Kent Bazemore Is Here To Disrupt
After leading by 14 points in the third quarter, the Trail Blazers needed to hold off the Kings for 12 minutes in order to get their first win of the 2019-20 season. After going into the half tied at 57-57, Portland took control of the game by scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter and would go on to maintain a 94-84 advantage going into the fourth.
In seasons past, the start of the fourth has often been a bit harrowing, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts utilizing a combination of starters and bench players before putting in his closers midway through the quarter. And while the lineup of Anfernee Simons, CJ McCollum, Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja and Zach Collins that started the fourth Friday night in Sacramento weren't exactly holding on for dear life, the Kings, playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season after being embarrassed by the Phoenix Suns in their season opener, were making them work.
Of the Kings on the floor at the time, Bogdan Bogdanovic seemed like the most likely candidate to lead a comeback, as the 6-6 guard out of Serbia entered the fourth quarter with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from three. So when Bogdanovic got out in transition for what looked like an easy layup after stealing a Simons pass with 10:26 to play and the Kings trailing by eight, it looked as if the Blazers might be in some trouble.
But Bazemore wasn't about to give up on the play. The 6-5 wing tracked Bogdanovic throughout the entity of his drive, absorbed an attempted to create space, and when Bogdanovic inexplicably tried to finish at the rim with something akin to a finger role, Bazemore was there to swat the shot almost before it was released.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) October 26, 2019
"My favorite play of the game," said Bazemore, who finished the win with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 23 minutes. "Little chase down block. He didn't really hit me hard enough, so I just kind of stayed on his hip. I think he jumped off the wrong foot and I was able to get a good, clean block."
Not only did Bazemore's effort save two points, the turnover created an easy layup opportunity for Hezonja in transition. Rather than having their lead cut to six, Bazemore's block made it possible to Portland to push the lead back up to double digits.
"(Bazemore) is tough defensively, he makes the right play," said Stotts. "I thought the block he made in transition was a huge play for us, kind of a turning point for us."
The Kings did eventually get the lead down to five, but at that point, Damian Lillard, who played the entirety of the third quarter, was well rested when he was reinserted back into the game. He would go on to score 13 points in under six minutes on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from three.
Would Stotts have been able to keep Lillard on the bench until midway through the fourth if Bazemore's block hadn't created a four-point swing in Portland's favor? Impossible to say. But the block was a perfect example of why Portland acquired the veteran wing from Atlanta in the offseason, and why he's likely to remain in Stotts' closing lineup for the foreseeable future.
"It's good to kind of see the ball go in, but that'll come," said Bazemore. "Just find your rhythm as you kind of get used to things, get the jitters out. My defense is going to be the constant thing for me regardless of if the shot's falling for me or not. I just want to find other ways to impact the game. We've got two of the best scorers at their position in the league and Hassan down low, Ant Simons did a great job for us off the bench. My job is to go out there and disrupt."