There is nothing quite like preseason NBA basketball. Especially in a pandemic. There have now been two games back in Moda for the first time since March and it’s eerie without anyone in there.
This is the second time the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings have gotten together this weekend. The Blazers put a beat down on the Kings on Friday night.
The Blazers decided to keep their starters on the bench for the second half as the Kings blew out the Blazers, 121-106.
Let’s get into some thoughts on the game.
First Quarter Thoughts
The Blazers definitely were not as hot to start this game as they were in the first game. Blazers missing a few open shots to start the game.
Jusuf Nurkic got his first start of the year after he had returned from his home in Bosnia and had to be part of the NBA Covid-19 protocol. It’s good to see him out there with both Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. Their combined physicality and defensive prowess are going to be interesting to witness this year.
The Blazers had none of that last year.
CJ McCollum was the only Blazer that seemed aggressive to start the game. He knocked down two early threes and had a nice mid range jumper. Damian Lillard is taking more of an facilitator role tonight.
Crafty James McCollum pic.twitter.com/XHOpxwX39U
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 14, 2020
The Kings are a lot sharper tonight. De’Aaron Fox is running without abandon and creating all sorts of chances for his guys. He’s showing a lot better form on his three point shot this year. If he starts to hit that consistently he will jump up quickly into the conversation for Top 10 point guards in the league.
Well, his pick and roll reads could use some work too.
Rodney Hood takes the court for the first time in a year. He’s going to be a huge piece of the bench this year for the Blazers. Gary Trent, Carmelo Anthony, Rodney Hood, and Enes Kanter are going to be be huge for Portland this year.
The Kings attacked Kanter as soon as he enter the game, Frank Kaminsky even looked like a legit NBA player attacking Kanter.
Second Quarter Thoughts
Way, way, way, way, way too many open threes for the Kings to start the quarter. Having flashbacks to how the Blazers defended the three last year. Kings are also jacking them up in tight quarters. Luke Walton did say he wanted to shoot at least 35 threes tonight. The Kings are well ahead of that pace with nine minutes left in the 2nd quarter.
Rodney Hood makes his first basket of the year! He converted with a nice post up move on Buddy Hield.
A quick reminder that Hood was shooting 49% on threes before his achilles injury last December. It’s really good to see him out there tonight. He’s going to be so important for the Blazers this year.
CJ Elleby is not ready for the NBA yet. I haven’t seen any updates on Nassir LIttle, he has to still be suffering from injury. I thought we’d see Little a lot more at three tonight, could even be used at the two in defensive lineups with Trent at point guard.
Terry Stotts gave Damian Lillard a near thirteen minutes of rest tonight on the bench. I was starting to think that Lillard was done for the night and he came right in. Stotts is throwing out some interesting lineups tonight. We’ve had some all offense, mostly defense with CJ, and then some head scratchers.
Noticing that Damian Lillard is using the Euro Step this year. It was not a big part of his game at all. Did not see it a whole lot in the first game on Friday night and he’s busted it out at least twice tonight. It’s big for Lillard to continue to add to his game. He’s already the best point guard in the NBA, he can be a top five overall player if he continues to expand all his tools.
I was looking forward to an extended run of Trent-Hood-Anthony all playing next to each other. There was enough defense out there, but the ball movement was shocking. There was some chemistry between Carmelo and Hood. They found each other on a couple of cuts for easy buckets. It’s probably because Hield was shading toward both Trent and Lillard at the three point line, but it allowed Hood and Melo to operate in the paint and in the mid-range. Got them a combined six points.
The Blazers cut the lead down to seven, after they were down 17 halfway through the second.
I am liking what I am seeing from CJ McCollum these first two games in the preseason. He’s a lot more aggressive on the offensive end and it looks like he finally gives a damn on the defensive end. Been waiting years for CJ to play some sort of defense. Tonight he’s been pretty active on both ends of the floor.
Harry Giles is looking like he’s going to get the minutes at center behind Jusuf Nurkic. Ene Kanter has not looked good in either preseason games so far this year. Kanter had a deep playoff run with the Celtics last year, but has only had two practices with the Blazers this year. He should pick it up, but Giles right now is so much better.
Third Quarter Thoughts
Covington is the only starter to start on the floor for the Blazers to start the second half. He’s joined by Trent, Keljin Blevins, Giles, and Elleby.
It is going to be tough to keep Harry Giles off the floor this season. He’s earning some major minutes off the bench this year. His energy is contagious, his vision is great for a guy his size, and his passing backs it up.
HARRY HUSTLE 💪 pic.twitter.com/jXBWQg8QeU
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 14, 2020
To illustrate this, there was a play on defense with about 7:45 left in the quarter, he closed on a Hield corner three from about 20 feet away in two steps and almost blocked the shot in the time it took Hield to gather the ball and shoot. That’s less than a second and a half.
Get off the couch and see how fast you can cover 20+ feet and in how many steps.
Also, that blind pocket pass he got to CJ Elleby for a layup was an impressive pass. Just a wow pass.
Picking up where he left off from the bubble, Trent is looking strong. He’s got the three point shot working, he’s showing off some mid range shots, plus that defense is already back where it needs to be. Stotts also had him running point. I’m thinking there are going to be defensive lineups where Trent is running the point with Hood, Jones, RoCo, and Giles. I don’t think we’re going to see many minutes with that lineup, but I bet it’ll be used to spark some turnovers and to get the Blazers running.
Case in point, the Blazers bench unit is out scoring the Kings starters 31-18 through the first 11 minutes of the third quarter.
Sloppy play at the end of the quarter allowed the Kings to take a three point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Fourth Quarter Thoughts
Derrick Jones Jr. was the lone start to be on the court for the Blazers to start the quarter. Blazers did not start the quarter well, not that it really matters, but the Kings started off on a 12-2 run to get a double digit lead again.
The Blazers did not do a lot worth mentioning in this quarter. It broke down into a garbage time matchup.
Giles led the Blazers in points with 19 and Trent had 17 for the Blazers.
The Blazers get a couple days off before they head to Denver to play the Nuggets. Tip is at 6:00 PM local time.