After their sixth preseason contest, the Portland Trailblazers sit at a 4-2 record with the regular season quickly approaching. Sunday night, the Blazers took on the Sacramento Kings and came away with a 109-105 victory. Although this was a game that saw LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins rest, the Blazers had reason to be hopeful afterward.
Second year pro Damian Lillard will be at the focal point of the back court once again, and even more so now that rookie C.J. McCollum is out for a while. Lillard dropped a solid 28 points — 23 of them in the second half — and proved yet again that nobody should be overlooking he and his Blazers.
With Lillard at the point, the Blazers seem to have a fighting chance no matter what. Continuing his success off his phenomenal rookie year will give Portland a lot more hope than many originally may think heading into the regular season.
Without each of the teams’ top big men in the game, Portland out-rebounded Sacramento 54-40 — a very promising margin. One would think with both Aldridge and Cousins in the game, Sacramento could have inched a little closer. Nonetheless, Portland won that battle led by 11 from Nicolas Batum.
Batum is a kid that Portland continues to be high on, a year after nearly losing him to free agency. With a long, athletic frame and a wide range of skills, Batum could be a key player this season if Portland gives him the opportunity to do so.
With McCollum out, Mo Williams came off the bench to score 17 points of his own. Williams’ play was encouraging, especially with the loss of McCollum still stinging. If Williams can come off the bench and play consistently behind Lillard, Portland’s back court will be a very good one — and still, probably underrated.
Batum, Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson all scored 14 points apiece as well which is a good sign for the Blazers’ front court. Robinson’s performance, specifically, was encouraging. After a fallout with the Houston Rockets, nobody really knew what to expect as he came to Portland. He will certainly get his chances this season, and he is still only 22 years old. You never know what he might do.
Although it will be a shock to see the Blazers contend for anything higher than a seven or eight seed out West, they very well could do just that with the roster in place. Sunday night was an example of a well-rounded squad that, at its best, can stay in just about any game. Led by Lillard and a diverse supporting cast, it will be foolish to ever count this team out before the season officially begins.