It was a game of trying to determine which role player would step up next for the Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Portland was without starting forward Maurice Harkless because of precautionary reasons with his left knee as the Blazers played in their first leg of a back-to-back on Friday.
Despite Harkless being out and starting center Jusuf Nurkic getting into foul trouble, the Blazers were still able to come away with a victory in the Big Easy.
Friday's 122-110 win. " data-reactid="19">The Trail Blazers snagged the season sweep over the Pelicans with Friday's 122-110 win.
New Orleans was also missing some key guys in their lineup.
Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal), E'Twaun Moore (left quad), and Anthony Davis (rest) were all out against the Blazers. " data-reactid="21">Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal), E'Twaun Moore (left quad), and Anthony Davis (rest) were all out against the Blazers.
For Portland, it was the two big men off the bench-Zach Collins and Enes Kanter, who stepped up in a big way.
For much of the first quarter, Pelicans center Julius Randle was doing a majority of his damage down low. Randle was scoring at will early. He scored a career-high 21 points in a quarter after the first 12 minutes.
But Collins came in and made Randle work for his buckets in the second quarter and Damian Lillard noticed in a big way.
"I don't think [Randle] scored in the second quarter," Lillard told reporters postgame.
"I thought [Zach] played well. You know, Julius Randle had, I think, 20 in the first quarter and he still ended with 45, but I just thought Zach just came in and challenged him… He used his length, he was physical, he picked up some fouls, but even on the glass, Zach – his activity just kind of disrupted it a little bit, just enough for us to take over the game, to get the lead," Lillard added.
Defense has always been Collins' calling card, even during his Gonzaga days. On Friday, he altered shots at the rim and was able to block shots without picking up too many fouls.
"I thought for us, Zach came off the bench and did a nice job defensively… It was a good win for us," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told the media postgame.
Coach Stotts knew Randle was going to be a problem. "He draws fouls, he's a unique player," Stotts said of Randle.
But it was Collins' effort that both Coach Stotts and Lillard were looking for on a night like this…
"He brought a lot of energy. He wasn't tentative at either end. I thought he made a lot of good hustle plays, rebounding, going after loose balls, getting blocked shots… I thought he brought a lot of energy and effort and we needed it," Stotts said.
Collins has played in seven of the last 11 Blazers' games, while averaging just 13.6 minutes per game in those seven games played.
In 23 minutes of action in Friday's win, the 21-year-old scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, and four blocks.
On a night where, Lillard made history becoming the second all-time leading scorer in Trail Blazers history, Lillard also wanted to make sure the media knew how important it was to see Collins stay ready.
"For him to be in and out of the rotation like he has been lately, for him to come in and just be ready to play and have an impact on the game, that's what we need from guys," Lillard said.
The Gonzaga alum wasn't the only bench player putting up big numbers.
Kanter added 17 points on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two assists.
The backup duo even connected early in the second quarter to show they were both ready to put on a show in NOLA.
Kanter ➡️Collins = JAM#RipCityMarch 16, 2019
Before fouling out, Nurkic had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in just 22 minutes of work.
Nurkic was happy to Collins take advantage of his minutes.
"Just stay ready and [Zach] was," Nurkic said.
From one seven footer to another, Nurkic knows how effective Collins can be on the defensive end. Those two have battled it out in practice many times.
"His ability to block shots and contest, changed the rhythm of the game," Nurkic said of Collins.
The Blazers' rhythm as a team will look to keep rolling in the right direction with Portland wrapping up its three-game road trip on Saturday in San Antonio.
Source : https://sports.yahoo.com/blazers-backup-bigs-come-big-025826110.html1834