Will Barton shocked the Dallas Mavericks, the Portland Trail Blazers, and every spectator in between with a career performance in last night’s 91-96 loss to Dallas. Starting shooting guard, Wesley Matthews, left the game in the second quarter after sustaining a right ankle sprain, and would not return; at which point, the Blazers trailed 22-40. It looked like another disappointing loss for Portland on the scoreboard and roster alike, but Barton really stepped up in Portland’s time of need.
Will’s Stat Line: 22 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers.
Barton shot 7/11 from the field and 8/9 from the free throw line. Perhaps more impressively, he was consistently able to post up Dallas’ Vince Carter and get important stops for Portland in the 4th quarter. Think about that for a moment. Will Barton is 6’5” 170 and Vince Carter is 6’6” 225. Carter has had one of the most notable resurgent seasons in recent memory and the wisp of NBA physique that is Will Barton was able to hold him to 2 points in the final frame.
Will’s exceptional play on both ends of the floor is what allowed Portland to stay in this game. In fact, there were a few instances in which Will made an exceptional pass only to have LaMarcus fail to convert (sorry big guy). Barton showed simply flawless decision making at times. He was in position to reel in the defensive rebound on nearly every possession, he was aggressive in traffic, he created opportunities for his teammates, and he finished when it counted. Actually, he finished many of his shots while being absolutely clobbered. The often silent whistles were not enough to keep him at bay and his ferocity paid dividends.
Barton’s determination was the highlight Portland needed to quell their late season’s erosive monotony. Sometimes the fans need to be reminded that although the outlook is bleak for now, there are rays of hope bursting through fog. There are moments in life that we take with us and grasp tightly in our loneliest instances of self-doubt; last night’s coming out party will be there for Will throughout his NBA career and beyond. As for me, seeing his reception from the home fans and the rest of his teammates when all was said and done was bigger than a W.
Of course, one night does not an all star make. Look for Barton to see extended minutes if Matthews remains sidelined for any period of time. He won’t get these numbers every night (or even again this season), but we all know what he is capable of. With excellence comes expectation, and this glimpse has left him teetering on the cusp of the latter.