The Beauty of the Blazers

They rarely play together, but Portland is must-watch when Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Seth Curry are on the floor.
Damian Lillard drives on LeBron James.
Photo by Steve DiPaola/EPA-EFE

The below has been excerpted from this week's Outlet Pass, to get caught up on everything else you need to know in the NBA this week read the rest of the column here.

Terry Stotts’s offense is never more gorgeous than when Dame Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Seth Curry share the floor. Even though C.J. is having a down year behind the arc, all are severely feared deep threats that can shoot on the move and hold an entire defense’s attention off the ball. The way they move in Stotts’s system, when everything is timed just right, can be basketball ballet.

They rarely play together, but Portland has outscored opponents by 18 points per 100 possessions with a scintillating attack that hasn’t even shot it very well, per Cleaning the Glass, when they do. That’s weird—outside of Golden State, there probably isn’t a more reputable trio of shooters on any roster in the league—but a small sample does them no favors, and nothing crystallizes their aesthetic and functional appeal more than this play from Tuesday night’s loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when Portland’s signature flare screens synced perfectly with action on the weak-side that could not be ignored.

The result isn’t exactly what the Blazers want, but redo that play ten times and Lillard either makes that dunk, draws a foul, or hits a wide-open Meyers Leonard on a dump off. Dame, C.J., and Curry just cycle off screens around the perimeter; it’s read-and-react basketball five or six times in a 20-second span, with OKC’s defenders ultimately dictating what type of shot the Blazers are going to get. The action climaxes when McCollum races past Meyers Leonard’s baseline screen at the exact same moment Lillard loops around Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams into the clear.

It’s well defended by a great defense, but Portland really makes them earn this stop. Watch Jerami Grant’s head throughout the possession. It’s extremely The Exorcist.