Monday night's drubbing was hard to watch as the Milwaukee Bucks took advantage of the Trail Blazers’ inconsistent defense.
It was a night in which the Bucks shot 55.2 percent for the game while dismantling the Blazers from deep.
But it was also a night where second-year forward Nassir Little took advantage of his opportunity.
Following his career night, Little says it’s just the beginning.
Monday, the Blazers were once again without Derrick Jones Jr. (left foot sprain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).
Little stepped in to start at the three in place of an injured Robert Covington for the second consecutive game.
The North Carolina product was all over the court, bringing the energy at both ends.
He was also making it rain from deep.
Little drained five of his seven three-point attempts to help solidify a career night with 30 points. He also snagged six rebounds and recorded two blocks.
A big knock on Little's game on draft night two years ago was his inconsistent three-point shot.
The 6’5” small forward was happy to showcase his range.
As a rookie, Little was always in the gym early and would stay late after practice to work on his long-ball. He also worked with the Noah Basketball System that the Blazers had installed to track players’ shooting technique to give the players and coaching staff feedback on each player’s shot.
That extra time paid off.
“It’s just a matter of getting opportunities and the chance to kind of showcase that,” Little said of his three-point shot. “I’ve had trouble with injuries and stuff like that. I stayed ready, stayed in the gym, and it paid off tonight.”
To say Little went through a lot since July 21, 2020 in the NBA restart is an understatement.
It wasn’t until Jan. 7 of this year when Little saw his first NBA action after not having played in a game since Portland’s final home matchup before the season was postponed on March 10, 2020.
After suffering a concussion in late July during the first few days of the NBA restart, Little then dealt with complications with dehydration.
Then, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the start of the 2020-21 training camp.
Portland’s team captain, Damian Lillard, who finished with 17 points and seven assists in the loss, was extremely happy for his teammate.
Just two minutes into the third quarter Little knocked down his third three of the game to notch 14 points and take over leading scorer duties.
But Little did a little bit of everything on both ends.
His performance was the only positive Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts discussed postgame.
Lillard believes Monday’s performance will be a confidence booster for Little and it reminded him of Gary Trent Jr’s performance against OKC when the Blazers lost 119-106 but GTJ had a career night with 30 points.
Lillard added, “to see a similar performance from Nas tonight, I think, for me personally, I’m looking at it like, 'hey, this might be it. We might’ve found another young wing that can continue with confidence and help our team continue to improve.'”
The confidence was definitely there for Little.
Coach Stotts said pregame that Jones Jr. “is feeling better” and he hopes that his starting small forward will be able to play at some point this week before the Blazers head back to Portland after Saturday’s game in New York.
But until then, we’ll see if Little takes the Trent Jr. path.
Remember, this is just the beginning.