ORLANDO -- Who were those guys?
It seemed as if three new players rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter to rally the Trail Blazers from deficits as high as 14 points Thursday night and a 112-103 win over the Orlando Magic.
The "new" guys?
Well, certainly nobody expected Shabazz Napier to play the entire fourth quarter and a total of 26:21 as a defensive stopper and cool offensive presence.
When all else failed -- and defensive stoppers Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner on the sideline with injuries -- Coach Terry Stotts turned to Napier to defend the Magic point guards, who were burning a path to the rim for layups. And it was part of a three-guard lineup that Stotts stayed with down the stretch of the game.
"It was Shabazz's defense that kept him in the game," Stotts said afterward. "Elfrid Payton had taken the ball to the basket three straight times and I just liked Shabazz's quickness on the ball. I just wasn't comfortable taking him out."
And Orlando seemed comfortable with not taking advantage of Portland's smaller lineup. Can Portland use that extensively the rest of the season?
"I don't know," Stotts said. "It worked tonight. With Evan and Al-Farouq out of the lineup, rotations are going to change. I thought defensively we were not hurt much by it, so it will depend on the matchups but it something we have to consider."
Napier was just pleased to be a contributor -- and in a city where he once played. He scored 10 points, had seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and just one turnover. This was a game, by the way, when turnovers were a real issue. Portland had 15 of them at the half and finished with 20, for 27 Orlando points.
"I'm just glad I could help us win," he said. "I have to contribute in whatever way I can."
Damian Lillard, whose fourth-quarter onslaught provided the firepower for the Portland comeback, lauded Napier's contributions.
"I said he was MVP," Lillard said. "He came into the huddle and said, 'Do we want to win?' He kind of challenged our team and this was before he even checked in. When he got into the game he impacted the game. He backed up what he was saying."
Lillard, by the way, was another "new" guy. This was a Damian Lillard seemingly refreshed from the All-Star break, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter -- taking over the game with a ferocity and a purpose that we haven't seen from him since early in the season. He finished with 33 points on 12 of 23 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three-point distance.
Lillard has usually played well after the All-Star break and he said he enjoyed recharging his batteries during the time off.
"It couldn't have come at a better time," he said. "Over the break I took a lot of time to myself. I was sitting in the house and would go get treatment, then sit in the cold tub, shoot some free throws and then sit in the house all day watching TV, relaxing, drinking water, just chilling. That allows you to come back fresh, mentally and physically."
Lillard brought the whole package with him to the fourth quarter, hitting difficult, twisting layups and long bombs from the outside. It was some vintage stuff.
Meanwhile, the other "new" guy was a legit new guy -- center Jusuf Nurkic, playing in just his second game since arriving in a trade with Denver. He got his first start, too, and took full advantage of it.
He made half his 12 shots, had 12 rebounds, scored 12 points and had five assists. He was a plus-23 in his 34 and a half minutes on the floor. And he's excited.
"It feels great to play with those guys, especially CJ and Dame," he said. "They make my life easier. I really love to be here. The coaching staff has done a great job of putting me in position as to where I am supposed to be and my teammates are looking for me. This is the first time in two years I'm having fun.
"It was a tough two years (in Denver) and that is all I can say. I was just frustrated and not being in position that I am supposed to be for some reason, but I wish them good luck. I'm just having fun here and I love it, man. I enjoy every day here.
"When you have those type of All-Star guards it is so easy to play with them. First time in my life I have those guys and those type of guards. It feels great and finally I am happy."
And so were the Trail Blazers. But ahead on this trip are a couple of difficult assignments.
Sunday there is a game at Toronto, followed by a Tuesday contest at Detroit.
Perhaps the "new" guys will still have some energy.