The Portland Trail Blazers entered Friday night’s contest with an eight-game winning streak, which looked to be dead on arrival with the Bulls jumping all over a seemingly road-weary Portland squad to start the game. But a Moda Center-fueled comeback in the third quarter put the Blazers in position to defeat the Bulls 98-95 .
“It’s the best crowd in the NBA and we need them the rest of the season,” said Wesley Matthews. “It’s going to be a long ride hopefully. We’re geared up and we want them to be geared up. Every game should be like that.”
The victory extends Portland’s win streak to nine games and their overall record to 11-2. The win also gave Portland their fifth-straight victory against Chicago, a team that has not won in Portland since Feb. 2006.
“I thought that was as impressive a half of basketball as we’ve played at both ends of the floor,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Obviously, defensively we picked it up in the third quarter. I wish we’d played like that at the beginning of the game, but it’s good to know we have that in us. We can point to that as what we need to do more often. It was a great effort in the second half.”
Portland trailed 59-44 going into the third quarter, but a furious rally, lead by the all-around offensive exposition by Wesley Matthews and lockout defense resulted in the Trail Blazers outscoring Chicago 34-12 in the quarter to take a 78-71 lead into the fourth.
“We didn’t change any schemes – we just played harder, played better, played with more focus, more intensity, more attitude – all the things basically that Chicago did in the first half,” said Stotts of his team’s third quarter performance. “Our mindset and our approach to the game in the second half was what we needed in against a team like Chicago that’s been through a lot together and they know how to compete at a very high level consistently. We did that in the second half.”
And there was one other facet Stotts didn’t mention: pride.
“There was intensity and pride,” said Nicolas Batum. “On this situation it’s not about basketball, it’s just about pride. They kick us. They kick us in the first half. Dominating the ball, they played harder than us, they wanted it more than us. So when we came back it wasn’t about plays and basketball, just who wants it more. Second half we got 34-12. You show it, we wanted it more than them.”
But even with Derrick Rose leaving the game toward the end of the third with an apparent right knee injury, the Bulls counter-punched, and hard, to start the fourth. Led by Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls outscored the Trail Blazers 24-10 in the first nine minutes of the final quarter to take a 95-91 lead with 3:15 to play. Back-to-back three-pointers by Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum and a long two-pointer from Matthews gave Portland a 96-95 lead with 1:37 to play.
The Bulls had numerous chances to take the lead with under 30 seconds to play, but neither Hinrich or Mike Dunleavy could find the the mark late, leading to a shot clock violation with 12 second to play. LaMarcus Aldridge, who struggled from the field all night, was fouled and sent to the line with seven seconds to play. Aldridge has had issues at time with late-game free throws, but that wasn’t the case Friday, as he made both from the line, giving the Blazers a three-point victory.
Matthews ended the game with 28 points on 12 of 19 shooting to go along with two rebounds and two steals. While he sparked Portland’s third quarter run, he also got off to yet another great start, scoring 10 points on four of six shooting in the first quarter. He is shooting 26-44 (59.1%) from the field and 15-for-25 from 3-point range (60.0%) in first quarters this season and has been even better in the past five games, going 18-for-27 (66.7%) from the field and 12-for-18 (66.7%) from beyond the arc.
Stotts said Matthews’ first 13 games of the 2013-14 season are the best he’s seen his starting shooting guard play.
“I just take it and roll with it and try to build on it,” said Matthews. “I appreciate the compliment. I appreciate that but I can’t settle. As soon as I settle, that’s when I get content and I’m not helping my team. My thing is I’m hungry all the time, I want to get better all the time. I watch film, see what I did wrong and try to be ready and do better tomorrow.”
Batum turned in a 17-point, eight-rebound, five-steal, three-assist performance while playing superb defense on Rose in the third quarter. Batum is the fifth NBA player this year to record at least 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a game (Anthony Davis, Josh Smith, Loul Deng, Stephen Curry).
Lillard bounced back from a slow start to end the night with 20 points, six assists and two rebounds. Robin Lopez kept Portland hanging on in the first half with nine points and nine rebounds and finished the game with a 13 points and 16 rebounds, a career high. double double.
“Robin was fantastic,” said Stotts. “He, obviously, was a presence in the paint. He got whatever rebounds he got – 16, but he kept pursuing the ball. Even the ones he didn’t get, he kept balls alive. He just plays hard. He’s a team guy and he wants to do what we need him to do.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors Saturday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM.
“Obviously we want to win games,” said Stotts. “Having the winning streak is nice and everything, but I think the way we’re approaching is just win the next game.”
PORTLAND — It wasn’t easy, but usually that’s the way things go in an elimination game.
Though it came down to the final seconds, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to defeat an undermanned Clippers team 106-103 Friday night at the Moda Center in Game Six of their first round playoff series. With the win, the Trail Blazers take the series 4-2 and move on to face the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champions, in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Trail Blazers, as was the case in Game Five at Staples Center, were never able to put the Clippers away in the first three quarters, with the visitors, playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, taking an 82-80 lead into the fourth quarter. Portland would erase that slim deficit and take a seven-point lead of their own late in the fourth, but the Clippers never relented, tying the game at 103-103 with 32.1 seconds to play.
But Mason Plumlee would save the day, as he’s done on multiple occasions in the first round, by securing an offense rebound and getting fouled while attempting a putback with 14.7 seconds to play. He’d make both free throws, and would go 1-of-2 from the line on the next possession, to secure the three-point win.
The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 9-of-21 from the field for 28 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. CJ McCollum went 7-of-16 from the field and 2-of-3 from three to add 20 points.
Plumlee finished with nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Maurice Harkless scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half to go with three rebounds in 29 minutes. Allen Crabbe went 5-of-9 to add 13 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Clippers had five players score in double figures led by Jamal Crawford, who went 10-of-25 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Austin Rivers, who was bloodied in the first quarter after catching an elbow from Al-Farouq Aminu, causing a gash that required 11 stitches, finished with 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Trail Blazers now move on to face the Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.
When the Western Conference first round series between the Trail Blazers and Clippers started, many assumed it would be a quick affair, with the Clippers eventually moving on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round. And after Warriors point guard Stephen Curry suffered a knee injury that will keep the reigning MVP sidelined for the start of the second round, much of the conversation revolved around how that would improve the Clippers’ chances of beating the defending champs in the Western Conference semifinals. The fact that the Clippers still had to beat the Trail Blazers two more times didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
A few days later, that narrative has flipped. Leading the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch in Game Six tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on KGW, ESPN and 620 AM), the Trail Blazers are now Golden State’s presumptive opponent, as injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have all but ended the Clippers’ playoff run.
But just as the Clippers still had to win four games to advance, so too do the Trail Blazers, which is a good reminder that there are no such thing as inevitability when it comes to sports. “That’s why the play the game,” might be trite, but it’s still as true as it ever was, something the Trail Blazers know as well as any team still alive in the postseason.
“We just go out there and play, we don’t really pay attention to what’s being said,” said CJ McCollum. “You can’t read into that too much. First we were supposed to get swept, first we were just happy to win a game, so you just go play. You don’t really worry about the other stuff, you just control what you can control, keep your mindset the same, understand that nothing is inevitable. You’ve got to go out there and play.”
Though the Trail Blazers were able to beat the Clippers 108-98 at Staples Center in Game Five sans Paul and Blake, a team led by JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers still managed to take a five-point lead into the half and had the game tied at 71-71 going into the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if any team, including Portland, can just roll the ball out in a playoff game and expect to emerge with the victory. After all, if that were the case, the Clippers would already be in Oakland preparing for the Western Conference semifinals.
“We understand that they’re a good team,” said McCollum “Regardless of what’s happened, regardless of what injuries they’ve gone through, they’re still a good team and we’ve still got to go play the game.”
And we’re back. After the Trail Blazers defeated a shorthanded Clippers team 109-98 in Game Five at Staples Center to take a 3-2 lead in the first round series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studios once again to deliver another playoff edition of the Rip City Report podcast. Please consider listening…
On this episode, Joe and I discuss the Trail Blazers being on the verge of winning just their second playoff series in the last 16 years, what we’re expecting to see during Game Six Friday in Portland, make our picks for the Trail Blazers’ MVP and most surprising during the first five games, how the injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin change the narrative surrounding the series and answer some of your Twitter-submitted questions regarding Chris Kaman’s birthday, non-Moda Center places to watch Game Six, player playoff bonuses and give a few binge watching suggestions, not that you’d ever need to watch TV again with all these fine podcasts we’re providing for you.