Damian Lillard helped lead the Blazers late in their blowout win over the Kings on Wednesday. Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Game 27 Recap: Blazers 109, Kings 91

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Linton Kwesi Johnson is what as known as a dub-poet. According to Wikipedia, his performance poetry includes recitation of his own verse in Jamaican Patois delivered over dub-reggae. It’s an obscure sub-genre within spoken-word poetry, a type of performance art that barely anybody knows or cares about.

LKJ is amazing. Here’s an example:

That piece is called “If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet.” You can read the words here if you’re like everybody on Earth and had no idea what LKJ was on about.

So what is this all about?

Well, if I was a cynical Blazer fan, I would ask, how come this team can play so well one night against the Sacramento Kings that they ended the game at halftime, but only after getting embarrassed by the same Kings not once but twice?

If I was a cynical Blazer fan, I would ask, when will Portland be able to make a 26-point fourth-quarter lead hold up without the help of five guys who are all averaging at least 30 minutes a game (two of those five averaging nearly 40 minutes)?

If I was a cynical Blazer fan, I would ask, seriously, with the minutes distribution being what it is and Portland’s bench being wildly inconsistent, how long can we expect this team to go without an actual injury? And when/if that injury happens how long does it take before a promising season slips away?

If I was a cynical Blazer fan, I would ask, is Terry Stotts continuing to start Victor Claver because he lost a bet?

But I’m not a cynical Blazer fan, so I won’t be asking those questions. Instead, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to forget that Portland “managed” a series tie with the Kings, a team that will finish at or very near the bottom of the Western Conference. I’m also going to forget that the Blazers are about to go on the road for another long trip and that they are 4-9 away from the Rose Garden and look like a very different team when they aren’t in front of their home crowd.

Forgetting all those things, Wednesday went about as well as it could have possibly gone for Portland. The Blazers needed to get stops. They needed to not get killed by Sacramento’s deep shooters. And they needed to dictate the pace and dominate the run of play. They did all of those things. And they did them in spades.

Portland put up a gaudy box score Wednesday night. If you’re into that kind of thing, here are the numbers that stand out: 50 points in the paint, 20 fast break points, 27 second half points. Sacramento was close to Portland in fast break points with 18, an indication that Wednesday’s game was played at a break-neck speed and wasn’t always totally under control. Other than that though, the Kings’ 36 points in the paint and 11 second chance points were way off the pace set by the home team. That’s about as close to team domination on the offensive side as we’ve seen from the Blazers this season.

On the defensive end too, Portland was clearly the better team. Sacramento shot 41% from the field and 38% from three. Those are decent numbers for the Kings, considering the overall sense of futility that their offense engendered. What was pretty key, though, for the Blazers was not letting every dude in a Sacramento jersey go off all at the same time. John Salmons had himself a nice evening, shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from deep, and finishing with 19 points to lead the Kings. But a good game from Salmons was tempered by bad shooting nights from Marcus Thornton (2-of-9 from the field and 2-0f-6 from three), James Johnson (2-of-9 from the field 0-of-1 from three), and Isaiah Thomas (4-0f-11 from the field and 2-of-5 from three).

The Blazers keyed in on team defense, just like they keyed in on team offense. Sacramento is a team built on one-on-one players. Portland isn’t. By playing team defense that forced the Kings’ shooters into contested threes and kept Jason Thompson out of the lane for most of the evening, the Blazers were able to capitalize on Sacramento’s weak decision making and shot making, and were able to get out in the open court for easy scores. Easy scores were the difference for Portland Wednesday. Figuring out how to reliably develop easy baskets is the only thing the Blazers should be focusing on for the next couple of games.

As he’s been most of the season, Damian Lillard was the story Wednesday night. Sure LaMarcus Aldridge scored an efficient 28 points shooting 11-of-21 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line, J.J. Hickson added 17 points and 14 rebounds for his ninth-straight double-double, and Nicolas Batum filled up the stat sheet (for better and worse) yet again with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, and six turnovers, but it was two threes from Portland’s marquee rookie that put this game on ice when the Blazers’ bench let Sacramento cut what was a 25-point lead by 12 with less than six minutes remaining in the game.

Lillard has done it all and more this season. He’s exceeded even the grandest expectations. Wednesday it was his calming hand that put the finishing touches on an important win. It will be what he didn’t do Wednesday, though, that was on everybody’s mind after the horn sounded. Lillard finished with 17 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds, two boards shy of a triple-double. Damian is going to get a triple-double this season, and when he does, he’ll basically lock-up the Rookie of the Year award.

Post game, head coach Terry Stotts asked if he would leave a guy in late in a decided game in a effort to get that guy a triple-double. Stotts said he would. When Damian was asked if it meant anything to him to collect a triple-double, he uncharacteristically said that yes it did mean something to him, and in fact when he realized he was closing in on 10 boards he actually started chasing them down. Like I said, that triple-double is coming. My only hope is that it happens at home so the Rose Garden fans can give their new favorite guy the ovation he deserves.

Portland had a second rookie show up Wednesday night, though, and if you ask me there’s a good chance that the performance of that rookie might be the biggest overall takeaway. Will Barton played 26 minutes and contributed 14 points, 10 in the first half. He couldn’t shut the door by himself, and wasn’t on the floor when the Blazers made their final push to seal the deal, but he was a big part of Portland’s big first half that basically put the game away in 24 minutes.

When asked about Barton, Damian said his co-rookie doesn’t lack at all for confidence. Barton concurred. That being said, getting some solid minutes and looking sharp in those minutes should be a big confidence booster. My feeling is that since Victor Claver has been a non-entity as a starter and since Wesley Matthews is still out, Will Barton should be in the starting lineup Friday against the Lakers. What more does a young guy need to jump start what could be a very promising career than getting rewarded for a big night by getting into the starting lineup at the Staples Center?

That’s all I’ve got for this one.

Box Score

Standings

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]

Will Barton had a season-best in scoring Wednesday night with 14. Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

 

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