Trail Blazers fans have a lot to be thankful for these days. Things have been looking pretty good in 2018 so far. Damian Lillard was picked for this season’s all-star team, the Blazers are 11-5 for the month of January - currently running a three game winning streak - and most importantly, all of the team’s key players are healthy.
Local Lake Oswego boy Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers broke his hand this week, and is looking to be out for at least two months. His absence is going to be a strain on the already struggling Cavs. And an injury that pertains to the Blazers’ conference, DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans tore his Achilles tendon recently, which anybody who follows basketball knows is a career altering, or possibly ending injury. The Blazers have been doing the two-step with the Pelicans in the Western Conference standings, and with Cousins gone, that dance might come to an end soon. The Blazers need to stay healthy if they’re going to continue to be contenders and climb the ladder.
And what better way to make sure you stay in tip-top shape, than consulting a doctor. Or, at least honoring one. Last night the Blazers premiered their black-on-black, plaid uniforms honoring coach Jack Ramsey. Of course, Dr. Jack coached the 1977 championship Blazers team, and was known for his flamboyant plaid suits. The Moda Center was awash with plaid in the stands, and most of the Blazers’ organization were wearing plaid something - shirts, skirts, bowties, etc. Ideally these new plaid uniforms will do much better for the Blazers then their red, “statement” jerseys…
Last night the Blazers showed off their new duds to the Chicago Bulls. They brought former Blazers center Robin Lopez with them. Lopez was universally loved during his stint on the team, so naturally he got a warm reception at introductions. Unfortunately for Lopez and the rest of the Bulls, CJ McCollum showed up too. CJ posted a career-high 50 points, and the Blazers pummeled the Bulls, 124-108.
CJ McCollum and Evan Turner grabbed the wheel to start the game. CJ drained an off-balance, corner three, and ET floated a lovely inbound pass to CJ for a delicate lay-up. The two of them steered the Blazers offense for the first five minutes of the contest, scoring 16 of the Blazers 23 points combined. The Bulls couldn’t get an offense started at all. With five minutes gone in the game, they had a lonely two points.
CJ continued to go nuclear on the offensive side. He scored 28 points before the end of the first quarter, a franchise record for points in a quarter. He shot 80% form the three point line, and 78% from the field. The man only missed four of the 19 shots he took. It was impressive, and the Moda Center let him know, roaring every time he touched the ball.
The home team maintained their substantial lead throughout the second, cranking it up to 26 at one point. Everything the Blazers did was magic. The Bulls’ defense could do nothing to stop them. With three minutes left in the quarter the Blazers were shooting 65% to the Bulls 30%. It felt like there was only half a game happening. The Bulls looked like a stagnant puddle on defense, and the Blazers splashed into them like a pair of plaid galoshes. They had a 23 point lead at the half.
The punishment continued into the third. The Bulls did their best to chip away at the Blazers lead, but, you know, CJ was happening. Jusuf Nurkić and Damian Lillard were in double digits as well, and Nurk was only one rebound away from another double-double, but CJ! GOOD-GOD-DAMN! Before last night his career high was 43 points. When the horn sounded at the end of the third, it was 50. And there was still a whole quarter to go!
“We-Want-CJ!” was the chant coming from the crowd three minutes into the fourth. The squad on the floor did a decent job maintaining the Blazers 20+ point lead, but the masses wanted to see more fireworks. Alas, CJ didn’t see anymore time in the game. The Bulls had all but given up in the last five minutes anyway. The folks serving hotdogs probably could’ve donned uniforms and finished them off.
Naturally, the postgame press conference buzzed with CJ glee. Even the team’s owner Paul Allen walked through and said, “I have no comment. CJ was hot. Thats it.”
In the locker room, CJ’s modesty was unbearable. When asked what he’ll remember most about this game, he replied, “My great aunt is here. She’s 92. It’s her first time seeing a game here.”
When asked about how much fun it was playing a game like he did, CJ replied, “It’s a lot of fun. It’s like seeing all your work come out for everyone else. All the work you put in behind closed doors. The sacrifices, the hours…it’s nice to see it pay off.”