is ready to catch and release.
“Obviously Dame did a good job distributing, making sure everybody got involved… We just gotta continue to be ready to shoot,” Aminu said.
“I think what we did tonight was impressive, to be honest, I’m proud of everybody from top to bottom, the way we were able to step up without CJ and get a quality win,” Aminu added.
Aminu finished 4-for-5 from long distance and 5-for-8 from the field to score 16 points.
It’s all about that Blazer ball movement though.
“We just gotta play the same way and make sure we’re continuing to distribute the ball,” Aminu said.
NO NEED TO RUSH CJ BACK
Before Monday’s game both McCollum and Coach Stotts did not give any type of timetable on McCollum’s return.
Lillard knows one thing though—
He doesn’t want McCollum to hurry back before he’s ready.
Lillard has had this conversation with McCollum about taking his time to get the proper rehab.
“I don’t want [CJ] to have to rush it,” Lillard said. “And, when he does come back, I want him to be himself and be healthy... In my mind we’re going to finish the regular season without him... We’d rather have him healthy and strong for the playoffs.”