The Blazers grabbed an early lead, then played dead for 2 and a half quarters before Wesley Matthews and Thomas Robinson woke everyone else up, and the Blazers sprinted to the finish to beat the Orlando Magic 110-94.
We’re starting with CJ McCollum as it was his first ever game as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. He looked like he needs some time to get his sea legs, finishing with just 4 points, 2 boards, and a steal in 14 minutes, but to me it looks like the Blazers are going to have themselves another weapon. Bonus note: running his first fast break didn’t end well, as he got flustered and lost the ball, but it thankfully caromed off the Magic and the Blazers got the ball back.
Nicolas Batum stayed in the game a little later than he needed to. Catching a wobbly rebound off a Magic miss to get a triple double, he finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 14 assists. He deserved that last rebound, as he had two rebounds snatched from him by Thomas Robinson and one by Damian Lillard late in the game. I guess his broken finger isn’t bothering him much.
Damian Lillard’s three-point stroke is flawless. He had a bad shooting night, but boy, you just know those things are going in even before he catches the ball. Lillard finished with 11 points and 7 assists off just 4-12 shooting (3-8 from downtown).
Wesley Matthews worked very, very hard (in tandem with Thomas Robinson) to bring the energy up when all hope seemed to be lost. He didn’t have the best game, but he was determined to make it a far sight better than his 9-point effort the day before. He had 17, 5, and 4.
Robin Lopez did his job and got plenty of rest, rumbling his way to 7 and 7 with a few blocks. I’m wondering if his back is still giving him trouble, as he’s been seen laying down in front of the bench quite a bit lately.
I tweeted after LaMarcus Aldridge’s second shot that he’d go for 30, and he didn’t disappoint. The L-Train pulled into the station with 36 points and 9 board with 3 blocks, abusing Glen Davis and whoever else Orlando threw at him. He was ready to go early, and while he flagged as the Blazers went through a prolonged slump, he was, for a long while, the only Blazer doing anything right.
Thomas Robinson brought the energy like the pied piper brings rats. His +22 was a team-high, and he did that in 11 scant minutes. He may have only had 6 points and 3 with a block, but he played like his life depended on it and he, along with Matthews, double-handedly pulled this game from the doldrums of low-energy mediocrity into a winnable affair. Kudos to T-Rob. Coach Stotts rewarded him by keeping him in late in the game.
Portland jumped out to an early double-digit lead, only to let it slip away with poor shooting as the Magic excelled. They found themselves down 51-45 at the half. If LaMarcus hadn’t have had over 20 points, looking about as prepared and eager as ever, the game would have been REALLY ugly.
The third was an exercise in futility as the Blazers played nothing like the league-leading team they had been for a good chunk of the season. Making the Magic look good is no easy task, but Portland did it, and found themselves down 4 to start the fourth.
That’s when Thomas Robinson and Wesley Matthews decided to show everyone what true hustle looks like, pestering the Magic on defense and darting around like minnows in a wishing pond on offense. The Blazers regained the lead with 11 minutes to go in the game. At 8 minutes it was 5 points. At 5 minutes it was 8 points. Then the home team got all crispy. The Blazers got up 15 with 2 minutes to go, and that was all she wrote.
Portland gets a breather before facing the Boston Celtics at the RoseModa GardenCenter at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, January 11th.
- The Blazers were 4 of 20 from three through three quarters, and 5-10 in the fourth.
- T-Rob had a nasty, nasty putback over a few Magic players in the fourth. I think it was left-handed, too. That should be illegal.
- Lillard hits threes so deep the Mariana Trench gets jealous.
- Lillard also tried to pack it in on Victor Oladipo. Having none of it, Oladipo rejected Lillard, and hard. It’s really good to see Lillard attempting these dunks though, as he also tried yesterday on DeMarcus Cousins and didn’t get too far. Confidence is good.
- After a stretch of disappointing games, Dorell Wright has been replaced in the Blazers’ lineup by both Will Barton and a fresh-off-an-injury CJ McCollum. For a solid vet, that’s gotta hurt at least a little. Here’s hoping he takes it as a challenge and proves he deserves minutes.
- The Blazers nearly doubled their opponent in points in the paint, 42-24. There’s something you don’t hear that often.