Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts felt change was needed, and that needed change may come as a surprise.
For the first time in forever, Stotts felt comfortable enough to not have either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum on the court at all possible times. Instead, Stotts went with a traditional bench substitution Monday, bringing in five new guys to relive the starters.
It went well, as the Blazers coasted to a 99-82 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets.
Per the Oregonian: “Portland opened the second and fourth quarters with a lineup featuring Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, Evan Turner, Noah Vonleh and Ed Davis, and it was particularly effective at the beginning of the second, when the group pushed a four-point lead to 43-32 midway through the quarter.”
The bench play isn’t lost on the starters.
“Our second unit, they’ve been doing a great job,” McCollum said. “Even in practices, they compete every day and they’ve been very competitive and Coach has been on us in practice to continue to get better. They’ve been pushing us.”
Vonleh came off the bench because rookie power forward Caleb Swanigan, one of the draft’s early surprises, got the start. Swanigan learned of his new role during Sunday’s practice, and said it impacted his play. And not necessarily in a good way.
“You’ve got so much anticipation in you,” Swanigan said. “You do some things that are uncharacteristic.”
For the Blazers, that uncharacteristic thing resulted in their most convincing home win of the season.