The Portland Trail Blazers won their 40th game of the season Wednesday night in blowout fashion with a 124-80 victory versus the Nets to sweep the season series in front of a sellout crowd of 20,015 at the Moda Center.
The 44-point deficit is tied for the eighth-largest margin of victory in franchise history. It is also the largest margin of victory for either team in the history of the series. Brooklyn’s 80 points are the fewest points allowed by the Trail Blazers this season.
Portland now sits in third in the Western Conference standings, three games back from Oklahoma City for the top spot. The Trail Blazers have now won four-straight despite playing without three-time All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (strained left groin).
The win was all the more impressive considering the Trail Blazers played the night before in Denver and were severely undersized without the services of Aldridge (left groin strain), Thomas Robinson (left patella tendon strain), Joel Freeland (right MCL sprain) and Meyers Leonard (left ankle sprain).
With so many players injured, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was forced to play smallball lineups almost exclusively while looking to the end of the bench for help. He got plenty of it, particularly from guard/forward Will Barton and power forward Victor Claver.
“Well, I didn’t see that coming,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was a good effort by everybody who played. I thought really the turning point in the game was the second group at the end of the first quarter — Mo, C.J., Will, Victor and Wes, they really picked up the energy, got aggressive. We were undersized but we did a lot of good things during that stretch. We were able to just keep going from there, but I thought that group really did an important job for us in the first half.”
The Trail Blazers took a nine-point lead into the second quarter, which the bench unit pushed to 24 by the halftime intermission to put the rout into motion.
Barton, averaging just 6.1 minutes per game this season, provided a spark off the bench, something he’s done more often recently as his minutes have seen an increase due to injures.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Barton. “We got a win, a big-time win, without a lot of guys that were down and injured. This is huge for us to keep this winning streak going until we can get all of our guys healthy. We just went out there and balled, everybody, as a team.”
Barton provided his trademark flair, finishing numerous alley-oops and blocking shots at the rim, to finish with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists and a block. He is the first player with at least 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on better than 60 percent shooting since … Will Barton on April 7, 2013.
“Just playing within myself, being aggressive, playing hard, my teammates finding me for lobs,” said Barton of what he attributed his success Wednesday night to. “Just trusting me and believing in me out there. It was just a real big team effort. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone.”
Claver, who has played the vast majority of his minutes this season in the last three games, played center for much of the game and responded by scoring 13 points on five of seven shooting and five assists in 22 minutes.
“I knew it was going to be hard without all the big men,” said Claver. “When I came on the court and we played with a lot of energy, playing full-court defense, I think that pushed the team to play faster, we get some distance in the score.”
“Victor’s very smart and defensively, very rarely does he make a mistake,” said Stotts. “He’s in the right place at the right time. He’s very alert to what’s going on and he sees the game. Obviously, I thought Victor had a terrific game. There weren’t too many guys who didn’t have a terrific game tonight.”
Portland’s bench combined to score 68 points, including 13 points from rookie CJ McCollum. Mo Williams led the bench unit with 21 points, seven assists and six assists.
“We just go in to help,” said Williams. “The bench, as far as minutes-wise, we just big guys coming in and do our job. Some nights it’s going to be scoring baskets, some nights going to be just going in there and not messing up. I think that’s, for the most part, the bench guys, that’s what they do. With LA being out, those minutes have increased and we’ve been asked to do more. We’ve been asked to make plays and score the basketball and play minutes that we’ve not played all year … I thought we responded.”
With the game well in hand, Portland’s starters got some much needed rest on the second night of a back-to-back, with none of the first five playing more than 29 minutes.
“Guys came in – this wasn’t the first game that they came in ready and really stepped up for us,” said Damian Lillard, who finished with 14 points on six of 11 shooting after scoring 31 points the night before in Denver. “Will came in and flirted with a triple double. Same thing with Mo. Vic played a great game. Everybody kind of came in and played a great game. It wasn’t necessary for me to have to do a whole lot so it was good to get the rest and I’m excited we won the game.”
Nicolas Batum added 19 points, six rebounds and six assists and Robin Lopez finished with 11 points, eight rebounds in 26 minutes.
The Trail Blazers now have two days off to get healthy before hosting the Nuggets 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.”