BOSTON — Neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor Nicolas Batum, who have both played the entirety of their NBA careers for the Trail Blazers, had ever beaten the Celtics in Boston. At least until Friday night, when huge third quarter production by both veterans helped the Trail Blazers to a 109-96 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Garden.
The victory was Portland’s fifth in a row, a feat they accomplished just once last season, and their third road victory of the year, something they didn’t accomplished until December last season.
“I’m trying to be fair in my analysis of this because I think the fair thing to do is to credit Portland, because they’re a good basketball team,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they’re really, really cohesive; they clearly have been playing together a while, they know the shot they’re looking for, and they’ve really got some go-to options on the block with (LaMarcus) Aldridge when they need a bucket, and then they really know what to do in those situations where they need a basket. Whereas we might be searching a little bit, they know exactly where they need to go, and they did that.”
Batum started the contest missing his first five shots but scored 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter, a quarter in which the Trail Blazers outscored the Celtics 33-27. Batum also had three rebounds, an assist a steal in the quarter.
“Just before we start the second half all five starters came up and say, we don’t lose this game,” said Batum. “We need this game. We’re plus six, let’s go up to 10 or 14. Don’t put the crowd into it because we know if we you put this crowd into the game, it will be different. This are great fans, a great crowd so we tried to put the fans out of the game and we win.”
Batum would finish with a game-high plus/minus of +23 and proudly noted after the game that, “finally I can say I won everywhere.”
“We want to keep this winning streak going so that is one of the reasons we needed this game,” said Batum. “We got a good start, a good start right away. The way they came back in the game early, we didn’t panic we played our game and get the ball inside.”
But for as good as Batum was in the third, Aldridge was better, scoring 11 points and pulling down five rebounds in what would be the deciding quarter. While Aldridge was at his best after the intermission, he was nonetheless dominant from start to finish, ending the game with 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting, 12 rebounds, two steals and an assist in 34 minutes. Whenever the Celtics looked primed to make a run in the second half, Aldridge had an answer.
Aldridge downplayed the importance of getting his first victory in Boston, preferring to focus on the entire road trip rather than just the first game of a four-game swing.
“I’m more big picture this year,” said Aldridge. “I want to win on the road and I want to try to go above .500 on this road trip, if not win them all. It’s nice to win here but that’s small picture for me.”
But Friday night’s victory was in no way a two-man affair. Five Trail Blazers scored in double figures and everyone in the rotation who played at least 12 minutes scored. The performance continued a season-long trend of scoring coming seemingly in waves, with one Trail Blazer getting hot just as another cools off.
“I don’t think we know how we’re going to score necessarily on a certain possession but I like the way we share the ball, make the extra pass and help guys get good shots,” said Terry Stotts. “We make some tough shots and LA is a calming influence on the block. It’s a little bit of everything. We’ve done it going back to the second game of the season against Denver. I keep going back to that game where we had a different guy do it each quarter. I think that’s hopefully going to be a hallmark of our team is that we have different guys at different times depending on the opportunities.”
Portland also managed to win the rebounding battle 47-34 and outscored the Celtics 15-8 in fast-break points and 17-8 in second-chance points.
“Tonight I thought our defense is getting better,” said Stotts. “They had some guys that made some threes that don’t normally make threes but I like the way we are attacking the defense, our approach, and more than anything I think I like the way we are coming together as a team.”
Mo Williams played 30 minutes and finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals. Williams was particularly effective in the second quarter, scoring eight points, three assists and three steals before the half.
“I thought Mo had an exceptional floor game,” said Stotts. “He had 8 assists, in the first half he didn’t have any turnovers. He’s feeling more comfortable with the offense, play calls as far as knowing, he has a good sense for the game and his team. He sees things out there and he’s able to get to them now whereas before he wasn’t as comfortable doing that.”
Wesley Matthews continued his season-long hot shooting with 13 points on three of six shooting while adding five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes.
“When we get spread scoring from everybody, you can’t prepare for that,” said Matthews. “Scouting reports, they go through rotations and stuff but it’ll say ‘LaMarcus is going to get this, Dame is going to get this.’ When they do and everybody else is getting theirs too, you can’t prepare for that. That’s how this team is built. When we play the right way, we can beat anybody.”
Damian Lillard struggled with his shot in the first half, but continued to force the issue and was able to finish with 17 points on six of 15 shooting in addition to four assists and two rebounds. Lillard also hit his 212th career 3-pointer tonight, which is the most threes made by any player in his first 100 games played according to the NBA.
Next up, the Trail Blazers head north to Canada to face the Raptors in Toronto. Tipoff is schedule for 10 AM.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.