There were no fans,the piped in crowd noise couldn’t nearly make up for it, but the Blazers returned to the Moda Center for the first time since the shutdown to soundly defeat the Sacramento Kings 127 – 102.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with 21 points, taking in stride his new role off Portland’s bench. At times he smiled and laughed, sharing high fives with teammates as his game came easy to him during the Blazers first preseason showing of the 2020-21 season.
It was newcomers Harry Giles and Derrick Jones Jr who stole the show. Their play seemed effortless as Jones broke through defense for Dunks, hit open threes, and dived left and right to steal balls and save possesions. Jones Jr finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds, on 100% shooting (6\6 from the field, 2\2 from three).
Giles was out for blood against his former team, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds to go with 3 steals and 2 blocks. He was a manned possessed, going for easy shots around the basket, flying in for emphatic dunks, fighting for loose balls, and appearing out of no where to block shots back to the bubble.
Gary Trent Jr came in where he left off shooting up a storm and finishing with 18 points. CJ Mccollum finished with 18 points and 5 assists. Damian Lillard finished with 15 points in limited minutes, hitting several long shots (no half court shots yet).
Robert Covington was in foul trouble for much of the game, but played well finishing With 9 points and 8 rebounds.
Anfernee Simons played just over 8 minutes before leaving with a sore hamstring.
Rookie CJ Elleby got his first NBA action playing 29 minutes and finishing with 4 points and 4 rebounds on 25% shooting (2\8)from the floor. Elleby played well on the defensive end contesting shots and putting pressure on opponents. He did seem lost at times on assignments.
6 out of the 11 Blazers who saw playing time Friday shot 60% or better from three. Derrick Jones Jr and Carmelo Anthony both shot 100%, Robert Covington shot 75%, Gary Trent Jr shot 60%, and Damian Lillard shot 50%.
The Blazers as a team shot 50% from deep.
All 11 Blazers who saw playing time were in the positive in plus\minus. 7 were +10 or above. Covington was a +21 and Jones Jr was +19.
Offense won’t be a problem for the Blazers this season. Their defense, especially their perimeter defense looked spotty and lacking at times Friday. They seemed to allow several open three pointers. The Kings were held to 32% from distance making only 16 of 50 attempts from deep, so maybe not as bad as it looked at times. The return of Nurkic and Hood Sunday will help, as well as the return of Collins sometime in January. The chemistry was there in spades, so expect the Blazers defense to improve.
Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes led the Kings with 23 and 16 points respectively. Rookie Tyrese Halliburton, picked #12 in the 2020 draft playing his first minutes in the NBA, finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals on 50% shooting from the field in Just over 19 1\2 minutes of play.