Wednesday was a fantastic day to be a Portland Trail Blazer’s fan. If you are counting, we got a total of four wins on the day. Unfortunately, that didn’t bring our record to 37-23, but just 34-23. But still, a four win day? That’s pretty good, and something I know the Warriors did not accomplish.
Around mid-day on Wednesday, in the lead up to the Blazers vs Warrior’s game, the Trail Blazers signed 26 year-old center Enes Kanter after he was waived by the New York Knicks at the trade deadline last week. Over the last two years, Kanter has averaged at least 14 points and 10 rebounds a game in no less than 25 minutes per night. Already sixth in offensive rebounds and third in total rebounds per game, Portland may never lose the rebounding battle again with the addition of premier glass-cleaner Kanter. Proclaimed as the backup big to Jusuf Nurkic, adding Kanter to the bench gives Portland an increasingly dangerous second unit. With Kanter joining Evan Turner, Seth Curry, Rodney Hood, and Jake Layman, Portland’s second unit is going to really good, especially offensively.
Let’s say that signing Kanter was the first win of the day. As a Portland fan, when thinking retrospectively, the second win of the day has to be Kanter actually choosing the Blazers. Wait, what? A free agent that we didn’t have to overpay chose to play in Portland? And he didn’t come at a discount because of injury concern? This is not a normal occurrence for Blazers supporters. Maybe this is a sign of things to come. Just kidding, it almost surely is not. A desperate fan can hope though.
It is not like this was some middling signing either. From a production standpoint, Kanter, with regards to Markieff Morris, was probably the best pure player on the post-deadline buyout market. Thinking ahead to 2019 free agency, Portland just landed the Kevin Durant of the 2019 buyout market.
Me: “Too far?”
Everyone: “Way too far.”
It is worth noting that Portland tried to sign Kanter in 2015, offering him a four-year, $70 million contract which the Thunder matched. Perhaps this played a role in Kanter’s decision to choose the Blazers.
In all seriousness, Portland is going to love Kanter. He is gritty and tough, not afraid to get under the skin of opposing players. Kanter may not be a good defender, but the Blazer’s will benefit from his ability to clear the glass on defense and provide second chance opportunities on offense. Not to mention, that his off court persona is something that Blazers fans will relish. On social media he is clever and funny, posting a photo today with the “King of Portland,” who just happens to be the ref from the Warrior’s game. I’d recommend looking into his and Steven Adams antics while with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On to the third win of the day and maybe the sweetest one of all. After the news of the Kanter signing was made official, Adrian Wojnarowski released a report that, according to sources, the Blazers beat out several other suitors for Kanter’s signature. One of those suitors? The Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, the glory! There is nothing quite as fulfilling as beating the Lakers in something that amounts to very little. No matter the pettiness, a win over the Lakers is something worth celebrating.
Regretfully, I inform you that the previous three wins didn’t count towards our record, but the fourth win of the day definitely did. In the final game before the All-Star break, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Golden State Warriors 129-107, in their most impressive and emphatic win of the season so far. The Blazers shot the three-ball well, hitting 16 threes at a 43% clip compared to the Warriors 13 at 34% from deep. Damian Lillard hit six of those 16 threes en route to a team-high 29 points and eight assists on an efficient 9-15 from the field.
Led by Jake Layman and Zach Collins, the Blazers bench outscored the Warriors bench 52-23. Who knows how good the bench could become once Kanter is inserted?
Although the Blazers played well in many areas Wednesday night, the Warriors led by a point, 95-94, heading into the fourth quarter. With the bench getting extended minutes in the fourth, the Blazers led 110-103 before complete chaos ensued. In just one possession, the Warriors were issued a flagrant foul courtesy of Draymond Green, one technical, also from Green, and two technicals and a subsequent ejection to Steve Kerr following his displeasure with the referee’s decision. After hitting all five of the freebies, Portland made the most of their extended offensive trip as Jake Layman hit a three to cap off an unheard of eight-point possession. Just like that the score was 118-103.
A lot of the credit for the win has to go to Zach Collins, who, even though registering only 4 points on 0-4 shooting, made a number of momentum-swinging plays. He had three blocks, one of which was a highlight-reel play that got the crown on their feet. Collins intensity and ability to get under the skin of numerous Warrior’s players, especially in the fourth, spurred the Blazers run that was the difference in the game.
So, there you have it. A four-win day for the Blazers. I can’t think of a better way to go into the All-Star break.