The Trail Blazers are becoming the kings of comeback victories real quick.
And yes, it was necessary to use that phrase when the Blazers were down by as many as 20 points to the Sacramento Kings in the first half and managed to charge back for their fourth straight victory.
Portland defeated Sacramento 132-126 Wednesday night behind stellar play from its guards and their big man at the other end.
It was an historic night for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum with elite numbers from the backcourt duo, but another key piece in Portland being able to come from behind around 20 points at two different points in the game was thanks to Jusuf Nurkic extra defensive efforts, especially late in the game.
Nurkic and Gary Trent Jr. applied more pressure on the Kings in the second and fourth quarters, while the Blazers defense as a team really stepped it up in the second half to secure the win. Nurkic's aggressive play was a key piece to Portland's comeback whether it was on the defensive end or on the glass.
Following the victory, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained how he was pleased with his team’s defensive efforts in the second and fourth quarters.
“I thought we turned it up in the second quarter as well,” Coach Stotts said postgame. “We got down 20 in the first half, we got down 19 in the second half, but… the defensive effort in the second quarter to get it back to three or five or whatever it was, was a good example of what we needed to do.”
Nurkic also attributed “the willingness” of his teammates as to why the Blazers were able to get the job done on the defensive side in the second half.
The Trail Blazers starting center recorded three blocks and two steals on the night and had even more deflections and altered shots at the rim.
“I just got to step up and be there, especially when somebody drive like that at the rim or even steal the ball. I like to steal the ball and coach [gets] mad – you can’t reach as a big, but I still doing some here and there. I’m trying to sneak some,” Nurk said with a smile.
It is true that how Nurkic’s aggressive defense goes is sometimes how the team goes.
Coach Stotts emphasized that point.
The seven-year center also notched 18 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
And lest we forget, Sacramento was where Nurkic posted his historic 5X5 game in Jan. of 2019.
“He likes playing in Sacramento I think," Coach Stotts said. "This is where he got his 5x5 game and last time we played here was his best game of the season so far this season.”
As Coach Stotts gave credit to Nurkic’s defense, Nurk was giving credit to his guards with Lillard and McCollum combining for 68 points, 23 assists, and one turnover.
Some insane numbers.
Per Rip City radio, Lillard and McCollum are the first teammates in NBA history to each score 25+ points to go along with 10+ assists and five or more made threes in the same game.
Combine that with Nurkic’s aggressive nature to slow down the Kings, the Blazers add another comeback victory to their now 7-4 record.