PORTALAND (KOIN) – After months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Trail Blazers tipped of their first game back in the NBA bubble against the Indiana Pacers.
Although the Blazers fell short in the game losing 91-88, there were still some positive takeaways.
The return of Nurk
It has been a long time coming, but finally Blazers center Jusif Nurkic returned to action after being sidelined for over a year due to gruesome leg injury. The Blazers center returned to action in their first exhibition game and it looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Offensively and defensively it seemed like he was fully healthy and gave the Blazers the extra push they had been missing all season before it came to an abrupt halt.
Blazers came out sharp in the first half
After being away from live games for more than four months, the Blazers came out and looked sharp offensively and defensively. I thought the Blazers communicated extremely well and found themselves a very nice rhythm in the half which gave them as much as a 10 point lead.
Carmelo looked comfortable back at the small forward
After playing the majority of the season at the power forward position, Carmelo was able to return back to his position with Zach Collins returning from injury. I thought Carmelo finally looks like he was able to beat defenders with the first step and use his size to beat up the smaller defenders and score
Blazers had to get back into shape
Even though the Blazers looked extremely sharp, it was easy to tell that these guys just had to take multiple months off. That isn’t a knock on the team or their work ethic, it just means they are in the same position as every team in the league which is the lack of live basketball for a long period of time. No matter how much they train and practice and prepare, nothing will prepare them for these live games, but live games.
With the Blazers having their whole lineup together now, it was easy to tell that they do have great team chemistry. They know where to be and when to be in the right spots. More importantly, that goes for Damian Lillard and Jusif Nurkic and their pick and roll action which seems relatively unstoppable when they are both on the floor. Now that everyone is back and healthy, you can expect to see the team as a whole play much more smooth basketball.
Blazers defense around the rim will be Stout
With the return of Zach and Nurk, and Hassan Whiteside on the roster, the Blazers will have three guys over 6’10. That is going to be a scary sight for any opposing player trying to score in the key. All three players are extremely active on the defensive side of the floor and if they don’t block the opposing players shots, they will certainly alter them and make the shot much more difficult.
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