Stephen Curry this, Stephen Curry that. After the reigning MVP’s monster opening night performance against the undermanned New Orleans Pelicans, headlines everywhere boldly predicted another MVP award for the NBA champ. But C.J. McCollum showed the world not only Steph can embarrass the Pelicans in their opening game. C.J. scored 37 points on six three-pointers on 14 for 22 shooting. He, along with Damian Lillard, led the new-look Portland Trail Blazers to an opening night double-digit victory in dramatic fashion.
The game started on a high note for Portland, with acquisition Mason Plumlee tossing a no-look pass to acquisition Al-Farouq Aminu (the word acquisition will be making numerous appearances in this recap) for a leadoff three. The star man C.J. McCollum wrote his own book for the first quarter, one that included 22 points from himself and a 25-point lead for the Blazers. Their fast-paced offense linked with strong defense in the paint led to several open looks in transition. Only 10 different players saw play time for Portland, but they all hustled on both ends of the court and kept Anthony Davis to human-like numbers.
New Orleans came out hot in the second quarter though; Ryan Anderson leading the charge with a couple threes on bad switching by Blazers defense. McCollum significantly cooled down, but just in time for the return of Meyers Leonard, who left in the first with a wrist injury. He missed his initial few shots before the injury but after returning, hit back-to-back jumpers and maintained the 20-point lead.
Previously common during his time in Brooklyn, Plumlee’s minutes were reduced tonight by foul trouble. This paved the way for acquisition Ed Davis (there it is again). If it weren’t for McCollum, Davis would have earned player of the game for Portland behind his stubborn defense on Anthony Davis and effort in pursuit of offensive boards. He contributed to the first half lead of 70-43, and finished the game with his first double-double in a Blazer uniform.
A side note from the first half is yet another career milestone for Damian Lillard. He becomes the fastest player ever to reach 600 threes made, doing so in just 247 games.
The second half led off with dry spells from both teams. Jrue Holiday, while on a minute's restriction, missed his first seven attempts. Anthony Davis, in addition, proved unable to make outside shots until late in the fourth quarter when he staged a comeback behind three threes. With 12 minutes remaining, New Orleans had chipped the deficit down to 20 despite their inability to convert from distance.
While the Blazers may possess a completely new roster, their knack for keeping fans on the edge of their seats despite having a double digit lead remained intact. The late push anchored by Anthony Davis and Holiday dropped Portland’s lead down to eight at one point, but star man C.J. McCollum put the nail in the coffin. He hit back-to-back shots over The Brow, and coupled with shutdown defense by Ed Davis on the other Davis, Portland squeaked out the closest 18-point victory ever.