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Portland heads out on four-game road trip after going 1-1 at home to start season.

COURTESY PHOTO: BRUCE ELY/TRAIL BLAZERS - Coach Terry Stotts trusts Damian Lillard to know when to shoot and when to pass in key moments.What's ahead: After playing at the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, the Blazers play at the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday and then two games at Golden State, Jan. 1 and 3. Then it's two games at Moda Center, Chicago (Jan. 5) and Minnesota (Jan. 7).

What's behind: A 120-100 opening loss to Utah included Damian Lillard going scoreless in the first half and finishing with nine points. "This is the first game of a long, long season," Carmelo Anthony said, trying to ease fans' concerns.

CJ McCollum (44 points) and Lillard (32 points) led the way in a 128-126 overtime win over Houston (James Harden had 44 but turned the ball over at the end of overtime). McCollum hit a career-high nine 3-pointers, including the go-ahead bucket in overtime.

The Rockets played without four rotation players, but Portland persevered, including showing the first semblance of tough defense (third quarter, 17 points). "We needed to buckle down," coach Terry Stotts said.

Bad stat: Including preseason, the Blazers have given up 121, 126, 129, 120 and 126 points in the past five games before Monday's game against L.A. Lakers.

Dame and CJ: McCollum and Lillard talked about their chemistry, as rumors swirled about Harden being interested in joining Portland (a trade that would likely include McCollum).

"The foundation of us being connected as a backcourt is our friendship," Lillard said. "Me wanting the best for him, him wanting the best for me."

"Besides Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson), we're probably the only backcourt that not only gets along but empowers each other," McCollum said.

Dame's decision: Stotts said with two great guards it's often a decision as to who will take big shots. He lets Lillard make the call. "He's won so many games," he said. "I trust him to make that decision. Nothing against CJ, but Dame has been our guy."

Said McCollum: "He's a Hall of Fame player. I'll never be mad about (Lillard) taking a shot."

Contract stuff: The Blazers have exercised 2021-22 team options on rookie contracts of forward Nassir Little and guard Anfernee Simons.

Anthony out: Anthony did not make the trip to Los Angeles. He's listed as out with health and safety protocols; it's the same description given to Little's absence. UPDATE: Anthony rejoined the team Tuesday.


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