The Trail Blazers finished off a sweep of back-to-back games against the New Orleans Pelicans Thursday night and there was one basic difference between the two games.
“This was our best defensive game of the year,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “We didn't have a bad quarter. Every quarter, our defensive rating was really good and we rebounded the ball well.
“I don't know what it ended up, but we limited their fast breaks, we limited their points in the paint, we limited their second-chance points.
“I thought we were aggressive on Zion, our help defense was good, so it was like I said, it was our best defensive effort of the year.”
Wire to wire. And it was a great night to get that improved defense because the offense was no great shakes.
Damian Lillard was 12-22 from the field on his way to 36 points – but even he suffered through a seven-turnover, no-assist night.
Of course it’s hard to get assists when your teammates aren’t making shots. The Blazers not named “Lillard” went 21-65 from the field.
And the bench production was pretty much a one-man show.
Carmelo Anthony was 6-12 and scored 15 points, but the rest of the Portland reserves managed to go just 1-14 for 5 points. Gary Trent had an unusually frustrating game, going 1-11 from the field.
So, it was up to the defense – and the defense was up to the challenge.
“You know tonight, it was unbelievable, man,” Enes Kanter said. “I think everyone did an amazing job, You know, first unit, second unit, coaches.”
How did that happen? What changed?
“I think you know the one thing, especially like at halftime, we talked about the differences. We were communicating out there. You know, we were talking, we were loud, and we were trusting each other.”
The Trail Blazers held the Pelicans to just 10-37 from three-point range while limiting them to just 40 points in the paint.
It was impressive.