What a way to earn your first win of the season.
The Trail Blazers dominated Phoenix in winning 134-105 Saturday at Moda Center. The Blazers burst to a first-quarter lead, led by 20 points at halftime (67-47) and by more than 30 points in the second half.
Portland players waited for Chauncey Billups in the locker room, and ambushed him with douses of cold water to celebrate the coach's first win as an NBA head coach.
"It was an incredible win for us," Billups said. "Things came together, we played extremely hard on the defensive end and finally got some shots to go. When you get shots to go, it helps your defense, and everybody was playing with confidence.
"We played as good as we can play, to be honest. It was beautiful for me to see and for guys to see what we're capable of when we're focused. That's a championship-caliber team (Phoenix) that's hungry. We obviously caught them on a back-to-back."
Indeed, the Suns (1-2), the defending NBA Western Conference champs, played the night before, beating the Los Angeles Lakers.
But, Portland (1-1) just couldn't be stopped. They shot .558 in the first half (.435 3-pointers, 10 of 23) and shot 13 free throws to Phoenix's four. The Suns shot .477, but had no fast-break points — Billups had been emphasizing transition defense, so for one night, anyway, it worked.
Multiple defensive efforts cover up mistakes, Billups said, pointing to Saturday's effort, including getting back on transition defense. "We were very focused from the onset of the game," he said. "Then when shots start going down, there's more energy and life."
Norman Powell led the Blazers with 16 points in the first half, but, alas, it wasn't all good news as Powell went out with a left knee injury. Billups said that Powell will be getting an MRI.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Saturday: Initial findings on (Powell's knee) suggest that he's avoided a serious injury, sources tell ESPN. UPDATE: Powell is out Monday against the L.A. Clippers with left patellar tendinopathy.
It was a big win, because like other winning teams that had their way against Portland last season, Phoenix went 3-0 against the Blazers en route to their conference title.
The Blazers finished shooting .543, including .420 from 3-point range (21 of 50). They also outrebounded Phoenix 48-38 and had only nine turnovers.
CJ McCollum had 28 points, hitting six 3-pointers. Damian Lillard hit his first 3-pointer of the season (two, actually), after going 0 of 9 against Sacramento, and added 19 points, along with eight assists. Anfernee Simons had 18 points. Jusuf Nurkic had nine points and 12 rebounds. Nassir Little had 11 points and seven rebounds and exhibited the kind of energy that Portland needs to bring every night.
"It's just a boost of confidence for us," said Simons, who hit four 3-pointers. "We're working so hard to fix things from the preseason. The first game (a loss to Sacramento) we had a positive attitude. We wanted to come in and go full head of steam (vs. Phoenix) and we did well on that."
Devin Booker scored 21 points for Phoenix. Chris Paul had only four points, but dished out 11 assists.
Portland plays at the Los Angeles Clippers, 7:30 p.m. Monday.
In addition to Powell's injury, Tony Snell remains out with a right foot sprain.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.