Whether it was Harrison Barnes career night, Davison Mitchell’s defense, the Blazers learning a new defensive scheme, or a lack of energy from a thinned Moda Center crowd, there was a strange vibe about Wednesday night as the Trail Blazers kicked off their season to the Kings, losing 124-121.
Chauncey Billups was denied his first win as Portland’s coach after the Blazers suffered a slow start. They scored only 15 pts more than halfway through the first before they pulled within 1 before the quarter expired.
The Blazers bench was often better than the starters led by a wiry and active Cody Zeller, not afraid to get physical despite wearing a mask to protect his surgically repaired nose. He looked good paired with Larry Nance Jr, who brought his promise of defense.
Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons both played well to, bringing a much needed energy to counter act a flat performance from the starters.
Damian Lillard had a terribly off night despite finishing with 20 points. He was 0-9 from distance, unable to find his shot. He attacked the basket quite a bit but it wasn’t enough to overcome his funk from the three.
Jusuf Nurkic seemed gassed and lakadaisical from the get go. He struggled getting to the basket and handling the ball in the lane. He got a second wind late, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but the Blazers could have sorely used his energy earlier.
Robert Covington was taken to task by coach Billups as he frequently slipped up on defense allowing his assignment, Harrison Barnes to torch the Blazers with open threes.
Norman Powell struggled shooting only 33% from the floor on the night. He stepped out of bounds on a shot from the corner which was reviewed and taken away by officials. He missed a shot late that would have given the Blazers the lead.
CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 34 points though it took him 24 shots to get there. He struggled early but got hot and helped the Blazers back in the game late.
Though they were outscored in the first three quarters, the Blazers went on a deep run in the fourth. They had several chances to take the lead but couldn’t hit a three. The Blazers found themselves down 5 with 11 seconds left. CJ McCollum made a shot at the basket before Lillard secured a steal off the Kings inbound and layed it up to bring the Kings lead down to 1. Harrison Barnes was quickly fouled and made both free throws. With 8 seconds left and no timeouts Lillard brought the ball up the court and attempted a game tying three out front that looked good, but missed, giving the Kings the victory 124-121.
Harrison Barnes led the Kings with a career high 36 points on 8 of 11 shooting from distance. De’Aaron Fox added 27 points and 8 assists. Richard Holmes recorded 21 points and 11 rebounds.
The Trail Blazers will play the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.