When Damian Lillard is playing at the high-level that the NBA world has become accustomed to seeing, the Trail Blazers are playing at a high-level.
But when Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic are on the same page and Nurkic is locked in for a complete 48-minutes, the Blazers are a true team to be reckoned with and that’s what they showed Friday night in Brooklyn.
Following Portland’s 128-109 victory over the undermanned Brooklyn Nets, Damian Lillard discussed how it’s the team defense that has helped them win three straight and win those three-consecutive games in convincing fashion.
And a big reason is Nurkic’s presence on that end.
As for Nurk’s “good offensive night,” he finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
But the way Nurkic is able to alter shots along with his hustle and communication on the defensive end has provided a big boost in Portland’s team defense over the past three games.
There's no question about that.
However, Nurk isn’t ready to talk about that side of the ball right now.
“At this point, I don’t know if I need to talk about defense," Nurk said. "[Even if] we have one good game defensively, they’re going to still talk about defense. So to me, we’ve got to stay together.”
Besides, Nurk is right, actions speak louder than words.
So as the Trail Blazers starting center blocks out the noise, he is pleased with his team’s mentality and focus now that they’re up against it.
Now at the halfway mark of their six-game road trip and with a total of nine regular season games remaining, the Blazers sit in the seventh spot out West.
No slip ups could mean this team still has a chance to avoid the play-in tournament.
Now a half game back of the Dallas Mavericks and 1.5 games back of the Lakers, Portland’s energy and togetherness along with the elite play of the Nurk-Lillard duo will be a key part of their recipe for success.