Offense wins fans. Defense wins Championships. Throughout the Blazers exhibition season, Coach Stotts has stressed that defense will be a focal point for the team this year. In the last three exhibition games, it looks as if concentrating on defense is paying off.
In the past three games, the Blazers have held their opponents to a combined 37.2 field goal percentage and have outrebounded them by an average of 16 boards a game. In Fridays game, they held the Clippers to 35 percent on field goals and outrebounded them 56 to 38 without LaMarcus Aldridge in the starting lineup. The defense frustrated All-Star, Chris Paul, and he finished with just 7 points and 3 assists, shooting 2 of 7 from the floor. Only two Clippers scored in double figures. In a game in which the Blazers turned the ball over 29 times, their defense carried them.
Having Robin Lopez at center seems to be keeping guards out of the paint, and his tough defense against opposing centers has led to teams settling for outside jump shots. Last season, the Blazers ranked 26th in defensive efficiency and were second, only to the Milwaukee Bucks, in opponents attempts from less than 5 feet. Not a good formula for defensive success. Much of this was due to undersized center, JJ Hickson. With Lopez, Aldridge, and Batum’s length in the starting lineup, the Blazers should be more effective this season at defending the paint.
Portland has also changed their defensive scheme on pick and rolls. In 2012-13, the Blazers would switch when an opposing team’s big man would set a pick. This usually resulted in either the opposing teams big man making an easy shot over a smaller guard, or their point guard blowing by one of the Blazer bigs for an easy layup. This exhibition season, the Blazers have been fighting through screens to get back to their man to avoid these easy looks for opponents.
I know it’s only the exhibition season and the Blazers have a long road ahead of them, but if they can play consistently stout defense, good things will come for this team.