ATLANTA – “If we move the ball and don’t guard, it’s not going to matter.”
That was final statement made by CJ McCollum during his postgame interview Saturday night.
McCollum was asked if his team needed to make more of an effort getting the ball movement flowing since Portland had just 14 assists on the night against the Hawks.
That wasn’t McCollum’s concern.
For the current team captain, who once again led the charge with Damian Lillard out, it was all about the Blazers defense and how the game plan didn't work against Atlanta.
They’re shooting the ball well. A lot of them were open so that’s a credit to them for making open shots… Part of the game plan was to try to stop Trae Young and to make other guys beat us and they did tonight. – Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said postgame
McCollum was discouraged and rightfully so.
“Absolutely. Lost opportunity.”
The 28-year-old finished with a game-high 35 points as the Blazers fell to the Hawks 129-117.
Portland held Young to under his season average of 29.9 points with 25 points on the night, but like McCollum said, that made way for other Atlanta players to step up and knock down threes.
McCollum explained how “momentary breakdowns” on the defensive end was partly to blame for the Hawks shooting 42.9 percent from deep.
But, it was more than that.
It had to do with the scouting report on Atlanta.
“Some of it was strategically trying to take the ball out of [Young's] hands, let the other guys shoot. I think [De'Andre] Hunter his about five threes, [John] Collins hit some threes, the rest of the guys did a good job knocking down shots. They’re playing well,” McCollum said.
“They shot the ball well. They got what they wanted most of the night.”
The Hawks weren’t just getting threes from their starters, either.
Treveon Graham shot a perfect 2-for-2 from deep in his limited minutes. On the season, he is shooting 24.5 percent from long distance.
That says a lot.
Even though the Hawks aren’t known for being a very consistent three-point shooting team this season when taking Young out of the equation, Atlanta has been changing that narrative.
The Hawks shot 48.7 percent (19-of-39) in their win over the Nets Friday night.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was quick to mention that Atlanta is clearly a team that can knock down the long ball when given the chance.
“If the Hawks shoot the ball like they did last night and tonight and they did tonight, they’re going to score a lot of points,” Coach Stotts said postgame.
That brings us back to McCollum’s final statement.
Portland can have a lot of things working for them on any given night, but if the Blazers can’t defend, especially from three, the wins are not going to be there.