It was a dominant performance by the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night.
Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers were shorthanded and have had their struggles as of late. Not to mention, they were coming off a 38-point loss to Denver on Wednesday.
But, this could’ve easily been a trap game for Portland, especially since the Blazers had such a quick turnaround following Thursday's hard-fought win over the Sixers.
But this is a shorthanded Blazers’ squad who has been playing together and bringing the energy night in and night out, especially during their three-game homestand.
It may be hard to believe that Jusuf Nurkic went down with a broken left wrist on Jan. 14, but after nearly a month of no Nurk, Enes Kanter has stepped up to be the steady workhorse down low.
In Friday’s 129-110 drubbing over the Cavaliers, Kanter powered up Andre Drummond while finishing with 21 points.
But he also once again showed off his knack for hunting down offensive rebounds.
Coach Terry Stotts isn’t sure he’s ever had a player average more offensive boards than Kanter.
Kanter pulled down 13 rebounds, seven of those were on the offensive end. Plus, he finished with a plus-21 for the game.
But as Gary Trent Jr. says, the dependable Kanter stepping into his expanded role with Nurkic out should not shock anyone.
“It’s big” Trent Jr. said of Kanter bringing consistency to the starting lineup like he has done over the past month. “Nobody should even be surprised. Enes Kanter is a vet... He’s proved himself year after year after year what he can do. Any team he goes to he’s known for rebounding, putbacks, scoring around the rim, being strong… He’s everything we needed down to the screens that he sets.”
But for Kanter, he didn’t want to talk about his own performance, and instead he credited his teammates when he caught up with Trail Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam immediately after the win.
He did, though, discuss the overall key for yet another impressive team performance:
“Being physical… We did an amazing job just playing physical, boxing out, and we know we’ve got to score the ball, but the most important thing to get us to the next level is defense and we did an unbelievable job.
The Trail Blazers 7-footer believes that this team is finally finding its footing after losing two of its starters.
“We are learning,” Kanter said. “I think we’re a really good team, but for us to get to the next level it’s defense and chemistry.”