3 lineups that could make-or-break the Portland Trail Blazers’ trip to Orlando

Portland Trail Blazers - Zach Collins (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers - Zach Collins (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

No. 3: The Dame-off, C.J.-on, and vise versa lineups

The other day, I was re-listening to an episode of the Lowe Post podcast, where Evan Turner was discussing the dynamic between Lillard and McCollum well before their last Playoff run. Turner said that Lillard knew that as soon as McCollum would heat up, his night was over. The star two-guard had enough tricks in his bag to put the Blazers over the top more often than not.

That’s a great luxury, and one we’ve grown all too used to enjoying. But even after all these years, the Blazers still have to respond to the question of how to coax their best when one is on the bench.

Right before the All-Star break, it appeared we got some semblance of a positive. With Lillard sidelined, McCollum held his own, averaging — and make sure you’re sitting down for this — 33.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 8.3 assists on a 48-41-77 line. And when Lillard returned, he kept up that playmaking with 5.6 assists per game.

Staggering the two stars’ minutes has been the bedrock for Portland’s success in getting into the Playoffs in each of the last seven seasons. And historically the plan has gone as follows: let Lillard run the show himself late in the first and third quarters, and then let McCollum quarterback the team early in the second and fourth quarters.

The hope would be that with one of them on the floor, and one sidelined, they could yield neutral results at the very least. But since 2015-16, here’s how it’s worked out:

Lillard on, McCollum off: +0.86 net rating in 4,048 minutes
McCollum on, Lillard off: -3.22 net rating in 4,134 minutes

The two positives that could nullify all of this: (1) Portland could be deeper than ever, which means that the quality of players they’re with likely means positive net ratings. And then, (2) in the Playoffs, this seldom matters. In 35 Playoff games together since 2015-16, they’ve staggered for just 2.3 minutes per game.

Next. 3 Blazers with the most to prove at NBA Disney. dark

But, for the time being, the Playoffs aren’t guaranteed. And that means the we must at least entertain the thought.