- The Trail Blazers guard's handle can send defenders like Donte DiVincenzo careening into the lane as if their sneakers had hit a patch of ice.
The trouble in guarding C.J. McCollum is that there is no middle ground. There is no choice but to guard him closely, given that McCollum has long been one of the most dangerous pull-up jump shooters in the league. Yet any responsible defender ought to also stay conservative and grounded, as to avoid being thrown by an especially compelling ball fake. Every possession that runs through McCollum rides on that tension, and on Tuesday night, it got the better of Bucks rookie Donte DiVincenzo in the most demoralizing way.
All DiVincenzo did was defend McCollum with exactly the sort of pressure his squirrelly scoring game deserves. On a clear-out possession to close the third quarter, McCollum took his opponent for a ride by driving hard to his left before slamming on the brakes—sending DiVincenzo careening into the lane as if his sneaker had hit a patch of ice:
There is something especially heartless about the way McCollum then hits the wreckage that used to be a promising young basketball player with a casual crossover, and the ease with which he floats the ball over the scrambling contest of John Henson. It was that kind of night for McCollum—and more specifically, that kind of quarter. This one, sensational play put a bow on what was a 19-point frame. McCollum laid siege to one of the best defenses in the league at its exact point of vulnerability. Those guards who rely on driving all the way to the rim can see their attempts swallowed up by Milwaukee’s length. McCollum’s brand of runners and jumpers off the dribble, however, kept the Bucks’ expectant defense at a remove. These are the very sorts of shots Milwaukee has decided, by scheme, to concede. They’re also the kind that a player like McCollum can hit, over and over, to the end of a sound victory and a season-best 40-point night.