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.