Trail Blazers Get Much-Needed Palate Cleanser With Blowout of Spurs
It wasn't perfect, but Portland got back in the win column.
PORTLAND, Ore. — On Monday night, one end of the ball was fixed.
The Trail Blazers' offense, which ground to a halt against the Sixers on Thursday and in Sunday night's second-half collapse against the Lakers, was humming and came within nine points of their single-game franchise record of 156. And against the 14-win Spurs, that was enough. At least for one night, Portland is back in the win column.
They needed a get-right game, no matter who it was against. And although 147-127 the final score of this one indicates a blowout, the Blazers didn't pull away until the third quarter. After two losses in which their defense wasn't the issue, the first 24 minutes were a track meet and ended tied at 74.
Chauncey Billups' message at halftime, according to Damian Lillard: "The first team that decides to play defense will win."
The second-half defense helped. Mostly, they just needed a bad short-term memory after their worst loss of the season.
"It's hard to not think about it," Lillard said. "You come into a game like today, even if we win, it's like, 'What happened yesterday?' Just how much it's on your mind and how much you care and you're affected by it. Sometimes it can linger and carry into your next performance. Even in a game like tonight, it could have gotten into 74-74 at half and we come out tight, like, 'We might blow it,' and it might be two losses. We should definitely be proud of the fact that we responded and not just have an easy one, but we had to fight them and separate ourselves in the second half."
Lillard had 37 points, including a couple of deep threes. 22 of those points came in the second half. Lillard's games this season have broken down into two categories: feel-out games, where he takes a while to look for his own offense, and games where he attacks from the start. This was one of the former, and there was a concerted effort to feed Jusuf Nurkic early after a disastrous performance on Sunday that saw the mercurial center benched for the entire fourth quarter. Nurkic was more aggressive Monday, finishing with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
It wasn't perfect, but it was a much-needed palate cleanser after the week the Blazers have had.
"What we did tonight is really, really hard to do," Billups said. "In my experience and being around, losing a game like we lost last night, it usually has a lasting impact. I'm really proud of my guys for being able to put it aside and move on and just worry about the Spurs."
The obligatory standings watch: Portland is still 13th in the west and two games out of sixth. The Timberwolves losing to a Rockets team just as bad as the Spurs helps them, and for once, they took advantage. Things could have gone really badly if they didn't.
"Right now, we can't complain about how we get them," Lillard said. "We won the game. We’d all be in here pissed off talking about something completely different if we'd have lost."
What We Saw
For paid subscribers, notes, thoughts and observations from the game, plus the Jersey of the Night: