The Blazers squared off with Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in their second game of the NBA preseason. The Blazers won of course, and handily against The Greens, 104-68, but oy vey! Star players Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum sat out, along with injured centers Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol, making for a game that at times seemed more like summer league than preseason.
The Moda Center atmosphere was laid back and large swathes of seats were noticeably empty. Not a big surprise though with the match-up at hand, and the Blazers minus their best players. Well that and it’s preseason. The game was like going for a walk, an at times off balance walk. There were probably more clanks and traveling calls than there were shots made, but the Blazers led from the beginning with no real concern.
The Blazers built a 15-5 lead early, controlling the game from the get go. Haifa came back within 12 points mid second quarter, bur the Blazers went on a run, leading 56-39 at halftime. The Blazers then outscored Maccabi Haifa 48-29 in the second half, including 25-4 in the 4th quarter.
The Trail Blazers had three players in double digits, led by up and coming guard Anfernee Simons, who finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. He shot 53% from the field and 50% percent from three, hitting 4-8 three pointers, continuing his smooth catch and shoot stroke from far. He continues to show the results of his development, and that he indeed as the ability to play back up shooting guard behind CJ McCollum. Simons brought the ball up the court a few times, but again it was mostly Hezonja playing the point.
Hezonja finished with only 6 points, but he had a thrilling running dunk that brought the Moda Center crowd alive. Zach Collins was probably the best feature of the night, showcasing his jumper and his strength inside the paint. His performance was more than impressive. He finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
Gary Trent Jr was the third Blazer player in double digits with 10 points, Moses Brown and Keljin Blevins added some energy to the game late in the fourth quarter, and showed more glimpses of their potential.
Keljin Blevins, a cousin of Damian Lillard, who went undrafted this past June, is playing on a training camp deal for the Blazers. He made his case Thursday night, recording 7 points in 9 minutes of play. Blevins, scored on an emphatic dunk late, then scooped up a steal on the next play, as Haifa tried to get the ball past half court, before he ran un-impeded for a second dunk.
Moses Brown who is also on a training camp deal, once again showcased his ability as a big man to run the court. From forceful blocks on defense to alley oop dunks and using his body to score against multiple defenders in the post, he injected palpable energy into the game. He scored 6 points in 8 minutes of play.
One of Brown or Blevins will likely get the Blazers last Two Way Contract spot.
Maccabi Haifa was led by former Oregon Duck, Power Forward Roman Sorkin, who finished with 17 points and 5 blocks. Former NBA players Brandon Rush and Norris Cole scored 10 points a piece for Maccabi Haifa.