Trail Blazers Snap Winless Road Trip in Brooklyn, But Real Test Looms in January
A much-needed return to form sets up a brutal rest of the month.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For all that is wrong with the Trail Blazers right now—and there is a lot of that—Sunday afternoon’s overtime win over the Nets at least ensured that they won’t be staring down an 0-7 road trip to kick off the calendar year.
With the Knicks coming up on Tuesday and a back-to-back against the two best teams in the Western Conference, Minnesota and Oklahoma City, to close out the trip, getting the one in Brooklyn was their best chance to avoid a nightmare start to 2024.
The Blazers team that showed up at the Barclays Center, despite still being without starting center Deandre Ayton and two key rotation players in Jabari Walker and Matisse Thybulle, looked a lot more like the Blazers of the first month of the season that competed, defended and stayed in games against more talented teams. Even if they’d lost this one, the effort was a far cry from the three non-competitive games in Phoenix and Dallas over the past week, the last of which came against a Mavericks team without Luka Doncic.
“We didn’t even watch tape from that last Dallas game,” Chauncey Billups said. “It happens sometimes in the NBA. I’m done with it. It’s not who we are. We’re not even going to look at it. It’s over. But we got a chance today to show who we are and I thought we did that.”
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The win was Portland’s 10th of the season and a much-needed return to form for both Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, who had struggled after returning from recent absences. The list of strong performances extended to Jerami Grant, Malcolm Brogdon and Duop Reath, who had his first career double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The next month, which leads into the trade deadline, will say a lot about whether the disastrous start to the road trip was a blip, or this gutsy collective win was. It’s one or the other.