Trail Blazers starting center Hassan Whiteside accepted the challenge of bodying up Thunder big man Steven Adams on Wednesday night.
Whiteside led all scorers after the first quarter with 14 points to go along with his six-first quarter rebounds.
The Blazers big man was a big part of Portland’s quick start against the Thunder as the Blazers rolled OKC 136-119 on Wednesday.
And Whiteside seemed to have found his groove on the offensive end over the last two games.
That sums up Whiteside's night.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his big man had a “great start,” adding that, “[Hassan] had the full package again, he had it all. He’s got good touch in the paint, and I thought our guys did a good job finding him, and he did a good job finishing, and he was a big part of that first quarter.”
Whiteside amassed 21 points and 12 rebounds by halftime. He finished the night with 16 rebounds to Adams’ six boards.
But what does the Blazers 7-footer think was working so well for the Blazers to score a season-high 42 points in the first quarter?
“I think, man, we’re just coming together. Guys are getting healthy, guys are getting back in the lineup, and I think we’re starting to build some chemistry, and getting stops, and offensively it’s coming along,” Whiteside said.
“We’re going to keep building,” Whiteside added.
Both coach Stotts and Damian Lillard believe that having Carmelo Anthony on the floor for them obviously helps space the floor. But, they also feel that because the pick and roll between Lillard and Whiteside has evolved that has helped give the Blazers more open shots.
Coach Stotts mentioned how before Whiteside suffered a right hip injury, he and Lillard were starting to build a better pick and roll relationship.
Stotts also stated, “Damian had such good chemistry with Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic) and Nurk’s a different roller than Hassan, so I think Dame’s figured out where he’s gonna be and when he’s gonna be there and I think their pick and roll has become more effective.”
It was apparent in the first handful of games that Whiteside had never really been in this type of a role. He looked uncomfortable setting the screen at the top of the key and was struggling then to roll to hoop for his point guard to dish it to him down low.
The Trail Blazers winning two straight games goes hand in hand with Whiteside showing improvement on setting a solid screen and not just coming to the top of the key and slipping by the defender.
Lillard explained postgame, “the more I communicate with [Hassan], the more he’s starting to understand what I want to do. It’s just getting better with time. So 18, 19 games in, it should be getting better and it is.”
In Wednesday night’s win, Whiteside was one point shy of matching his season-high as he finished with 21 points.
He attributes his effectiveness to his body feeling good once again.
“Outside of the first game, I think this is probably the most healthy I’ve felt,” Whiteside said.