PORTLAND, Ore. — Dame DOLLA was dominant. But Uncle Drew was victorious.
Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets to a 119-115 come-from-behind win over the Trail Blazers before a sellout crowd of 20,089 at Moda Center.
After surviving a 36-point outing by James Harden to beat Houston last Friday, the Nets made that look like child’s play. Damian Lillard (aka rapper Dame DOLLA) poured in a game-high 60 points for the Blazers, topping his career-high by a point on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But Dinwiddie and Irving made sure it was purely cosmetic.
Irving, who came in as the NBA’s second-leading scorer, finished with 33 points and six assists. But that was simply par for the course in stellar start to the season for the man who moonlights as Uncle Drew. Dinwiddie, who has been turnover-prone and not in his best form, broke out of a mini-malaise with a team-high 34 points and five rebounds.
The Nets (4-4) notched consecutive victories for the first time this season, and got their season-long five-game road trip off on the right foot.
It also gave the Nets two wins in their past three trips to Moda Center, after having taken just two of their previous 14 games here dating back to 2003-04. In a place where the Nets are rarely victorious, they were able to grind out a professional-looking effort to keep the Blazers (3-6) winless at home.
“Obviously [Portland is] a team we respect a lot. We’ve got to be better defensively,” coach Kenny Atkinson had warned before the game. “This is a potent offensive team with two elite, elite guards that can get 30 on you; so just do a good job defensively. Offensively, obviously, we’ve got to take care of the ball on the road. We haven’t done a great job of that.”
Lillard didn’t just get 30 on them. He passed that mark less than three minutes into the second half.
And he kept going. It didn’t matter who the Nets put on him, from Irving to Dinwiddie, David Nwaba to Garrett Temple. None of them could so much as slow him down.
But the Nets held every Blazer not named Lillard to a combined 55 points on 21-for-64 shooting. With DeAndre Jordan (ankle) sidelined, Jarrett Allen logged 36 minutes at center, blocking five shots and grabbing nine rebounds while anchored a solid defensive outing.
Nets rookie Nic Claxton made his NBA debut in the first quarter, becoming the de facto backup center. He got an up-close look at what an all-world performance looks like.
The Nets led the Trail Blazers 26-20 after a first quarter that was clean, if not sharp. Turnovers and team defense their two biggest failings coming into the game, but the Nets had just two turnovers in the first period and surrendered the fewest points they had in an opening quarter this season.
Playing some of their best defense, the Nets jumped out to a double-digit cushion after Taurean Prince’s second-quarter 3-pointer put them up 36-26. But it was tooth-and-nail to hold off Lillard the rest of the way.
Lillard scored the Blazers’ final 17 points of the half. The last non-Lillard point for Portland was an Anfernee Simmons free throw with 5:04 left in the half. The final non-Lillard bucket was CJ McCollum’s drive 37 seconds earlier. To say he was their offense wasn’t hyperbole, it was simple fact.
The Nets did enough to take a 54-49 edge into the break. And after they coughed up a quick 10-2 run coming right out of the locker room, Atkinson didn’t hesitate to call a timeout and pull Caris LeVert, in the midst of an off night with seven points on 2-for-13 shooting.
Atkinson replaced LeVert with Dinwiddie, who scored every Nets point in a 10-4 answer.
Dinwiddie put the Nets back up by four, and they led 98-95 on Claxton’s cutting layup with 8:08 left. But that’s when the Blazers scored eight unanswered points to turn the tide. Lillard’s reverse put Portland ahead, and Nasir Little’s dunk made it 103-98 with 5:45 remaining.
Dinwiddie scored and then found Harris for a game-tying corner 3. Harris drilled another from deep to put the Nets back ahead 106-103 with four minutes to play.
Irving padded the lead to 109-105. And after LeVert rebounded a miss by Hassan Whiteside, Dinwiddie’s free throw put the Nets ahead by five with 2:44 to play. Irving’s block on a Simmons 3-point attempt led to an Allen dunk on the other end, and Irving’s own 3-pointer served as the dagger.
The Nets led by 10 and the clock read that 1:41 remained, but the game was essentially over.
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