Jerami Grant has covered things

The Portland Trail Blazers met the Pelicans on Thursday night in New Orleans, in a matchup between two fun and intriguing teams from the fat Western Conference. Both teams were back-to-back in the second half; for the Blazers, it was the penultimate contest of a 13-day, six-game road trip. They’re a little jittery: Head coach Chauncey Billups pulled several regulars from his rotation in New Orleans, including center Jusuf Nurkic, rookie Shaedon Sharpe and star Damian Lillard, who wasn’t happy being on the bench for the first time. meeting with former teammate CJ McCollum, even as a prudent precaution. “He’s very angry about it,” Billups admitted before the game. “He’s obviously been looking forward to this game to play against his teammate.” Yanking Lillard would mean resetting expectations, both for the marquee and for Portland’s chance to get another encouraging road win in what has been a very impressive start to the season.

In the face of all those absences, Billups did a cool thing: Instead of pushing a few guys on the back bench into bigger roles for the night and shifting into development mode, he whittled down his rotation to a lean and aggressive seven-man (plus eight minutes by Jabari Walker), hit Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons in stellar minutes and took the game seriously in the playoffs. That’s not always advisable in early November: Grant, for example, also has a recent injury and was questionable for Portland’s game Wednesday night in Charlotte. But the Pelicans, who expect to be in the mix for the playoffs at the top of the conference, are an important opponent for the Blazers, who will face them four times this regular season. Billups played it safe by resting some of his most important guys, but he wasn’t ready to treat the Pelicans game as a loss or a loss, as often happens in a season that squeezes 1,230 basketball games into a 25-week stretch. Grant and Simons want to be and see themselves as stars, and Billups was happy to give them as serious a chance to make their case as the situation would allow.

Portland trailed by six at halftime but used effective zone defense in the third quarter to confuse and frustrate a Pelicans offense powered by Zion Williamson that thrives through dimension, layups and kick-outs. New Orleans has a top five offense in points per possession, because there are few people on the ground who can stop Williamson from going wherever he wants, and the desperate race to get the job done by two or three or very often five man opens up a lot of great opportunities for Zion’s more than capable teammates. But the Blazers are very tough defensively — as high as third now in defensive rating, according to Cleaning the Glass — and their organized and highly frustrating zone messed with the Pelicans’ rhythm enough that even without Portland’s offense clicking at a particularly high level, the Blazers were ahead by six at the end of the third quarter.

It’s a long and winding road to an extremely miserable climax, from the fourth quarter that ended in an impressive 106–95 Blazers victory. The teams exchanged clothes and Williamson was beginning to control the action only by repeatedly hammering forward to the rim and drawing fouls. He had just made his sixth and seventh free throws of the quarter, to pull the Pelicans within six. Portland’s offense stalled on their next possession, so with eight seconds on the clock, Grant was stuck in isolation at the top of the key, with the thick Williamson as a defender and several long-armed Pelicans hovering around the perimeter. the lane, ready to crash and help against any drive. That’s when this cool shit happened:

You are clinging to the dunk. You heathen! Fine. But I want to bring your attention back to the setup dribbles and what Grant does to send Williamson on a slant and toss 285 pounds of loose to the side as if he were standing on the deck of a ship in a skid row. . Here are some good perspectives:

Grant had 27 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block Thursday night, and in a game with two Pelicans stars, he was the best player on the court for every 42 minutes. It’s possible you haven’t thought much of Grant since he decided to give up his supporting role on a Nuggets team that was vying to be the main man for the Detroit Pistons. He fell out of Detroit’s plans after just two seasons, thanks in large part to the game-changing arrival of Cade Cunningham, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Grant was wrong to take his shot. He averaged 20 points per game in his two years as a Piston, which is not something anyone would have necessarily thought he could do when he was a Nugget. So, fine, he didn’t become a star, but he showed what he can do with extra weight on his shoulders, and on Thursday night he showed it again.

The Blazers are now 9–3 on the season and 6–1 on the road and 3–2 in games played without Lillard on the team. Some of the first half of every NBA regular season is spent waiting to find out which teams that surprised the top of the league are just replacements, overestimated their talent level and doomed to fall back out of sight when their conference gets very heavy- hitters start taking things seriously. It’s too early to tell if the Blazers are The Real Thing, but if this is who Grant is to them, even in games where his top teammates aren’t there to create space and opportunities, they could be a lot closer to sharing than some thought.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *