The Portland Trail Blazers returned to victory form this past weekend by defeating the Utah Jazz Saturday night as well as the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

The Blazers had gone 2-8 in their last 10 games before their matchup with the Jazz, and it was mainly due to the seven games absence of their franchise cornerstone, Damian Lillard.

On Sunday against the Pacers, the six-time All-NBA selection returned to the starting lineup to deliver a 21-point performance off five made three-pointers, to go along with five assists. Lillard’s return had his team clicking on all cylinders to mount a 16-point marginal triumph, and it left head coach Chauncey Billups impressed with No. 0’s performance after not playing since Nov. 19.

“He played well,” Billups said, per OregonLive. “He was pretty crisp for having sat out a lot of time. I know he was antsy to get back out there.”

The Blazers are now 8-4 with Lillard on the floor, but in their 12 games without him, the team has kept their competitive spirits high behind Anfernee Simmons and Jerami Grant.

On Saturday’s event, Simmons erupted for 45 points (15-25 from the field) and knocked down seven treys with two blocks at the defensive end. Grant didn’t hold back either, dropping 33 points and five assists. In a recent matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, the duo combined for 69 points, and their best collaboration was at The Garden against the New York Knicks, both going over 38+ points.

With the return of their starting point guard, Simmons and Grant’s production was going to take a slight dip, but that didn’t stop Lillard from encouraging his teammates to get their buckets.

“Coming into the game, I’m telling Ant and Jerami, Be aggressive,” Lillard said. “Don’t let me stop you from being aggressive because I’m going to have the ball in my hands. I’m going to find opportunities to do what I do.”

Grant acknowledges Lillard’s impact on the floor and said having their superstar back in the lineup “changes the whole flow of how” the Trail Blazers play.

“He changes the whole flow of how we play when he comes back,” said Grant. “We move the ball a lot more. The ball is moving around a lot. Getting a lot of open shots. It makes the game easier when he is with us.”

After a 10-4 start to the new season, the Trail Blazers have been set back due to a few injuries. However, the group has slowly bounced back due to their playstyle of playing collectively and trusting their top players to get the job done. Portland’s stock continues thanks to Simmons, Grant, and Lillard raising their ceiling and taking it upon themselves to make sure the Blazers climb up the playoff rankings.

The post Jerami Grant: Damian Lillard’s Return ‘Changes the Whole Flow of How’ Portland Plays appeared first on SLAM.

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