Under three minutes into the game, CJ McCollum had picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench at the at the 8:17 mark in the first quarter when Seth Curry checked in for him.
At that point, Portland was up 13-9 over Philadelphia, but it was easy to think it could be a long night for the Blazers and McCollum after having to go to the bench so early.
Not to mention, Portland was without one of its starters with Maurice Harkless (left knee) sitting out in the second night of a back-to-back.
Philadelphia was also without one of it starters—All-Star big man Joel Embiid.
The Sixers missed Embiid in a big way, but McCollum came out of his ‘shooting slump’ in an even bigger way.
“I’ve felt good the last few games. I’m just trying to get into a rhythm. Trying to stay on the court. I got two fouls early tonight, but overall I think we played a good game. I made some shots and I think that made it easier for everybody else,” McCollum said.
The Blazers cruised to a 129-95 victory after scoring 70 points in the first half.
CJ FEELING IT
So what about McCollum?
Two quick fouls didn’t slow him down.
McCollum was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor in the first quarter including making his only three-point attempt.
The Blazers starting shooting guard finished the game with 35 points on 18 shots in just 28 minutes of work. The best part for McCollum – he made 4-of-7 from three-point range and broke out of that three-point shooting slump we’ve seen over the past few weeks.
McCollum’s running mate, Damian Lillard added 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the win.
“It was a great performance. I think early in the game I saw that he was making shots. It was going for him... We had a pretty good defensive effort going in as well as a group,” Lillard said.
McCollum has scored 30+ now for the sixth time. If he would’ve played the fourth quarter he would have most likely hit the 40-point mark, which he has done three times already this season.
It was definitely one of those special nights and his teammates recognized it early.
“Just keep feeding him. You know when he gets in one of those grooves… It could be one of those nights that you ride it out and I thought we did that,” Lillard said.
It’s not only fun for fans to sit back and watch McCollum go off, Jusuf Nurkic also enjoys kicking back and watching the show from the bench.
“When CJ got going… When you’re on the bench and you’re looking there, it’s like, ‘man it’s gonna be a light night.’ Anytime somebody has (a good) shooting night it just looks good,” Nurkic said.
Evan Turner got the start in place of the injured Harkless. Turner had eight points and seven rebounds. He was also happy his teammate found his stroke again.
“I know the past few games he’s been a little off, but that’s definitely impressive on his second night of a back-to-back and, you know, we really needed it and I thought he did a great job,” Turner said.
DON'T CALL IT A SLUMP
For his career, McCollum is shooting 40 percent from long distance entering Sunday’s game.
McCollum went 22-for-77 (28.6%) from three-point range in the month of December. Before Sunday’s game, McCollum had zero or one three-pointer in six games this past month.
But, No. 3 from Lehigh does not call what he was going through a ‘slump.’
It was just simply missing buckets.
“I felt like I was missing shots. I felt like I was, you know, getting some of the same looks that I’ve been getting my entire life and I wasn’t making them,” McCollum said.
“I figured the tide would turn, eventually,” McCollum added.
It was not only a great shooting night for McCollum, but as a team, the Blazers ended the game shooting 59 percent from the field, including 54.5 percent from three. The Blazers’ 106 points through three quarters are the most points the Blazers have scored through three quarters this season.
LOVING THE BLOWOUT
Portland is now 6-3 in its last nine games and it was obvious that this Blazers team was relieved to have a blowout win.
“We really needed something like this just to rest and, you know, get the right momentum going and, you know, the biggest thing now is resting up and trying to duplicate it,” Turner said.
The Blazers will now hit the road. Portland will travel on New Year’s Eve with a New Year’s Day game vs. the Sacramento Kings.
Blazer fans should be thankful Portland is playing in a more of a sleepy city and not a party city.
Nurkic joked about being in Sacramento and from the sounds of it, they won’t be raring to go out.
“I’m really happy about that… Sleep at 11 o’clock,” Nurkic said with a smile on his face.
That should mean a well-rested Blazers team on New Year’s Day, which is just what they will need playing against the team who leads the league in pace.