Good morning Blazer fans, Antonio here. The Blazers won their first game without Jusuf Nurkic, defeating the Hawks 112–106. There’s a lot to unpack from this matchup: McCollum’s exit, the bench play, and the team defense, so let’s get right into it! I’ll be looking at my 3 main takeaways from this game.
Kanter Dominates the Inside
The first game for the Blazers sans Nurkic went well for replacement Enes Kanter. Kanter looked like he was in 2019 playoff form, racking up 12 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 3 assists. Most importantly, Kanter seemed alert defensively. When coming off the bench, Kanter was paired with offensive-minded Carmelo, and the defense suffered greatly. However, when starting with Covington and DJJ, Kanter needs to worry less about switching assignments and can docs more on paint defense and offense. He looked great today.
Bench Shines with McCollum Out
With Kanter moving up into the starting role, it was expected for the Blazers bench to struggle more. However, two bench players stepped up when needed: Carmelo and Gary Trent. The two combined for all but 1 of the fourth quarter points for the Blazers. Some may see this as a negative, but if Dame is constantly getting doubled, it’s nice to have players off the bench that can step up and make big shots. Melo has been on fire in the fourth this season, and I’m liking the trend of him and Trent in the closing lineup for scoring.
Slow Start Plagues Blazers Again
The reason the bench had to shine late was because of yet another early deficit. For the fourth game in a row, the Blazers found themselves down 15+ in the second quarter. This trend of slow starts has had the team constantly playing catch up. A combination of poor shooting wing shooting, half-hearted defensive schemes, and easy threes for opponents has had the Blazers replaying the same script. The Blazers are good enough to come back from down from large holes against inferior teams, but against playoff teams such as the Pacers, they don’t stand a chance. Something needs to be done about these starts.
Well, this wraps up the first edition of Antonio’s Morning After Recap (We’ll see if I can come up with a better name). Stay tuned for Tuesday when we can discuss the Spurs game!