As Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts acknowledged postgame, Tuesday night’s game against this roster of Brooklyn Nets, was not the Eastern Conference team that has its eyes on winning a championship.
It was a very different looking Nets team.
Brooklyn did not have Kevin Durant (left hamstring; strain), Kyrie Irving (personal reasons), Spencer Dinwiddie (right knee; partially torn ACL), Alize Johnson (not with team) or Landry Shamet (right ankle; sprain).
But the Blazers still had to slow down James Harden.
It was Derrick Jones Jr. who made Harden work for his 25 points in the Nets’ 116-112 victory over the Blazers.
With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Portland was down five, but Enes Kanter provided some much needed putbacks.
However when it came down to the final seconds, the Blazers ran out of time to take back the lead.
In a game in which Coach Stotts described as “very competitive,” it was a very physical one as well, particularly for Kanter and Jones.
The Trail Blazers starting center fought for position down low against DeAndre Jordan.
But it was Kanter who was doing everything for the Blazers Tuesday night.
From his solid screens to help free up the Blazers wings to his playmaking, Kanter made his presence felt. He finished with 19 points, 19 rebounds, and six assists.
Coach Stotts praised his big man after the loss, saying, “Enes brought what he always done… Enes was terrific. Sometimes I’m surprised at how he can come up with a ball. He has great hands, he’s persistent.”
While Kanter worked the glass, offensively, the Blazers were able to pick Brooklyn's defense apart with Damian Lillard finding Jones Jr. along the baseline.
“Derrick worked the baseline really well. We found him on some lobs, baseline cuts,” Coach Stotts said.
But after dealing with DeAndre Jordan screens for most of the first half, Jones Jr. appeared to have suffered a left arm injury in the second quarter.
He was subbed out late in the quarter and headed straight to the locker room holding his arm. The team announced that he had suffered a left forearm contusion.
But luckily for the Blazers, he did return to the game in the second half.
He played through the pain and finished with 13 points.
Jones Jr.’s resiliency did not go unnoticed.
And that’s coming from the Turkish Warrior.
Kanter added that DJJ was doing the best with holding his own and “doing unbelievable job.”
Harden finished the game 7-of-24 from the field and 0-for-7 from three.
Coach Stotts gave it up to Jones Jr. postgame.
With Jones Jr.’s length, athleticism, determination, grit, and warrior presence, all of those attributes will be needed down the stretch of the season as the Blazers make their final push in the Western Conference Standings.
It’s always good to have more than one warrior.