New uniform, same Norman Powell.
Just one day after being traded, Powell made his Portland Trail Blazers debut one to remember as he picked up right where he left off as a member of the Toronto Raptors. Starting in place of the injured Damian Lillard, Powell was as efficient as ever, tying a game-high with 22 points (on 7-for-13 shooting) in just under 36 minutes of action.
Powell got into the action early, getting his first bucket as a Blazer in the form of a mid-range jumper off the bounce less than two minutes into the game.
Norm's first of many buckets in a #RipCity jersey pic.twitter.com/xfj0CuTxJW- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 27, 2021
After scoring eight points in the opening frame, Powell entered the half with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Norm is COOKIN' pic.twitter.com/yG2rxupdFX- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 27, 2021
Orlando stayed within reach throughout the game but Portland kept things out of reach, thanks in large part to Powell, who put his name in the Blazers' record books in the process. In scoring 22 points, Powell has now delivered the highest-scoring midseason debut in the history of Portland's franchise.
He did it from all over the floor, too.
The highest scoring mid-season debut in team history.@brookeolzendam talks to the man of the hour, @npowell2404, in tonight's @Biofreeze Top Performance Review after his huge performance in the win in Orlando. pic.twitter.com/LpHt207rc7- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 27, 2021
After the game, Powell admitted he had some pregame nerves before playing with his new team, saying "I was a little nervous before the game … first-game jitters but Dame and CJ talked to me before tip-off, just about being aggressive … they were talking to me throughout the game on plays I didn't understand or calls on defence but I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive, let the game come to me and make a statement."
What does this mean moving forward? Powell has undoubtedly been an extremely prolific performer in a starting role throughout his career but it is unclear what his role will be once Lillard returns to the Blazers' starting lineup.
Powell could potentially join a second unit that will also feature Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter, who are averaging a combined 26.3 points per game this season.
Portland is within striking distance of a top-four seed in the West and will heavily rely on Powell's scoring to compete with and potentially leapfrog teams like the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers in the standings.
While free agency looms for Powell this offseason, the focus now is competing in the Western Conference where the Blazers have the pieces to contend. The win over the Magic also marked the return of Jusuf Nurkic, who missed the last two months of action with a fractured wrist.
They now await the return of a former lottery pick in Zach Collins, who would add to an intimidating second unit.
As the Blazers continue to heal up, their next meeting will have some underlying emotion as they travel to Tampa to take on Powell's former team in the Raptors on Sunday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. on Sportsnet.
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