After an eight-day All-Star break and a seven-game road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Brooklyn Nets with a monster by Jusuf Nurkic. In a game in which eight of the ten players played on Blazers' Square in the past two years, the team with the latest blazers was a victory.
Nurkic and the recently signed Enes Kanter tasted two strong rims guards in spite of Brooklyn in Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis. The Nurk-Turk duo scored 45 points and 21 rebounds in 18-24 shooting. All five Portland starters also made double-digit gains, making up for a rock-hard night by All-Star Damian Lillard.
The game started slowly; Both teams were rusty after the longer break. It took until the third quarter, until the Blazers built a significant lead. The pick-and-roll game between Kanter and Lillard, as well as the rebound offensive rebound efforts, contributed to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Brooklyn's ex-Blazers refused to allow their former team to win. Davis, Allen Crabbe and Shabazz Napier led a 1
Kanter, in contrast to Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard, plays very similar to Nurkic. He places strong screens and bullies defenders in the posts, often using spin moves and tough blocks. In Kanters first offensive possession, Evan Turner found him in the block, where he pushed Davis into the paint and joined in close-in layups. He dropped Davis with a timely spin move in the fourth quarter, keeping Portland's dwindling lead.
Due to the similarities between Kanter and Nurkics offensive play Lillard ran successfully with his new teammate. The pair contributed to a 10-2 run in the third quarter, leading the two-night lead for the first time the entire night.
Kanter fought defensively as expected with the pick-and-roll. He lacks the agility and positioning to keep the ball leader from shooting, and he often does not come back in time to face the role. Davis gave 15 random points on Kanter.
Ex-Blazers Getting Revenge
The Brooklyn networks added this off-season to their growing list of former blazers by Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis. Both of these, like Allen Crabbe, showed good results all night, eventually leading to a strong comeback attempt.
Brooklyn was looking for Crabbe as he turned around the screens early. He and Napier showed their chemistry in transition as Napier bounced a pass between his legs for the Crabbe Three. He finished with 17 points from the bench; Napier issued 10 assists.
Davis showed how the player fell in love with Portland. In martial Kanter fights, he knocked down the offensive glass, including one in which he collected the board and made an emphatic slam. He and Napier ran the pick-and-roll just as fluently as last year, making Blazers fans think back.
Double Problems in the Post
Nurkic quickly made his way to Jarrett Allen in the post. As a result, the networks began to join him twice … successfully. He struggled to find the open man when he was doubled and turned the ball five times during the night.
Brooklyn did the same with Kanter after holding back Davis for successive possessions for light buckets. Kanter lacks the temporary acumen Nurkics and therefore could not find the open man often. However, he was smart with the ball and was generally eliminated from the dual team to avoid sales. Kanter missed only one shot and turned the ball over once.
Blazers continue to surround the two great men with gunmen. Few enemy centers can stifle their post-ups. So if the double team inevitably comes, guys like Lillard, McCollum, Layman and Hood will drop the three-point line for open looks. That did not happen tonight, but Stotts should make the adjustments.
Kanter seems to have pushed Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard completely out of rotation as predicted. No great man played tonight; Kanter and Nurkic occupied the post every 48 minutes.
Evan Turner had a rough start to the game – 0-5 in nine minutes – and was absent throughout the second half. Seth Curry looked for a long time, but could not capitalize and scored a goalless break in three shots in 15 minutes.
Terry Stott's ten-man rotation in this first, new-looking line-up game included the usual five starters, Kanter, Hood, Layman and short minutes for Turner and Curry.
The Blazers travel to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Saturday to face the Sixers.