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.
It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.
But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…
In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.
With Portland’s foray into free agency now complete, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
In this almost all Twitter-submitted questions edition, we discuss the signings of Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard, the decision to match the offer the Brooklyn Nets extended to Allen Crabbe, how the additions and returns could change lineups going forward and the notion that the Trail Blazers need to make a trade. There’s also some hot Pokemon Go and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” talk to start the show, so you might want prepare yourself to fast-forward through the first few minutes.
UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.
After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…
The Portland Trail Blazers have matched Allen Crabbe’s four-year, $75M offer sheet with Brooklyn, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
Nets bid on Crabbe has been thwarted — and Crabbe returns to Blazers on four-year, $75M contract. Now, Nets wait on Tyler Johnson sheet.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
The message out of Portland ownership and management is clear: Blazers trying to win this year and beyond — loading up on this roster.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.
But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.
There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…
— Allen Crabbe (@allencrabbe) July 10, 2016
With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.