The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 42-19 on the season and 24-8 at home with a 102-78 wire-to-wire victory against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,043 at the Moda Center.
“A really good bounce back win for us, especially going out on the road,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “After the Laker game and a disappointment with how we played, it was a good defensive effort. We shared the ball. Just an all-around good game for us in a lot of ways.”
After getting off to one of their worst starts in recent memory Monday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Trail Blazers looked determined to make sure the issue wouldn’t repeat itself on Wednesday.
“We were playing against a similar team [to the Lakers],” said Wesley Matthews. “They shoot threes, they run, they get up in transition. They have a lot of guys who can shoot at a high clip. If they get hot, if you give any team confidence in this league, anything can happen. We just saw that against the Lakers. We wanted to correct ourselves on what we did the other night and we were able to do that.”
Portland held Atlanta to just 23 percent shooting in the first quarter one on side of the ball while shooting 46 percent on the other. The Trail Blazers also won the first quarter rebounding battle 15-10, all of which helped the home team take a 29-19 lead into the second quarter.
Things only got worse for the Hawks in the second half. Playing without All-Star power forward Paul Milsap (knee), Atlanta struggled to find consistent scoring, following up a five field goals in the first quarter with just six in the second.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers shot an impressive 7 of 15 from the three-point line and continued to stretch their rebounding advantage thanks in part to Nicolas Batum, who pulled down 13 rebound in the first half (the Hawks as a team only had 19). By time the intermission arrived, Portland had a 56-38 victory despite LaMarcus Aldridge going 0 of 6 in the first half.
“My timing is just off,” said Aldridge, who finished the night 1 for 13 from the field. “Since coming back, I haven’t felt like my timing has been great. I was really trying to find it in my minutes that I was out there and they were double-teaming some and were trying to dig a lot, so I was trying to force the issue on my rhythm, but I definitely didn’t find it tonight. I’ll find it tomorrow at practice.”
Even with Aldridge struggling, the Trail Blazers would come out early in the third quarter to put the Hawks away for good. Portland would lead by as many as 24 in the third and 29 in the fourth, allowing for Stotts to keep all of his starters under 30 minutes while still coasting to a comfortable victory.
“There was a lot to like,” said Stotts. “We rebounded the ball well, we took away transition. When we switched their pick and rolls I thought LA in particular and our big guys did a good job of containing Teague in his penetration. Our rim protection, when he did penetrate, Robin [Lopez] or LA or Meyers [Leonard] was there.”
With the game well in hand, the only suspense in the second half was whether Kyle Korver’s streak of 127 consecutive games with a made three-pointer would come to an end. But with the game all but decided, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer opted to keep Korver on the bench rather than chase what is already an NBA record.
“He’s a competitive guy,” said Budenholzer of Korver. “He’s going to want to be ready to play our next game. It’s a heck of a streak. We all feel fortunate to be part of it. He’s an amazing competitor, an amazing shooter and we’ll all move on.”
The Hawks shot just 4 of 27 as a team from three, with Korver missing all five of his attempts while being hounded defensively by Matthews.
“Just make it uncomfortable for him,” said Matthews of his approach to guarding Korver. “He likes space. I had the pleasure to be on the other side when he was on my team in Utah and I saw what happened when he got space. Kyle can light it up any given night and I was trying to make sure it wasn’t tonight.”
Batum went as far as calling Matthews Korver’s “boyfriend” for the night, in that wherever Korver went, Matthews went, too.
“It was just a bad game all around for us,” said Korver. “I’m a little bummed for sure, but it was good while it lasted. I think someday we’ll look back on it and be proud, but obviously it was just a tough game all around for us and that was part of it.”
While one noteworthy streak came to an end, Batum’s run of double-digit rebounding games continued unabated with the forward setting a new career-high with 18 boards.
“Like I’ve been saying the last two games, just try to crash the boards a little more than I used to,” said Batum, who has pulled down 49 rebounds in his last three games. “I try help the big inside because he does a good job protecting the rim. Sometimes Robin tries to block the shot so I have to rotate and get a rebound.”
With his career-high, Batum becomes the fifth Trail Blazers since 1985 and the seventh player in the NBA this year to put up three straight games of at least 15 rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers begin a five-game road trip in Dallas versus the Mavericks.
“It’s going to be a really tough road trip for us,” said Aldridge, “but if we go out and take care of business and keep playing defense like we did tonight, anything is possible.”
Tipoff is scheduled 5:30 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.”