Good teams tend to get off to good starts. You know, establish dominance right away and maybe rob the other team of its motivation and energy right away.
And the Trail Blazers did that Saturday night in Sacramento, leading wire to wire after a big first quarter on the way to a 125-99 win over the Kings.
Credit the starting lineup, which came out locked in and turned up.
“Tonight, we got off to a great start and sustained it for the whole game,” said Carmelo Anthony, who scored eight points in five first-quarter minutes.
Fast starts can bury young teams. Or teams with shaky confidence. And the Kings may qualify in both areas.
“You know the good thing about that is the last game against Minnesota, our bench really came in and sparked us in the second quarter,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “And now this time, the starters got us off to a good start in the first and third quarter.
“There's always going to be ebbs and flows through the game, but when your starting unit can outplay their starting unit, that's usually a good sign.”
Most of the game, Portland was crisp on the offensive end and attentive at the defensive end. There was usually defensive help when needed and 10 steals to keep the Sacramento offense disjointed.
On offense, perimeter players were making fast, hard cuts off the ball and Jusuf Nurkic -- who had five assists -- was rewarding them with bounce passes leading to layups or one nice lob for a dunk. When the Blazers are making frequent use of his playmaking skills, it’s a beautiful thing.
In the first quarter, Portland made 12 of its 23 shots, including 4-11 from three and got to the foul line to make all 10 of its free throws.
And at the other end, the Kings were just 8-22 from the field. It wasn’t close after that and the Trail Blazers’ lead crept as high as 31 before turning the game over to the end of the bench,
The Blazers outscored the Kings in all four quarters and never trailed. CJ McCollum continued his torrid shooting, leading Portland with 37 points, Damian Lillard has 17 and Nurkic scored 10 to go with eight rebounds and three steals. And those five assists, of course.
The Trail Blazers’ uptick on defense is leading to a better pace on offense. Portland had those 10 steals and are in 12th place in steals so far this young season. That doesn’t sound like much but it is for a team that has often been near the bottom in that category.
And those steals make for a more uptempo game. Portland has been in the top 10 in pace factor so far, another statistical department where the team is usually near or at the bottom.
Things are changing -- at least lately, against two of the league’s lesser teams. And that change is the promise of this season.