Blazers have triple-double the fun vs. Cavs
Damian Lillard's sore right hand held up just fine, Jusuf Nurkic went backdoor for his first career triple-double and the Trail Blazers disposed of Cleveland as expected Wednesday night at Moda Center.
Lillard played through a hand contusion to score 33 points in 32 minutes, Nurkic evenly distributed 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Portland got major contributions from all five starters in a 129-112 pounding of the hapless Cavaliers.
The Blazers (27-19) were coming off back-to-back road losses to Denver and Sacramento, so Lillard was bound and determined to play, even if his hand was still sore from getting it banged in the defeat by the Kings.
Lillard knocked down his first two shots, swishing 3-point attempts in the first two minutes, and produced one of his sharpest performances of the season. He made 11 of 19 shots, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. He was 7 for 7 from the line and had six assists and no turnovers.
"(The hand) is still sore," Lillard said. "But I felt more comfortable playing. We needed this game. When I went through shootaround this morning, I could feel the impact catching the ball, dribbling the ball, passing, but it wasn't unbearable. I was fine."
So was Nurkic, who had only four points, nine rebounds and six assists after three quarters but filled out the stat line in the fourth quarter. After getting to 10 points and 10 boards, he delivered his final four assists on four straight possessions, the latter coming off a 3-pointer by Lillard with 2:27 remaining and a substitute waiting for Nurkic at the scorer's table.
"Lucky it went in," Lillard said, "because he was coming out."
Nurkic got the triple-double more organically than he would have in his attempt last Friday, when coach Terry Stotts left him in the game for a couple of minutes to start the fourth quarter of a blowout victory over Charlotte. Nurkic finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in that one.
"I'm glad this one happened in a natural way," Stotts said.
Nurkic said after he'd gotten his ninth assist, Lillard signaled for him to run "get action," meaning he would shoot a 3 after Nurkic had passed him the ball. The 7-foot Bosnian, who also had five blocked shots in his 28 minutes, said he didn't want to get a triple-double artificially, though.
"I don't mess with the stats," he said. "Sometimes the stats are not showing what people can do."
So did the triple-double mean anything to him?
"People say you always remember the first," he said. "But if we'd lost, I'd be mad as hell. I'm just trying to help my team to win."
Lillard said the triple-double displays the versatility Nurkic has in his game.
"When he first got here, everybody saw how he can pass out of the post, how he could score in the post and how he could rebound," he said. "But this shows his growth in our offense, how much we are able to count on him to make plays and handle the ball up top.
"We've developed a trust in giving him the opportunity to have the ball in his hands, and we know that something good is going to come from it."
The Cavaliers own the NBA's worst record (9-36) and are going without their best player, Kevin Love, who has missed most of the season following foot surgery. On Sunday, they snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 105-99 victory over the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
The Blazers gradually pulled away from the Cavs, using a balanced attack beyond the big numbers provided by Lillard. CJ McCollum scored 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Jake Layman made 8 of 11 shots en route to an 18-point performance. Al-Farouq Aminu went 6 for 7 and contributed 14 points and nine boards.
"You always play a better game when it's done collectively," Lillard said. "We had a lot of guys come in and contribute on the offensive end especially. Our mind was in the right place."
NOTES — Portland's next action is 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against New Orleans. ... It was the Blazers' fifth straight victory at Moda Center and their sixth straight home win over Cleveland. They are 19-7 at home and 8-12 on the road. After the Pelicans game, Portland will finish the season with 21 of 35 games away from home. ... The Blazers had four turnovers and the Cavs only three. Their seven combined turnovers set an NBA record since turnovers became an official statistic in 1970-71. The old mark was 10 by San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers in 2005. ... Portland small forward Moe Harkless (knee) missed his fifth straight game. Layman has flourished in his absence, hitting 19 of 26 shots while averaging 14.7 points over the last three games. ... The Blazers were 6 for 8 from 3-point range in the first quarter, 3 for 15 from 2-point range. They wound up shooting .528 from the field against a Cleveland team that entered the game last in the league in opponents' field-goal percentage (.491).