Watching the Trail Blazers dismantle the San Antonio Spurs like that was a site to behold. Yes, it’s in the realm of possibility that once it got ugly the Spurs mentally checked out. It’s also possible the Spurs were a bit absent to begin with, but what’s inarguable is the fact the Trail Blazers looked awesome. Let’s get into the key points of the night.
Damian Lillard was amazing to watch tonight, getting within two points of his career high. The rookie was effective the entire night, and efficient throughout— he went 12-20 from the field and hit all 8 of his free throw attempts. The sixth pick of the 2012 draft is now averaging 28 points per game against the Spurs, and Blazer fans will be reassured to see Lillard rise to the occasion when playing one the best teams in the West.
On a less positive note, both Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver sprained their ankles in the win. The Blazer bench has of course been painfully thin this season, and losing both Leonard and Claver will only worsen the current situation. Worse is the fact that both rookies had recently been giving the team a shot of energy. You always hate to see injuries, but especially to two young players who were showing signs of putting it together.
Eric Maynor continues to make good on Portland’s decision to pick him up at the trade deadline. Maynor’s ACL injury clouded a solid history as a back-up point, but so far his recent play with the Blazers has been an unmitigated postive. Tonight was easily the high point of his short time in Portland, as he poured in a season high 20 points in on 8-11 shooting. The former VCU product also included 6 assists to steady the second unit. Maynor shores up Portland’s most glaring weakness and is possibly earning a longer tenure with the franchise.
Lastly, one of the main takeaways from this game is the emerging potency of lineups that feature Lillard alongside Maynor. Dame has been a strong scorer off the ball, which comes as a bit of a surprise given his history as a lead guard at Weber State. Granted, it’s only five games, but when Lillard and Maynor are on the floor together, the whole team has shot an impressive 51.5% from the field. Also, the Blazers are +21 in the 74 minutes the team has thrown those two out together in the last five games. We will see going forward if it is just a current trend or will continue to be successful going forward, but the two look as good together as they seem on paper.
In terms of this season, this game may not be monumental; Portland is still likely out of the playoffs, and the Spurs would still be the one seed if the season ended today. In the long term, you can look at a win like this in the current year as a building block for potential future success. Portland and Lillard looked incredible during some stretches tonight, and gave fans a glimpse of how they might compete against top-tier squads in the new era.