Wesley Matthews isn’t going to beg the NBA to be one of the six players selected for this year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. In fact, he’s not even going to ask.
But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t accept an invitation. Actually, quite the opposite. Matthews, who is currently fifth in three-pointers made this season with 96, would very much like an opportunity to compete in the three-point contest on Feb. 15.
“It would be an honor to represent my family, friends, Portland,” said Matthews. “But in the meantime, all I’m worried about is helping my team win as many games as I can up until that point.”
One of the reasons the Trail Blazers have been able to win so many games this season is because of Matthews’ three-point shooting. Though he’s cooled off considerably since shooting a ridiculous 52 percent from three in the month of November, Matthews is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc this season, good enough for 16th in the NBA and better than the likes of Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Matt Bonner, Ryan Anderson and Stephen Curry, all of whom competed in the three-point shootout last
Even factoring in regression, Matthews is still one of the best three-point shooters this season by most any metric.
“That’s not for me to say, not for me to judge,” said Matthews when asked if he deserves to compete in this year’s contest. “I’m not really the type to advertise myself, but if the play speaks for itself, then that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too.”
He’s shooting above the league average in four of the five three-point “zones” (as seen in the shot chart above) and has been one the best shooters from the corners this season at 43 percent from the right corner and a blistering 47 percent from the left corner. He’s second in the NBA in corner threes made with 39 and tenth in corner three percentage at 45 percent (minimum 20 corner threes made).
Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.com, has gone so far as to say that Matthews is “arguably the best shooter in the league this year” from the left corner, and since two of the five shooting stations in the three-point contest
are in the corners, one could argue that Matthews’ game is better equipped for the contest than players who shoot from the top of the key or “above the break” (though Matthews shoots a very respectable 40 percent from “above the break as well).
“I think the main thing they’ve got to do well is to make shots,” said Matthews, stating the obvious when asked what make a good three-point contest shooter. “I don’t know how my mechanics stack up. I’ve never been in a three-point contest before. I know I can get my shot off quick, I know I can make shots so I think I’d do alright.”
And since All-Star Weekend is as much about the spectacle as anything else, Matthews says he’d be willing to do what he could to add some intrigue to a contest that doesn’t afford itself to free-styling.
“If I got it going, when I got to the last rack, I think I’d do a stepback,” said Matthews That’s something I would do, just for the hell of it.”
He’s shooting 60 percent on stepback three-pointers this season, so it might not be such a bad idea anyway.
Considering that Portland is first in three-pointer made per game, basically tied with San Antonio for first in team three-point percentage, and second per game in attempts, it’s only fair that at a Trail Blazer be one of the three representatives from the Western Conference in the three-point contest, especially considering their 28-9 record.
“I’d love for either (Matthews) or Damian (Lillard) to be in the three-point shooting contest,” said Terry Stotts, who would be the head coach of the Western Conference All-Star team if the decision were made today. “Our backcourt, both are in the top five in threes made. I think both guys are deserving to be in the three-point shooting contest.”
Lillard, who is first in the NBA in three-pointers made with 120 and seventh in three-point percentage at 44 percent, would certainly be a worthy entry. But he’s already scheduled to play in the Rookie/Sophomore game, has to defend his Taco Bells Skills Challenge crown and could very well end up being selected by NBA head coaches for the Western Conference All-Star roster. Throwing yet another event into that already packed schedule seems like a recipe for a poor showing.
Given that, it stands to reason that Matthews should have the honor of representing his family, friends and Portland in this year’s three-point shooting, even if he won’t campaign on his own behalf.
PORTLAND — The first two games this season between the Mavericks and Trail Blazers, the most recent taking place on Sunday afternoon in Dallas, went to overtime, with the Mavericks ultimately winning both contests. So it would make sense for Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts to mix things up a bit in the third and final regular season meeting.
So in Wednesday night’s game between the two teams in Portland, Stotts opted to start Maurice Harkless in place of Noah Vonleh while extending his rotation to 10 players in the process. And the result? A 109-103 victory in front of a sellout crowd 19,819 of at the Moda Center.
“A really big win for us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We did a lot of good things. We certainly had some breakdowns here or there, but I liked our energy, I liked our fight, I liked our resilience bouncing back from last game. Our focus on some of the things we did differently with pick and rolls, we were pretty solid with it. This was certainly a game we needed to have.”
The Trail Blazers are now 37-35 overall and 22-12 at home this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers remain in 6th place in the Western Conference standings. They now trail the Memphis Grizzlies by four games for the 5th seed and are 1.5 games up on both the Mavericks and Jazz, teams tied for 7th at 35-36.
“You could tell both teams were playing for something,” said Damian Lillard. “It got a little chippy, there was a lot of emotions in the game, some swings in the game. It was a game that meant a lot to both teams.”
Portland had seven players finish in double figures, including all five starters. Lillard led the way with 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, 4-of-9 shooting from three and 5-of-5 shooting from the line to go with six assists, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 37 minutes.
Harkless, in his fourth start this season, put up 10 points in the first quarter, with eight of those points coming off dunks, before finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 25 minutes.
“Moe was huge for us, just to start the game on both ends of the floor with his length and his athleticism,” said Lillard. “He was really active. He disturbed a lot of the things they wanted to do early and then he got out and ran and got easy baskets, brought energy to the game.”
CJ McCollum finished with 14 points and four assists while Al-Farouq Aminu put up a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds in 36 minutes while drawing the task of defending Dirk Nowitzki.
“(Aminu) was really locked in,” said Stotts. “Obviously he had the responsibility with Dirk and that’s a big responsibility on pick and rolls and post ups and every possession he had to be locked in defensively. His offense was fine, but the importance of what he did defensively was key.”
While the change in the starting lineup help, it might have been the play of reserve big man Ed Davis that ultimately made the difference. The 6-10 center in his sixth season out of North Carolina had one of his best games, at least from a scoring perspective, as a Trail Blazer, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line.
“Ed gave us a lot of second chance opportunities,” said Lillard. “He was a monster on the glass and in the paint, he was finishing a lot of stuff. I thought he got fouled on a lot of them and he was just playing through it, he beasted up tonight.”
Davis also added nine rebounds, five on the offensive end, and three steals in 20 minutes.
“Ed, in the first half, his energy, his scoring, his rebounding,” said Stotts. “Ed is pretty solid but the first half he had really was really very impressive.”
The Mavericks got 22 points from former Trail Blazer Wesley Matthews on 6-of-10 shooting from three and 21 points after going 5-of-7 from three Sunday afternoon.
“It’s cool, not as cool because we didn’t win but the fans were awesome again,” said Matthews, who also added five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 41 minutes. “Much love and appreciation and respect for them. Would’ve felt better to get a win though.”
Even with Aminu shadowing him around the court, Nowitzki still managed to finish with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and nine rebounds in 36 minutes. Rookie center Salah Mejri added a double-double of 14 points, 12 rebounds in a starting role.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hop on a plane bound for Los Angeles to play the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday versus the Clippers. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.
Everyone knows that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was not named to the 2016 Western Conference All-Star team. And most agree, considering his play since being passed over by both the fans and coaches, that Lillard’s snub was by far the most egregious. But Lillard has put it behind him and, with the Trail Blazers fighting with four teams for five available playoff spots, he’s got much more important matters to attend to.
But there’s still the matter of All-NBA teams, which are announced after the end of the regular season. While fans don’t tend to pay as much attention to the All-NBA teams as they do the All-Star teams — which makes sense considering the months of hype that go into promoting All-Star and its associated events — All-NBA teams are much selective, with just 15 spots up for grabs compared to 24 for All-Star teams. And players have to be voted in one of three positions — guard, forward and center — for All-NBA while All-Star positions are broken out only by frontcourt and backcourt players, which makes it more difficult to slip in a deserving player who happens to play at a deep position.
So while it doesn’t get marketed as well, making an All-NBA team is much more of an accomplishment than making an All-Star team. So Lillard might feel a bit of vindication in ESPN’s Kevin Pelton is projecting that the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State will make an All-NBA team this season…
The last All-NBA spot will probably go to Damian Lillard, who is also eligible for a Rose rule boost to his salary next season and beyond if he makes an All-NBA team. As part of his extension with the Portland Trail Blazers, Lillard agreed to cap his possible salary at 27.5 percent of the cap, according to BasketballInsiders.com, which means a difference of approximately $12 million in future salary if he’s chosen All-NBA.
First team: Stephen Curry | Russell Westbrook
Second team: Chris Paul | Kyle Lowry
Third team: James Harden | Damian Lillard
The “Rose rule” mentioned here, which is informally named after Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, is a stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement that allows players signing their first contract after their rookie scale contract to receive salary increases beyond what they would normally be eligible for provided they meet one of three criteria before their new deal kicks in: being named MVP once, an All-Star starter twice or to an All-NBA team twice. Since Lillard made Third Team All-NBA after his sophomore season, being named to the Third Team again after this season would trigger the incentive. That sure beats a few days shivering in Toronto at All-Star Weekend.
(By the way, the Rose Rule max can be for up to 30 percent of the salary cap, so Lillard taking 27.5 percent is rather generous and, along with having no opt outs, speaks to his putting what’s best for the team over what’s best for his gross earning power.)
DALLAS — The Trail Blazers had a chance to get to .500 on their current road trip and even the season series versus the Mavericks with roughly 13 seconds to play Sunday afternoon in Dallas. Tied 113-113, Portland had the ball and the last possession with a chance to put the game away, but Damian Lillard’s three with 1.4 seconds to play in regulation missed the mark, sending the game to overtime.
Said Lillard: “We were going to play on one side of the court, so I gave (Deron Williams) a move, had him back up off of me, I stepped away from him, shot a shot that I’m really comfortable shooting and it just didn’t go in.”
Unfortunately for Portland, the same couldn’t be said for most of Dallas’ attempts thereafter, as Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams scored the first 11 points of the extra period to lift the home team to a 132-120 victory while securing the tiebreaker versus the Trail Blazers in front of a sellout crowd of 20,351 at American Airlines Center.
Portland is now 36-35 overall and 15-23 on the road this season. Despite the loss, the Trail Blazers remain in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, though their lead over both the Houston Rockets and Mavericks, two teams tied at 35-35, dropped to just a half game. What’s more, they own just a two-game lead over the ninth-place Utah Jazz after dropping seven of their last 10 games.
“We’ve played good teams,” said Lillard. “We shouldn’t feel bad about anything. OKC is a Top 3 team, San Antonio just beat the best team pretty good last night and Dallas is a good team. They’ve got vets, they know how to play. They haven’t played the greatest here, and at some point, you’ve got to turn it around. Tonight they shot the ball really well, so we shouldn’t feel bad about it. It would have been great to at least split the trip, but I think we go home feeling fine (about their chances of making the playoffs).”
The Trail Blazers took it to the Mavericks early in the game, hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers in the first quarter to help take a 36-25 lead into the second. But the Mavericks would find their footing over the next 24 minutes of the Sunday matinee in Dallas, outscoring Portland 65-46 in the second and third quarters to take 90-82 lead into the fourth.
But rather than folding in the last quarter of a four-game road trip, the Trail Blazers got themselves back into the game, hitting six three-pointers between the 10:46 and 5:51 marks of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 102-102. From there on, neither team would lead by more than two points in regulation, though that wouldn’t be the case in overtime, with the Mavericks all but putting the game away before the Trail Blazers managed to score in the extra period. Nowitzki would do most of the damage in the OT, outscoring the Trail Blazers 8-7 by himself to cap the victory.
“We lost a tough game, I thought we competed,” said CJ McCollum. “Besides overtime, we had some good looks, we didn’t make them. They hit shots after a couple possessions, a bunch of threes — I think they shot a really good percentage from three tonight — and we ended up losing. They did what they’re supposed to do on their home court.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who finished with 26 points on 8-of-26 shooting from the field, 4-of-10 shooting from three and 6-of-6 shooting from the free line. He also added eight assists and two rebounds in 44 minutes. CJ McCollum scored 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting and 3-of-8 shooting from three.
Mason Plumlee finished with career highs in both total rebounds with 19 and offensive rebounds with 10 while added 14 points for the double-double in 31 minutes. Allen Crabbe also put up a career high in made three-pointers with six to finish with 24 points in 36 minutes.
“I saw my first two go in so that kind of gave me confidence, I just kept shooting,” said Crabbe, who also grabbed five rebounds off the bench. “I got a lot of confidence from my teammates and the coaching staff. Regardless if I kept missing shots, whenever I came back to the bench they told me to keep shooting the ball. Don’t stop and don’t hesitate, just shoot it. That’s what they needed me to do. I knocked down the first two and I felt good, so I had a good night.”
Al-Farouq Aminu put up 12 points to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers.
The Mavericks were led by a season-high 40 points from Dirk Nowitzki, who also moved into a tie for 15th in NBA history in made three-pointers with 1,682.
“Guarding Dirk in a pick and roll is difficult and it always has been,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I know what a competitor he is and I know that he is someone who has these types of games. So what he did tonight I’ve seen it a few times.”
Deron Williams handed out a season-high 16 assists while going 11-of-18 from the field for 31 points while former Trail Blazer Wesley Matthews went 5-of-7 from three for 15 points to go with five rebounds and three assists. Reserve center Salah Mejri put up career-highs in rebounds (14) and blocks (six) while scoring 13 in the win.
Dallas shot 55 percent (49-of-89) from the field and 60 percent (15-of-25) from three for the game.
Next up, the Trail Blazers return home to host a rubber match versus the Mavericks at the Moda Center.
“The good news is we get the same team in a couple of day,” said Plumlee. “So it’ll be a really good game, make some adjustments. I think it’ll have a little of a playoff feel to play back-to-back the same team… Looking forward to it.”
Tipoff has been re-scheduled for 7 pm.