- Just as it took CJ McCollum an entire half to get going Tuesday night vs. the Clippers, it took the Trail Blazers a while to start winning consistently on the road. Now, they're playing their best road basketball at the right time of the season.
Sometimes, all that matters is how you finish.
That was the case with CJ McCollum Tuesday night in the Trail Blazers’ 125-104 win over the Clippers,
He was without a field goal until he hit a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in the second quarter that cut Portland’s deficit to two going into halftime.
After the pause in action, he came out on fire to lift the Blazers to their sixth road win in eight games away from home since the All-Star Break.
With the Clippers climbing up the West standings and the Blazers coming off a week that included a loss in Memphis and their fourth loss of the season to the Thunder, Tuesday was a big night for Portland.
McCollum connected on his first two shots in the third to help Portland take the lead. He missed his next shot, and then made eight straight from the end of the third into the fourth and catalyzed a run that built the Blazers’ lead to 17.
Lehigh University’s finest went 11-for-13 after the break to finish with a game-high 35 points to go with four assists and two steals. It was the fourth time this month he was the team’s leading scorer.
With the win, the Blazers pulled back into a tie with Oklahoma City for fourth in the West and improved to 16-17 on the road this season. They might not have the tiebreaker on the Thunder, but their recent success on the road is reason enough to be optimistic about this club’s chances of hosting a first round playoff series.
The Blazers still haven’t done enough to deserve to be seen as a fearsome road team. They are only 7-14 versus the conference on the road after Tuesday.
However, it did create distance from the rising Clippers, surging Spurs (winners of six straight after beating the Mavericks Tuesday) and the Jazz, who hold one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league
It won’t be easy jumping Houston and Oklahoma City in the West standings, but with the tiebreaker on the Rockets and a newfound ability to win in places besides the Moda Center, it is very possible.
It might require catching a few breaks in the schedule, like getting the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back after having two days off, but the opportunity is there to once again finish third in the West.
With a road back-to-back awaiting this weekend against the Pelicans and sixth-place Spurs, now is the time for the Blazers to pick up their stride even more as they try to improve this current run on the road.
Portland is the road team in eight of its final 15 games, but that might not be as much of a problem as it looked it would be in mid-February.
Just like CJ on Tuesday night, all the Blazers needed to heat up was a little time off. And isn’t the end of the season the best time to get hot and play your best basketball?
We’re going to judge this team off what happens in the playoffs, so all that matters is how well they finish.