PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jusuf Nurkic had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Houston Rockets 125-111 on Friday night despite the absence of star guard Damian Lillard.
Anfernee Simons led all scorers with 30 points, including seven 3-pointers, for the Blazers, who led by as many as 18 points. With the win, Portland improved to 5-1 this season.
“It’s easy for guys to get relaxed, but where we want to get to, you can’t do that. But all in all I think we played a good game, closed it out in the end, made a run and opened the lead up,” Simons said.
Eric Gordon scored 18 points and Kevin Porter Jr. had 16 points for the struggling Rockets, who have just one win.
“We should have been frustrated with the way we played, especially in the first half, Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on our offense because of our defense. ... Not a good night. We’ve got to do better.”
Lillard, Portland’s six-time All-Star, strained his right calf on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat. The team said he will re-evaluate in one to two weeks.
Lillard came up limping with some five minutes to go in the third quarter and headed for the locker room. He did not return and the Blazers lost, 119-98. Afterward, Lillard said he was hopeful that treatment would allow him to return for Wednesday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rookie Shaedon Sharpe made his first start for the Blazers, and Simons moved to point guard in Lillard’s absence. Sharpe finished with 14 points, but admitted at first he was a bit nervous.
Alperen Sengun, who missed the last two games because of illness, made his first start of the season for the Rockets. Porter, who has been dealing with a right quad contusion, also started.
Portland jumped out to to a 29-16 lead in the opening quarter after Drew Eubanks’ dunk.
Sharpe had back-to-back dunks in the second to give Portland a 45-34 lead and put the crowd on its feet. The Blazers went on to lead 69-58 at the break.