Just as Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. has always said -- whenever a teammate goes out with an injury, it’s all about the ‘next man up’ mentality.
Saturday night against the Hawks, it was about multiple Trail Blazers stepping up to fill a couple of voids.
Portland was without CJ McCollum in the second half after he suffered a left foot sprain, while the Blazers were already adjusting to, once again, having Enes Kanter start at center with Jusuf Nurkic out with a fractured right wrist.
The team announced following Saturday's game that an MRI confirmed McCollum suffered a left foot sprain.
There is no timetable on when the Trail Blazers starting shooting guard could return to the lineup.
Depending on the severity of the sprain, most minor-to-moderate foot sprains heal within two to four weeks.
The Blazers rallied together when McCollum didn’t return after the break. Portland was down by as many as 16 points in the first half.
It was Portland’s All-Star Damian Lillard leading the charge on both ends while taking a game-winning charge as Trae Young drove right at Lillard in his attempt to tie the game, but Lillard stepped in and drew the offensive foul.
The Blazers saw contributions from one through nine in the 112-106 win.
With the game tied at 86 heading into the final period, Lillard came to the rescue in crunch time.
But to start the fourth quarter it was all about Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr.’s timely buckets and stops, as well as Derrick Jones Jr.’s aggressive play and Kanter stepping into the starting role that he says he “is comfortable with” in Portland.
While Lillard recorded 36 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds, his pick and roll partner, Enes Kanter, notched 12 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks, and two steals.
“GT made big shots, Melo made big shots. DJ was rushing in there, going in and getting us extra possessions. Enes played strong in the paint.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts added, "to me the story of the win was Dame taking a charge down the stretch and defensive stops. Gary Trent working on Trae Young. Enes Kanter getting rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. -- I thought he was all over the place defensively in the second half."
After Trent Jr. made a driving lay-up at the 11:18 mark of the fourth, he lit it up from three, as did his running mate Carmelo Anthony.
In the final period, Anthony and Trent Jr. hit a combined 6-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
But Kanter wanted to talk about the duo’s defense.
Trent Jr. finished with 18 points. Anthony added 11.
Besides 'staying ready' and relying on that 'next man up' mentality, the Blazers often talk about how important it is to have a committee fill the void of an injured starter.
And as GTJ and Melo were the consistent role players down the stretch on both ends, with McCollum and Nurkic out, Saturday’s game showed the depth and it showed when this team locks in on coverages it can flip the script in the second half.
The Hawks scored 66 points in the first half.
They scored 40 in the second half.
The Blazers got it done as a team.
Lillard also mentioned how Harry Giles and Rodney Hood brought the energy as well.
With Lillard sacrificing his body over and over again on the defensive end Saturday, the Blazers followed his lead and improved to 8-5 on the season.