The Blazers marched into Boston and finally remembered not to overlook their opponent, drowning the hapless Celtics with better shooters, better rebounders, and just a better team for a 109-96 victory to kick off a 4-game road swing. Boston hung on for two and a half quarters before breathing a heavy sigh and giving up.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus “Oh THAT’S where my shooting touch went!” Aldridge, who shot over 60% from the field with 27 points and 12 boards (he probably could have added more). They also delighted in the play of Mo “I’m Not Chucking Anymore!” Williams who jolted the Blazers out of a few lulls in timely fashion. Mo ended up with 18 and 8 assists in his best outing in black and red.
Themes of the night:
- Nicolas Batum should get a shoulder-breaking pat on the back for not giving up. The poor guy started the night 0-5, but he didn’t surrender to himself. He stayed aggressive, refusing to revert to passivity as he’s so often done when his shot is off. He finished the second quarter with consecutive threes (which also woke up the Blazers’ three-point shooting, as they started 2-10 from downtown) and ended up with a very solid game. When you shoot 6-15 and 4-10 from deep for 18 points after missing your first five shots, you know you’re developing mental toughness. He also contributed 6 assists, 5 boards, and 2 steals in classic Batum fashion. Being able to overcome a rough start is a very positive development for him moving forward.
- LaMarcus’ swagger was back! I was wondering where it had gone. It’s less about the stats and more about his presence, which opens up so, so much for this team. When he plays like a superstar, this is a playoff team. When he doesn’t, they’re not. Simple as that. It doesn’t even matter if he stuffs stats: his threat looms very large for opponents when he’s got it in his head that he’s the best player on the court.
- Dear Mo Williams. I… I’m sorry. I have bagged on him a LOT this season, but he’s starting to do exactly what I and countless others were hoping he’d do: stop chucking and start taking advantage of his reputation to pull defenders to open the floor for others. Also, his curl-toward-the-middle foul-line jumper is looking oh so sweet. As mentioned earlier, this was his best game as a Blazer.
- Something good to see: the Blazers didn’t blow it after piling a lead. That’s a lesson learned from games past, and Aldridge (among others) made it a point of emphasis after letting the Kings and the Piston back into games that should have been put away. Tonight they were ahead by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter, and when the lead was cut to 7 on a Jared Sullinger three, those familiar twinges and knots surfaced in the stomachs of Blazers fans statewide. Rather than panicking, Portland clapped the door shut and ended up winning by double digits. It’s nice to see a team go from TALKING about improving in a given area to actually DOING it. And so quickly, too.
- Damian Lillard had yet another non-dominant offensive game, finishing with 17 on 6-15 shooting (2-6 from three), 4 assists, and 6 turnovers. While you’d like to see him drop 30 every night, which he’s capable of doing, it’s a really good thing that a) the Blazers can win when he has an off-night, and b) an “off-night” for him still means 17 points.
- Lopez did his thing, but the stats didn’t show it. It didn’t matter: you can tell when he’s on the court. He had 10 boards and a block with 3 points.
- Thomas Robinson is improving. He’s going north-south on offense more, staying active, and earning his time on court. He chipped in 8 points and 4 rebounds in just 12 minutes (or 24 and 12 per 36, though that’s often misleading).
- Dorell Wright had an off-game, but that’s allowed. He’s still better than anything Portland had off the bench last year. 3 points and 4 boards in 15 minutes.
- Joel Freeland also had an off-game, and he didn’t have his usual aura about him. That’s allowed too. 2 points and 4 boards in 12 minutes.
- Will Barton, Victor Claver, and Allen Crabbe all saw a single minute of garbage time. Meyers Leonard stayed behind with an illness.
The Blazers take a 5-game winning streak and a 7-2 record (only the second time they’ve been 7-2 or better to start a season since 1999) to Toronto to face the 4-6 Raptors on Sunday at 10am. Set your alarm clocks.