Make no mistake, even without Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans are still a handful for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland racked up quarters of 35, 35, 32 and 30 points Thursday night to beat the Pels 132-119 and pretty much won with as little defense as possible.
“In some ways, this was a frustrating game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We never got on track defensively. The offense was good all night… but defensively, for whatever reason – might have been New Orleans playing really well – but I’m glad we strung together some stops in the fourth quarter and were able to pull away.
“We did a lot of good things on offense. I thought Evan got the assist train going in the second quarter, finding people that got a little spark to us. But like I said, we found ways to score all night. We scored over 30 every quarter.
“Whether it was eight different people hitting threes, assists, transition – we did a lot of good things.”
The Trail Blazers shot 50.6 percent from the floor and an eye-popping 51.4 percent from three-point range. The big difference in the game was that Portland outscored New Orleans by 30 points from the three-point line, a dominance almost impossible to overcome with two-point shots and free throws.
But as Stotts said, most of his team's good things were confined to the offensive end. Yes, the Portland bench scored 50 points, the third time it has reached that total in the young season. But the New Orleans bench actually tallied 51, thanks to a nearly unstoppable, 29-point performance by Julius Randle.
And although the Pelicans shot only 42.6 percent, they captured 14 offensive rebounds and turned them into 19 second-chance points.
Damian Lillard continued his torrid early season scoring production, hitting four of his seven shots from three-point range and finishing with 26 points. Jusuf Nurkic backed him up with 20 on seven of nine shooting.
“We know that our offense is there almost every night,” Nurkic said. “The question is, like in the first half, our defense – you can’t say it was really bad – but it was like, so-so. We know what we need to do to be better defensively and take pride defensively.
“There is no trick there – it is just one on one. We need to be able to guard one on one in this league. And when we know that, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Nurkic was hoping that the Pelicans would have shown up at full strength.
“We were just hoping they all would play,” he said. “If Davis played, it would have been more fun. You don’t want to see that kind of player hurt.”
Turner’s work as the leader of the second unit continues to be rock-solid. He had 14 points (5-11 from the field) along with seven rebounds and seven assists.
“I try to play an all-around game,” he said. “Tonight the guys were making shots, I try to defend and do whatever we have to do to pull it out.
“I just try to do my part.”
Putting Turner together with Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry was a threesome made in basketball heaven. Curry, getting better with every game after sitting out last season, hit three of his four three-point field goal attempts and Stauskas went two for three from that range.
It’s really the first time Turner has been able to fill that second-unit playmaker role in Portland alongside legitimate shooters and it’s worked perfectly.
And with Zach Collins’ defense anchoring that group it’s going to be a Portland advantage almost every night.
But it would still help if the Blazers could find a little more defense somewhere along the line. Of course, there are a couple of dozen other teams in the league right now in this racehorse start to the NBA season, searching for the same thing.