Statistically, the Charlotte Bobcats are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They’re ranked fourth in opponent field goal percentage and fifth in both opponent adjusted field goal percentage and defensive rating.
But they’re ranked just 18th in opponent three-point percentage and it would show Thursday night at the Moda Center with the Trail Blazers tying the franchise record for three-pointers made with 21 on the way to blowing out Charlotte 134-104 in front of a sellout crowd in their first game of 2014.
“It was a good game, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We looked fresh. We played well on both ends of the court. Not a lot to say. We caught a team on a back-to-back, but we played well. Probably more than anything else, we passed the ball really well and got good shots. Guys were feeling it.”
With the performance, the Trail Blazers became the first team in NBA history to make at least 20 three-pointers in two games in an NBA season after setting a franchise record of 21 three-pointers in a game against the 76ers earlier this season. For a team that is often asked, somewhat dismissively, if they can keep up their hot shooting all season, doing something that no other NBA team has done before provided a small bit of proof that their prolific shooting is not a fluke.
“I think because of how many shooters we have I think we can continue to shoot the ball well,’ said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “The shots that we’re getting – in this league, guys can make shots – so if we continue to move the ball, the shots are going to go in.”
To Lillard’s point, the Trail Blazers tallied 34 assists on 54 made baskets and 15 of their 21 three-pointers were assisted.
Portland’s backcourt did much of the damage from three, with Wesley Matthews and Lillard combining to go 11 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Matthews finished with a game-high 25 points, going eight of 11 from the field and five of six from three in 27 minutes. He said postgame he felt as though he might have a great performance in him well before he got to the arena.
“I’m not going to lie to you: I felt ‘on’ when I woke up from my nap today,” said Matthews. “Making shots is contagious. Our crowd gets into it and our crowd is almost willing the ball in for us before we even shoot it. When that ball is flying around the perimeter like that and (Aldridge) is getting double-teamed and he kicks it out, it’s almost like you’re expected to make it.”
Lillard shot nine of 13 from the field and a perfect six of six from three to end the night with 24 points, seven assists and two steals in 29 minutes. He has made at least two three-pointers in 28 games this season, best in the NBA and is the only NBA player to make at least four three-pointers in four straight games this season. He joins Terry Porter as the only other Trail Blazer to make at least six three-pointers without a miss in a game.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good shooters,” said Lillard, “so if we get in a good enough rhythm and we’re getting good looks and the ball is moving how it did, that’s what type of night it could be.”
Portland would shoot seven of eight from three in the first quarter from three and 12 of 22 from the field to take a 39-21 lead into the second quarter.
“I really liked our approach coming into the game as far as the starters just really set the tone with their defense, with the ball movement,” said Stotts. “Our ball movement really led to good shots and we’ve got good shooters.”
The route on by the half with the Trail Blazers hitting nine more three-pointers in the second while holding the Bobcats to 40 percent shooting to take a 70-49 lead into the intermission.
“We have to come out with an aggressive mentality,” said Matthews. “We didn’t do that against Miami, we didn’t do that against New Orleans and we took two losses. Oklahoma City kind of blitzed us early but we were able to hone in in the second half defensively. We just brought that energy, that fight over to tonight. (Charlotte) started out kind of going basket for basket, but they were contested shots. They were shooting shots we wanted them to and the numbers played out in our favor.”
With the game well in hand, Stotts was able to rest his starting lineup for much of the third quarter and all of the fourth, resulting Portland starter played more than 30 minutes. Every Portland player saw minutes, with Mo Williams leading the second unit with 15 points, including three three-pointers. Meyers Leonard played 20 minutes and responded by tying his career-high in rebounds with 10. Will Barton played just nine minutes but scored 10 points on four of five shooting while making both of his three-point attempts.
“It’s always good to get a win like this. Guys on the bench can get some minutes, starters can get some rest. You’ve got to enjoy these because they don’t come often.”
With the game decided, the only question was whether the Trail Blazers would set the NBA record for three-pointers. And while they attempted 11 threes in the fourth quarter, Portland’s bench had the good sense to hold the ball in the final minutes, rather than showing up their opponent by gunning for the all-time mark.
“I knew the NBA record (for three-pointers), but I didn’t want to get caught up in that,” said Stotts. “If we fell into it, then that’s great, but I thought the guys who played the fourth quarter played the game the right way. They were aggressive, they moved the ball. Defensively, they played hard. I think it’s bad karma to go out and try to do that.”
With their karma intact, the Trail Blazers now host the 76ers, the team they set the franchise mark for three-pointers made against earlier in the season, at the Moda Center on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 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.”