Preview In New Orleans: Dame Out, Can Rookies Shine?

Portland Trail Blazers, Shaedon Sharpe (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers, Shaedon Sharpe (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Last night in Charlotte, Portland came away with a ten-point victory in the first game of their back-to-back during their first east coast road trip this season. With the idea that they could win with less in Charlotte, Portland sat Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant in against the Hornets. They were right, Portland’s bench stepped up in a really big way.

It made sense for the two starters, with them both dealing with nagging injuries. Portland will have a big ask tonight containing Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas. They will also have to pick up their scoring as Dame carried the load last night, with a team-high of 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, handing Charlotte their sixth loss in a row.

The young guys shined as they fill in bigger roles in the rotation in the Queen City. A career high of 28 minutes for the first-round pick Shadeon Sharpe, who stepped up with 17 points, continuing to show improvement regarding pace, feel, and reactions on both ends of the floor.

The game has slowed down somewhat through 12 games and now it’s all about timing and comfortability. The assist man in the highlight above, Jabari Walker had to step up and play some big rotation minutes in Charlotte with Grant out as well. A lot of small ball was played, due to the lack of size available, and Watford’s two steals and defensive energy became a necessity to win last night.

He filled up the stat sheet last night with 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 6 assists, some of the more timely assists in a game this season. The LSU album has to do a better job of taking care of the ball (4 turnovers) if he plans on seeing more minutes this season.

Jabari Walker’s impact on both sides of the court flashed in spurts of the second half in Charlotte. Playing 17 minutes he scored 5 points, 3 rebounds, and two assists. The Colorado product has given Billups some thinking to do because Walker deserves minutes and looks like a legitimate NBA player. Look this smooth up and under against Nick Richards.

In New Orleans tonight, this will be the first match-up against a talented Pelicans team that has a legitimate shot at a top-four seed in the West. A deep team with good defensive role players will be a good challenge in a back-to-back for Portland, continuing to realize where their focus is as they try to stay undefeated on this road trip.

Larry Nance Jr. and Garrett temple will be out tonight, while defensive specialist Herb Jones and Brandon Ingram will play. A big ask out of the guys without Damian and that’s why fans should be excited to see how this young team responds to a little adversity on the road in New Orleans tonight at 8pm ET.