But then the third quarter happened.
The Trail Blazers responded after the intermission with a 19-5 run on the way to outscoring the 76ers 40-15 in the third quarter while putting up 71 points in the second half to come away with a 139-105 victory, their Western Conference-leading 20th win of the season.
In the process, the Trail Blazers once again set the franchise record for three-pointers made in a game with 21, breaking the previous record of 17 that they had set just eight days ago against the Jazz.
“Look, we’ve got good shooters,” said Stotts. “They have a track record of being good shooters. The challenge is to continue to trust each other, trust the pass when you’re playing against good defensive teams, to execute. We’re not going to set records like this every night but we have good shooters. The priority is to get them good shots.”
While there has been a general feeling among NBA circles that the Trail Blazers couldn’t possibly shoot 41 percent from three as a team for the season, the fact that the team has broken the franchise record for makes twice in a little over a week would seem to indicate the Trail Blazers are a getting good shots through the offense rather than just getting lucky.
“I don’t see how it could be a fluke, we’ve played almost 25 games now,” said Damian Lillard, who went four of six from behind the arc and finished with 16 points. “It’s still early but we’ve been able to do it for this long. I think that’s pretty much what we do: We hit three’s and we shoot them well. When we get the amount of good looks that we got like tonight, I think we’ll make a lot.”
Portland’s 139 points are the most the team has scored in regulation since putting up 143 against the Warriors on Jan. 26, 1993 and are the most scored in an NBA game this season. Portland’s 52 field goals also ties the most made shots by an NBA team in a game this season.
The Trail Blazers are now the first NBA team to win at 10 road games this season and are a perfect 9-0 this season against the Eastern Conference.
LaMarcus Aldridge lead all scorers with 20 points to go along with 16 rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 29 minutes and Robin Lopez finished with 12 points and four blocks. While the frontcourt duo combined to go 15 of 23 from the field, Stotts credited their defensive improvement in the third quarter as the catalyst for the victory.
“It’s easy to point at the offensive end but I was really pleased with LaMarcus and Robin defensively, particularly in the third quarter,” said Stotts. “They really helped on the pick and rolls, the switched onto guards on pick and rolls, took away angles, protected the rim. I thought what those two guys did, particularly in the third quarter, was really the difference in the game. I mean, 71-64 at halftime, but what everybody did in the third quarter, particularly those two guys defensively, was very good.”
“As a team we came together and realized we had to have a little more of an effort on the defensive end,” said Lopez. “I think personally, I just got a little more comfortable guarding a shooting five-man. I was a little more comfortable helping off and figuring out when to do so (in the second half).”
Nicolas Batum, who turned 25 on Saturday, shot six of ten from the field and three of seven from three to finish with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Dorell Wright went a perfect five of five from the field, all from three, to finish with 15 points off the bench against his former team.
“It was a good feeling to go out there and make some shots,” said Wright. “I’ve been in a little slump as far as my shooting so it felt good to come back here in Philly, where I was last year, had an opportunity to make some shots. I felt good out there, guys were finding me. We’re a good team as far as shooting the three ball and also moving the ball as well. Guys were finding me and I was just taking my shots with a lot of confidence.”
Wesley Matthews added 14 points on five of 14 shooting and Mo Williams, who rejoined the team in Philadelphia just a few hours before tipoff after attending a family funeral in Alabama earlier in the day, scored 14 points on five of nine shooting.
As stellar as Portland’s shooting display Saturday night was, their 41 assists on 52 makes was maybe more impressive. It’s the most assists the Trail Blazers have record since dishing out 45 against the Nuggets on Nov. 17, 1990.
“More than the three’s, I don’t know if I’ve been on a team that had 41 assists,” said Stotts. “You make shots, but the passing the ball, coming off the passes is the thing I was most pleased with.”
Stotts was also surely pleased with taking a 32-point lead into the fourth quarter, which allowed the Trail Blazers to sit their starters and regular rotation players in the fourth quarter. The result was every Trail Blazer on the active roster played and scored at least two points.
The Trail Blazers now travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons in the second night of a back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 PM.
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.”