The Portland Trail Blazers spent the early part of this game looking like they’d been freezing in the Oregon rain all day, but eventually warmed up to overwhelm the Boston Celtics 112-104.
LaMarcus Aldridge kept things going all game, and was happy to be a part of a larger whole when everyone else woke up. He more or less hit his averages with 21, 13, and 4 with a block.
Nicolas Batum was aggressive. While at times it looked like his broken finger might have affected his shot, more often than not it didn’t, and his misses could have been chalked up to a number of other factors. His 16 points were sorely needed, and he chipped in his usual steal, block, and 7 each of rebounds and assists.
Robin Lopez’s offensive rebounding was also key to helping the Blazers overcome an apathetic start. His offensive rebound and two free throws pushed the lead to 8 points late, deflating the Celtics who were in the middle of a run. He finished with 15 and 13 and a block. He’s invaluable if the Blazers want postseason success.
In his 2nd NBA game, CJ McCollum darted out to 8 first-half points, leading all Blazers scorers midway through the 2nd quarter. He finished with just 10, but he did that on 4-6 shooting (2-3 from deep) in just 14 minutes. Efficient? Crafty? NBA-ready? Check, check, check.
Damian Lillard has been trying to dunk in traffic more. So long as he gets right back up, I have no problem with that. He had a 6-0 run to end the first half, but otherwise didn’t catch fire. He finished with 15 points and 6 assists on a bad shooting night, going 5-15 and 1-4 from deep.
Wesley Matthews had an unremarkable night… but if your “unremarkable” games give you 18, 5, and 3, it’s not such a bad thing.
Thomas Robinson gave the Blazers 10 very energetic minutes. The stats (2, 1, and 1) do not give him justice for how much progress he’s made this year, and it’s better-shown in the breakdown of a single play: with the ball near the key, T-Rob had his back to the basket and, instead of spinning like a washing machine, opted for patience and found Joel Freeland for the jumper. He’s not all grown up yet, but T-Rob’s getting there.
Mo Williams had his usual 11 points and 4 assists.
The Blazers began this game looking like they had been bathing in ice water: they were slow, tentative, and scared.
The Celtics, on the other hand, looked like they’d beer bonged about 2 bottles of Tabasco sauce, shooting over 70% for much of the first half before coming back down to “just” 61% after two quarters. The Blazers slowly warmed up, however, and after being down double-digits trailed by just two at the half, in no small part thanks to a 6-0 spurt by Damian Lillard. As mentioned earlier, CJ McCollum had 8 points in the half, hitting 2 threes and looking very much like he could take NBA-level defenders off the dribble, which is a great sign indeed.
The Blazers got their first lead of the game in the third, building it up before giving some of it away to find themselves up 4 going into the fourth. Tired of having good offense zeroed out by crap defense, the Blazers relegated Boston to shooting jumpers, and as the law of averages would be proud to know, they stopped falling. The Blazers were grabbing o-boards like their lives depended on it, keeping their foot on the gas to get up by as many as 13. The Celtics never threatened after that. When Boston got it down to 6 and had three attempts to cut it to 4, the Blazers got it back, and Robin Lopez was fouled on an offensive rebound, making both free throws to push it back to 8 for the final margin.
The 28-9 Blazers stay at home and get a long break before hosting the 13-23 Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, January 15 at 7 p.m.
- The Blazers’ poor start and inability to manage a lead early was not because of their offense, it was their defense. They don’t have to be ELITE defenders, but for the love of Pete, they have to close out and get their hands up on shooters to induce that twinge of doubt on the release. By the time the Blazers figured that out, Boston was already confident and rolling.
- CJ McCollum had a spectacular first half. Small sample size aside, he looks legit.
- A sweet possession in the fourth: Lillard missed, but Lopez grabbed the rebound, kicking out to Lillard who missed again, but that rebound careend to Williams, who faked the shot on the drive to dump it to LMA for the tap-in. So smooth so confident.
- The Blazers had a season-high 20 offensive boards, but also gave up the same to Boston.
- As mentioned earlier, Lillard is more and more looking to dunk in traffic. He hasn’t flushed a contested one as far as I’ve seen, but he’s tried 3 or 4 times over the last few games.
- Batum had a marvelous skip pass on the break to Matthews, who was fouled. Broken finger or no, Batum loves him some passing.