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.
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.”
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.