If there is one thing the last two games have taught us about the Portland Trail Blazers it’s that first quarters are not necessarily an indication of future success — or failure.
Tuesday night, the Trail Blazers made 8 of 15 shots from three-point range in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls, jumped to a 20-point lead early in the second period — but ended up losing the game.
Thursday in Moda Center, Portland made just one of its nine three-point attempts in the first quarter, trailed the Minnesota Timberwolves by a point and then crushed the visitors with a magnificent second quarter that resulted in a 135-117 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates.
The Trail Blazers knocked down eight of their 10 three-pointers in the second quarter and missed only six of their 24 shots overall. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves were missing dunks, layups and open threes. And when the teams adjourned for halftime, Portland had outscored Minnesota 47-27 in that period.
It was a monster quarter that began with only one Blazer starter — CJ McCollum — on the floor, along with Carmelo Anthony, Gary Trent, Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood.
Coach Terry Stotts gradually turned his lineup over through the quarter and the momentum and hot shooting never waned. Sometimes, it can be a difficult decision to know when to make substitutions when a team is on a roll the way the Blazers were.
“It is a concern,” Stotts said. “But, you know, I learned a long time ago that it’s a long game and the tide can change and if you ride something too long, you can affect things down the road. So I had no problem bringing Dame back in. That was an easy call. I’m glad that we were able to keep momentum.”
The three-pointers in that quarter were important, of course, but Portland also got a big contribution from its centers, as Jusuf Nurkic went 5-5 and Enes Kanter 3-3 in the period. The Blazers had 18 points in the paint just in that quarter.
Damian Lillard, who came into the game with the idea of being more aggressive, was attacking from the opening tip and finished with 26 first-half points. He finished with 39.
Portland led 111-80 after three quarters and the starters were done for the evening. The end of the Trail Blazer bench finished the evening and was outscored 37-24 over the final 12 minutes.
But by then, there wasn’t much to worry about. The second quarter had taken care of that.