Blazers Accomplish What They Needed To In Preseason Finale

by Casey Holdahl
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DENVER -- Despite sitting Damain Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside, amongst other players, the Trail Blazers managed to give the Denver Nuggets a game before eventually falling 110-104 Thursday night in their 2019 preseason finale. With the loss, Portland finishes the exhibition season with a 2-3 record.

Not that any of that really matters.

What does matter is whether the team felt like they took the steps they needed to take during training camp and preseason in order to be ready for the start of the regular season. And in that way, Portland's 2019 preseason goes down as a success.

"I think last night and tonight were good tuneups for us," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Even though Dame (Lillard) and CJ (McCollum) didn't play tonight, I thought the guys that played tonight, it was productive for everyone who got on the court. Obviously last night in Utah was a good warmup for us."

With the starting backcourt and center watching from the bench, Portland's reserves and those still trying to get a foothold in the NBA had ample opportunities to hone their craft Thursday night. It was an especially productive evening for two of the wings the Trail Blazers acquired in the offseason.

There was Kent Bazemore, who capped off his first preseason with the Blazers by starting and putting up double-digit points while playing the entire first quarter.

"It was good, first time back playing competitive basketball since April, so obviously a lot going on as far as my timing, being in a new situation, new terminology," said Bazemore of preseason. "Right now it's just the little stuff. Defensively, bringing it every night. Thought I finished well, played a good game, was really aggressive on both ends of the floor. That's what they look for me to do and that's what I'll continue to do going forward."

With Bazemore and Rodney Hood only playing the first quarter, Mario Hezonja picked up the slack. The 6-9 Croatian put in yeoman's work with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds. It was a strong follow up to his performance the night before versus the Jazz, and a sign that he's making strides in terms of both scoring and playmaking in the second unit.

“Mario played well both nights," said Stotts. "Tonight, even in the first quarter, we had a big lineup out there and he was the point guard. I think he’s more comfortable. He shot the ball well both nights. The team has executed well out of timeouts, we put in some things where he was able to drive the ball and make plays. That’s something we’re going to continue to work at."

TOP PERFORMERS

Mario Hezonja led all scorers with 18 points one 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from three, six assists, five rebounds and a b lock in 28 minutes.

Kent Bazemore went 5-of-8 from the field for 13 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 12 minutes.

Zach Collins also finished with 13 points, though he also grabbed 11 rebounds for the double-double. Skal Labissiere wasn't far behind with 12 points and five rebounds and Anfernee Simons contributed 11 points, four rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes.

QUOTABLE

"The first three games, I think it’s kind of hard to evaluate those. Now, we’ve got three or four practices to get ready for Denver again." -- Terry Stotts

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

With their 2019 preseason in the books, the Trail Blazers have five days to prepare for their regular season opener Wednesday night versus the Denver Nuggets at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest, ESPN and Rip City Radio 620 AM.

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