PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum widely are recognized as one of the top backcourt pairings in the NBA, but against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night at Moda Center, Lillard was a virtual one-man show, pouring in a franchise-record 60 points while his partner was held to a mere eight points.
On this night, it was the Nets’ tandem of Kyrie Irving and sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie who were the most effective pairing, scoring a combined 67 points as the Nets scored their first road win of the season, 119-115, to even their record at 4-4.
The Blazers put together a 12-2 surge, including six points on layups by Lillard to regain a 103-98 lead midway through the fourth period. The Nets made just 1 of 12 shots in that stretch and committed a turnover before Dinwiddie made a layup. Moments later, Dinwiddie fed Joe Harris for a corner three-pointer that tied the game at 103 with 4:38 to play.
Another Harris three from the top of the arc gave the Nets a 106-103 lead at the 4:03 mark. Eventually, the Nets’ run extended to 17-2, punctuated by an Irving right-wing three for a 115-105 lead with 1:41 left.
Lillard then went on another tear, scoring seven straight points to cut the Blazers’ deficit to 115-112 with 40.4 seconds to go, but Irving scored on an isolation play against Anfernee Simons to give the Nets a four-point cushion with 17.8 seconds left.
Dinwiddie had 34 points, becoming the first player other than Irving to lead the Nets in scoring, and Irving had 33 points and six assists. Harris added 14 points, Jarrett Allen had 12 points and nine rebounds, and the Nets made 16 of 37 three-pointers (43.2%). The only Blazers (3-6) in double figures besides Lillard were Simons (15) and Hassan Whiteside with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Through their first seven games, the Nets played poorly on defense, so coach Kenny Atkinson came into the game worried about how to contain the Trail Blazers’ backcourt tandem of Lillard and McCollum. At the same time, the Nets coach said he believed his defense was better than the numbers show.
“I’ve never been a guy who says defense wins championships,” Atkinson said. “Good defense and good offense wins championships. You have to have that balance.
“I think defensively this year, I like our process. Teams have made shots on us. Hopefully, that will even out. You look at the numbers, and there are a lot of really good things that we’re doing.”
Without a doubt, the Nets came primed to make a much stronger effort on the defensive end, working to stay in front of their man. It showed as they took a 26-20 first-quarter lead, holding the Blazers to 38.1% shooting. The Nets led by as much as 10 points in the second period but settled for a 54-49 halftime advantage when Lillard hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer. At that point, Lillard already had 26 points, shooting 9-for-14, but the rest of his teammates combined to make just 7 of 32 shots.
Nets rookie Nic Claxton made a nice seven-minute cameo in the second quarter, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds in seven minutes at center in place of injured DeAndre Jordan, who sat out with a sprained left ankle.
A 10-2 run by the Blazers to open the third period that started and ended with threes by Lillard gave them a 59-56 lead. But Atkinson quickly subbed Dinwiddie for Caris LeVert, and he scored every Nets point in a 15-6 run that restored a 71-65 Nets lead. But that shrank to just a three-point cushion heading to the final period.
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