The Portland Trail Blazers broke a four-game road losing streak Wednesday night in New York with a 94-90 victory against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, the Trail Blazers move to 35-14 on the season and are 16-9 away from the Moda Center this season.
It looked as though the Trail Blazers might pull away late in the game thanks to holding the Knicks to 28 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers by J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. cut Portland’s lead to 89-87 with 50 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, LaMarcus Aldridge hit a turnaround jumper over Tyson Chandler to give the Portland a 91-87 lead. Though he struggled mightily from the field for most of the night, Aldridge said after the game that he never doubted his shot-making ability with the game on the line.
“I had just made like one or two (shots) before that,” said Aldridge. “I knew it. I had the whole game to miss shots so I felt like I was due some makes. Law of averages have to catch up sooner or later, so I just felt like I had made one easy one and one tough one so I felt like I was going to make it.”
“The shot he hit, he’s been doing that all year,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “But it’s a tough shot and Tyson Chandler contested it. He’s been doing that for us all season and that’s why we went to him.”
As he backpedaled after making the shot, Aldridge stared down Madison Square Garden courtside mainstay Spike Lee after the famous director and long time Knicks season ticket holder had been riding him for his five of 17 night from the field.
“He messed with me all night because I hadn’t scored,” said Aldridge. “He was just talking about Tyson Chandler guarding me. And he said … ‘Keep locking him up.’ I made the one shot, I kind of laughed at him. I made the big shot, I just starred at him and he was like, ‘My bad. My bad.’”
Aldridge said that the back and forth with the director of “Do The Right Thing” and “Oldboy” was just an ancillary benefit of playing in the most famous arena in the world.
“Part of being here in The Garden,” said Aldridge, who finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a block. “Definitely that was fun for me.”
While Aldridge would hit the shot that gave the Trail Blazers the cushion they would need to come away with the victory, it was stout team defense that would put Portland in a position to sweep the season series.
“I thought our defense all game was pretty good,” said Stotts. “For us to win a game shooting 38 percent is not an easy thing to do. Carmelo (Anthony) didn’t score in the fourth quarter, Wes (Matthews) I thought did a nice job, (Aldridge) was guarding a perimeter guy most of the night and he was chasing Hardaway off the screens. (Robin Lopez) was protecting the basket and changing shots at the rim. I thought except for a couple of times, we did a good job on their pick-and-rolls.”
The Trail Blazers held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting for the night and 28 percent in the fourth quarter, which was necessary considering Portland made just four of their 17 shots in the final 12 minutes.
“We got the job done on defense and we have to give credit to Wes who did a great job on Carmelo,” said Nicolas Batum. “He didn’t score in the last quarter and got bad percentage shots. It was team defense too, but when you struggle like that, you have to stick together and play together.”
Batum provided much of Portland’s offense with 20 points on nine of 15 shooting while also pulling down ten rebounds to finish the night with a double-double.
“I have to be more aggressive,” said Batum. “The last two weeks I didn’t really score the ball really well, so we try to change that the last three or four games. If we want to win games we have to be aggressive, so I try to do it.”
“I thought Nic played a good all-around game,” said Stotts. “I thought he was a facilitator, he took opportunities when they were there, he took the ball to the basket, took shots that were there. He made a big play for us in a pick and roll play out of a timeout that was a big basket for us.”
Wesley Matthews hit three of his six three-pointers and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes. Damian Lillard added 12 points and four assists in the winning effort.
Portland was also buoyed by the performance of their bench, which scored 20 combined points one game after being held to just six points in Monday night’s loss to the Wizards. Stotts has tinkered with his rotation infrequently this season, but against the Knicks, he opted to insert Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard, players who had seen little time over the last month, in place of CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson.
The Knicks were lead by Carmelo Anthony, who scored a game-high 26 points on 28 shots. J.R. Smith finished with 18 points of the bench while Amar’e Stoudemire and Hardaway Jr. added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Trail Blazers now head west to start the second half of the four-game trip in Indianapolis against the Pacers on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 PM Pacific.
Neither Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard nor Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love were selected to participate in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game taking place Sunday night in Toronto. But instead of spending their time sulking, the point guard who plays in Portland and the power forward who grew up just down the road in Lake Oswego, aka The Brothers Hooper, hit the studio to collaborate on the new “Droppin’ Dimes” track for State Farm…
It’s not nearly as serious as Lillard’s “Bigger Than Us” video, but every discography needs some good party tracks.
Howdy kind listeners. Before we all take some much needed respite before the start of a brutal March schedule, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studios at the Moda Center to record an All-Star break edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this week’s episode we marvel at the Trail Blazers being 27-27, good for seventh in the Western Conference, and how that’s going to cost Freeman some money/beer at some point, the emergence of Maurice Harkless since joining the starting lineup, Portland rising while other teams in their general range struggle, discuss how we’ll be spending our respective All-Star breaks and answer a host of questions pertaining to the upcoming trade deadline, Gerald Henderson’s tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard passing Brandon Roy and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve already since forgotten. As I noted during the show, my brain is already on vacation.
You can find the Rip City Report on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And consider using a small portion of the time you would usually spend watching the Blazers to give us a review on iTunes! You can be as mean as you want!
Though they were never teammates, Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy manage to talk from time to time. Their relationship started not long after Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft and they’ve stayed in contact ever since over the years. During those somewhat regular chats, the current and former faces of the Trail Blazers’ franchise sometimes discuss the responsibility that comes with that title, especially at a relatively young age, and what could have been if the 6-3 guard out of Weber State and the now-retired 6-6 guard out of Washington ever had the opportunity to play alongside each other in Rip City.
And the next time they talk, they’ll have something new to discuss. With his 31-point performance in Tuesday night’s victory versus the Rockets, Lillard passed Roy for 15th in franchise history in points. Lillard now has 6,119 in less than four seasons in Portland, surpassing the the 6,107 points that Roy scored in five seasons before knee injuries ended his career far too prematurely.
“I mean, that’s an honor,” said Lillard of passing Roy. “Just to be moving up on that list period, but I mean, if Brandon Roy got to play as long as he should have played and people would have liked to have seen him play, I probably would never pass him, so it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor you know, but the more important thing is just continuing to be myself and continuing to win games.”
Which Lillard has done an excellent job of his season. He’s the only player to rank in the top-6 in both scoring (24.3 points per game) and assists (7.3 assist per game) this season and has led the Trail Blazers to a 27-27 record this season, vastly outperforming preseason expectations, despite being the only holdover from last season’s starting five.
Though he’s had plenty of help this season from the likes of CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, Lillard’s performance through 54 games is the the primary reason that the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference. Roy, a three-time All-Star, was a fantastic player in his own right, a player whose peak performances are still the stuff of legend in Portland, but even he never carried the load that Lillard has this season. And of course, Lillard has already helped the Trail Blazer win a playoff series in his first four season in Portland, something Roy never accomplished.
“He’s been pretty good in a short amount of time,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of Lillard. “I mean, Brandon Roy, I wasn’t here for that, but I know what an imprint he made on the city and the franchise and how important he was to the Blazers. The fact that Damian has passed him this early in his career really says something because I know how good Brandon was. I know his career was cut short but everybody here holds him in high regard.”
Assuming Lillard experiences relatively good health — the seven games he missed this season due to plantar fascitiis are the only games he’s missed in his profession career thus far — there’s no reason to think that he won’t replace Roy as the best guard to play in Portland since Clyde Drexler, if he hasn’t taken that mantel already. But Roy can take some satisfaction in knowing that at least some of the success Lillard has had as a Trail Blazer was accomplished in part due to emulating the example he set on and off the court.
“When (Roy) got to Portland, a lot of the stuff he did, it brought excitement,” said Lillard. “I think the city really embraced him, they liked who he was as a person along with what he did as a player, obviously. I think because I kind of came and did the same thing, did some of the same things he did, I think he respects that… He was well respected, people appreciated the kind of person he was and he got it done on the floor. I think I can say the same for myself.”