Kanter Sets Franchise Records In Rebounding In Win Versus Pistons

PORTLAND -- With Jusuf Nurkic sitting out Saturday’s game as a precaution, Trail Blazers assistant coach Jon Yim challenged his backup, Enes Kanter, to go above and beyond in order to make up for the absence.

“This morning I had a conversation with Coach Yim and he said ‘You better get 20-20 tonight,’ recounted Kanter. “It started this morning, he was giving me a lot of advice. He said ‘Hey, listen, Nurk is out so you just have to play extra hard, go out there and do what you do best, get every rebound.’”

Kanter might not have grabbed every rebound, but he came as close to it as any Trail Blazer ever while easily surpassing Yim’s request for both 20 points and 20 rebounds.

The 6-10 center in his 10th season out of Kentucky set franchise records with 30 total rebounds and 12 offensive rebounds as the Trail Blazers defeated the Pistons 118-103 Saturday night at the Moda Center.

“For me, to get a rebounding record is a lot different than points,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “When you look at the effort it takes to rebound, the persistence at both ends, the beating that you have to take, all those things are tough to do. Enes is such a great guy, you could tell the bench’s reaction how happy the team was for him. To get a rebounding record I think speaks a lot about the person’s will and desire.”

The Trail Blazers are now 31-21 overall and 16-10 at home this season. With the win the Trail Blazers sweep the season series versus the Pistons 2-0 and remain in sixth in the Western Conference standings with 20 games to play.

Kanter took little time taking the challenge of making up for Nurkic’s absence to heart, grabbing Portland’s first seven rebounds of the game while also scoring six of their first eight points. He would eventually play the whole quarter and grab 10 rebounds -- five offensive and five defensive -- while going 3-of-4 from the field for seven points and handing out two assists.

“It takes effort and persistence to come up with that many rebounds in a game where there’s that many professional athletes on the floor and (Kanter) is probably the worst athlete of all of them,” said Damian Lillard. “So for him to come down with 30 rebounds, it’s special and I think it just shows his knack for getting the ball, finding the ball off the glass. He’s the best I’ve ever played with with just finding a way to get the ball.”

Kanter would continue to dominate the glass on both ends, grabbing over 60 percent of Portland’s rebounds while also providing the kind of scoring they’d need to come away with a comfortable victory with the likes of Norman Powell and Robert Covington having off nights from the field.

He would match the franchise record, which was set by Sydney Wicks in a double overtime game versus the Lakers back in 1975, with just under four minutes to play in regulation. And with the game well in hand, Stotts extended Kanter’s minutes just a little longer than the rest of the starters in order to add a few more to the tally.

“Enes has been unbelievably important to our team this year, not just tonight,” said Stotts. “But for as many games as Nurk missed this year, to have a player of Enes’ caliber as a backup center and what he’s done for the team -- he’s averaging a double-double, he brings it every night, he’s a great teammate. I’ve said this before: he’s a big part of the reason why we’ve had as many wins as we do because of what he’s been able to do for us.”

After claiming the record with 28 free throws, Kanter grabbed two more in his last minute of play before grabbing his 30th and final board, just eight fewer than the Pistons had as a team, with 1:25 to play. As he checked out, he was greeted by a hug from his head coach and a lot of enthusiasm from his teammates.

“I think for me, why I was so happy, when I looked at the bench and everybody was up, everybody was cheering, everybody was smiling, everybody was supporting their teammates,” said Kanter. “And that’s what we’re all about, that’s what Blazers basketball is all about, just supporting each other. I understand 30 is a very cool accomplishment but I think what made me more happy and excited was seeing my teammates cheering for me, how happy and excited they were for me.”

Kanter also contributed 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, two blocks, two assists and a steal to go with his 30 rebounds -- Saturday’s game was only the fourth time in NBA history a player has finished with that many boards -- in 37 minutes.

Lillard also finished with a double-double, putting up 27 points while also handing out 10 assists in 34 minutes. CJ McCollum went 11-of-21 for 26 points, four rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes.

Nassir Little went a perfect 5-fo-5 from the field for 11 points and Carmelo Anthony also contributed 11, albeit on 4-of-9 shooting.

Josh Jackson led the Pistons with 21 points, while Frank Jackson contributed 17 off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers return to the Moda Center in less than 24 hours to host the Miami Heat in the second game of a weekend back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.