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.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”