PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t concerned about style points. A mid-December win was enough — tight as it felt against the team with the NBA’s worst record.
Damian Lillard had 31 points and a season-high 13 assists, Hassan Whiteside grabbed 23 rebounds and the Trail Blazers beat the Golden State Warriors 122-112 Wednesday night.
CJ McCollum scored 30 points and Carmelo Anthony added 17 for Portland. Whiteside also scored 16 points.
“Tonight was just one of those nights,” Anthony said. “It was a physical game, a game that we had to win no matter what. We did that. We need to find a groove, just a rhythm amongst the team and string some wins together.”
After starting the season 4-8, Portland is 12-16 and only a half-game back of the Sacramento Kings for eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
“It was an emotional roller coaster ride,” McCollum said. “We gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, lots of 3s in transition, but we tightened up in the fourth quarter. We did a better job of getting stops and running out.”
McCollum, Anthony and Lillard combined for 78 points a game after combining for 80 in a win at Phoenix. Anthony thinks he’s settling into his role as the team’s third option.
“I’m just playing off of those guys,” Anthony said. “I’m letting them do what they do and I get to take advantage of what’s left and the opportunities that’s out there. That’s all I’ve been doing.”
D’Angelo Russell led Golden State with 26 points and seven assists. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was pleased with his team’s effort.
“The effort was great, we did a lot of good things,” Kerr said. “I like the way we executed offensively, but we had too many breakdowns defensively.”
Lillard set the tone in the first quarter. Going against the team he grew up rooting for, Lillard had 16 points and five assists in the opening quarter to help the Blazers build a 40-29 halftime lead.
The Warriors still showed plenty of fight even though they entered Wednesday with the worst record in the NBA.
After trailing by 13, the Warriors led 66-65 late in the first half after a 3-pointer by Eric Pascall. Golden State had a 27-11 advantage in second-chance points and went 16 for 38 from the 3-point line.
A driving layup by Lillard got Portland a 67-66 lead heading into halftime.
Warriors: While they now find themselves with the league’s worst record at 5-23, Kerr believes the Warriors’ youthful energy is helping an otherwise difficult year. “This is basically a brand new group and I really love the young energy we have,” Kerr said. “These guys have been great in their willingness to learn and their eagerness to learn.”
Trail Blazers: If there’s one player who has struggled to find his footing with the Blazers after their signing of Anthony, it’s Anfernee Simons. Only 20 years old, Simons is Portland’s backup point guard but has struggled over the past month with his shot, shooting 36.3% from the field in the 14 games since Anthony joined. Lillard has often been in the gym after hours with Simons, telling him to trust in his work ethic. “I tell him more than anything, just make sure you keep getting your work in,” Lillard said. “Keep getting your time in and you know everything will balance itself out and you’ll come around. ”
Warriors: Friday vs. New Orleans Pelicans.
Trail Blazers: Friday vs. Orlando Magic.