With no Damian Lillard as he sat out to rest a left knee contusion against the Magic Friday, it was all about the Norman Powell show as he made his debut and excitement of Jusuf Nurkic making his return.
Powell found his scoring rhythm quickly.
Which was the highest scoring mid-season debut in team history.
And even though it didn’t take long for Nurkic's impact to be felt on the floor with his first bucket of the game at the 8:24 mark of the first quarter, it was his passing that impressed Powell most.
Nurk played in five-minute stretches in his first game back since fracturing his right wrist on Jan. 14. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes of action.
With a smile on his face postgame, Nurkic explained that he “always feels great with a win.”
But he also mentioned that physically he felt good as well.
Nurk believes it’s going to take a few more games to get used to playing with a protective splint on his right wrist and thumb. He mentioned that the splint made it difficult to hold on to the ball with one hand, but he will have to have the splint for the foreseeable future.
For the Blazers starting center, he was happy with his first game back.
“I tried to not force it, just play the right way and I think I moved really good,” Nurkic said. “I liked how I was moving out there and just the way we played.”
Portland’s coach Terry Stotts thought Nurkic’s performance was what he expected.
“He had some turnovers. There were ups and downs, it’s kind of what I expected it to be,” Stotts added.
After 32 games missed, Nurkic worked to shake off the rust.
After turning the ball over two-straight possessions in the second quarter, he looked more like himself in the second half showing off his footwork down low
He also forced a couple of Magic turnovers while blitzing Orlando's guards on the perimeter.
Or as his coach put it, ‘sometimes Nurk goes rogue.’
“That wasn’t by design, but he does pick his opportunities to do that,” Stotts explained. “As long as it works it’s fine.”
Nurkic admitted that even though doubling Orlando's wings was not part of the Blazers’ defensive gameplan, he was ready to pressure the Magic's guards.
Namely because of what he had seen for the past two months sitting on the bench.
“I see with Enes being back, Melo at the five, we kind of struggled to be aggressive defensively,” Nurkic explained. “I thought being aggressive on the guards, they didn’t see that type of defense, and I was just trying to see what they going to do. “
The Bosnian Beast also mentioned that he knows he’s a big part of the Trail Blazers defense and he is eager to provide a boost on that end.
He also believes the Blazers “have assets” to be a better defensive team.
“We talk about it – the defense obviously – but we’ve got to do something about it.”
As for the transition for Enes Kanter back to his bench role.
That went as smoothly as expected too.
Kanter still made his presence felt, particularly on the glass. The Blazers big man recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes of work.
Kanter has been one of Nurk’s biggest supporters.
“He was telling me every day, ‘you’ve got to come back, you’ve got to come back…’ It was really fun to watch him the way he was playing.”
Now the Trail Blazers will turn their attention to Powell’s former team as Portland will most likely get Lillard back in the lineup to take on the Raptors
Sunday, Portland and Tornoto will square off as Nurk and Powell continue to get acclimated.