Blazers news: Finally a strong start, Scoot plays point guard, Walker's winning ways

A big second quarter, Scoot Henderson's floor general skills and more Jabari Walker leads to win over Spurs
Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs; Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers
Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs; Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers / Amanda Loman/GettyImages

Here's the latest Portland Trail Blazers news (Dec. 30) after a win over the San Antonio Spurs that unsurprisingly featured a strong first half as well as Point Guard Scoot Henderson and another big game for Jabari Walker.

Blazers start fast (for a change) in win over Spurs

The Trail Blazers have been a notoriously slow-starting group this season. Two nights ago, for instance, Portland outscored San Antonio by 11 points over the final three quarters but still lost by 13 because they fell into a 38-14 hole after the opening period.

The second game of the two teams' back-to-back was a different story, though, and unsurprisingly, it led to a Blazers win.

Portland kept pace with the Spurs through the first quarter and then outscored San Antonio by 15 in the second on its way to a 134-128 win.

Sure, the Spurs were playing without Victor Wembanyama; but the Blazers were short three starters of their own as well as backup center Duop Reath, who's played a significant role for Portland recently. But those injuries hurt your team a lot less when you're not trailing by 24 points after a game's first 12 minutes.

Scoot Henderson, Floor General

Without Anfernee Simons or Shaedon Sharpe in the lineup for the second straight night, the point guard spot belonged to Scoot Henderson, and the rookie played the position better than he has at any point this season.

Scoot finished with 22 points to go along with 11 assists while committing only 4 turnovers. He created opportunities for himself and his teammates. He looked confident driving to the basket, but he kept the ball moving when a lane wasn't there.

It's no coincidence he had 6 assists and only 1 turnover in a second quarter that saw the Blazers shoot 58 percent and win by 15.

The fact that he had twice as many assists as shot attempts in that period also shows how much Henderson's point guard feel has grown since the start of the season.

We need more Jabari Walker

Chauncey Billups needs to give Jabari Walker more minutes.

The second-year pro has been forced into action more often lately because of injuries, but there's a large enough sample size at this point that proves Walker is a high-level NBA role player.

In the Blazers' nine wins this season, Walker has averages of 9.1 points on 54/46/73 shooting splits to go along with 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 of which come on the offensive glass. He's a plus-4.2 in those games

His on/off stats are even more impressive and paint the true picture of just how much better Portland is when he plays.

The Trail Blazers are 5 points better with Walker on the floor and 8.8 points better per possession - that puts him in the 88th percentile of all NBA players. The team's offensive rebounding rate jumps 7.8 percent, and that puts Walker in the 97th percentile. He's simply one of the league's best offensive rebounders.

Portland's free-throw rate, points-per-possession allowed and turnover percentage all also rise with the 21-year-old on the court.

The Blazers have won three of their last six games. Walker's minutes have jumped to more than 22 per game during that span, and he's averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds (2.8 offensive) on 64/44/77 shooting splits.

Put simply, the Portland Trail Blazers are a better team with Jabari Walker on the floor.