The game wasn’t even that close.
The Blazers were up nearly 40 in the fourth before the bench collapsed. My hand-written notes looked like this: “111-73. 111-84. Uhhh… 111-90. 113-98 **** really? Worst 2nd unit shift ever. Yuck. Disgusting.” And that pretty much summed it up. Stotts was forced to put his starters back in to restore order, and that was that.
Both teams played the night before, so there were no excuses for fatigue… save for the fact that Dallas’ average team age is a good three years older than Portland’s. It’s possible that players like Shawn Marion (35), Vince Carter (36), and Dirk Nowitzki (35) are going to go rubber-legged more quickly than LaMarcus Aldridge (28), Damian Lillard (23), and Nicolas Batum (25), but that was far from the the only factor in this blowout.
The 31-9 (and West-leading!!!) Trail Blazers get a days’ rest before facing James “I-Flop-’Cause-I-Get-The-Calls” Harden and the 27-15 Rockets in Houston on Monday at 5 p.m. PST.
Note: every single Blazers starter sat the whole fourth quarter… was what I wrote before that epic collapse by Meyers and Company. Still, no Blazer played over 33 minutes, and that’s not so bad.
Whether he wanted to or not, LaMarcus Aldridge heard “LUNCHMEAT” every time he posted on Samuel Dalembert or DeJaun Blair. His +/- was +40 in this game. That is silly. Blazers announcers Mike and Mike made the observation that Dalembert used to give LMA trouble, but that was before Aldridge was an MVP candidate, and before he learned how to spin into the paint and rumble for one of any number of assorted finishes, be it a lefty flip, a finger roll, or to take contact and draw the foul. LaMVP got it going early with 17 and 8 at the half, and finished with 30, 12, and 2 with 3 steals and a block in just 32 minutes. Bra-VO.
Nicolas Batum got really hot early, pouring 15 (!!!) first-quarter points. He also dunked at least four times this game, and 3 of them were authoritative. Sure, he was grabbing his broken finger a few times, but he didn’t seem to care. Batum had 21 and 7 in his 33 minutes, shooting a remarkable 8-11 and 3-6 from range.
Robin Lopez was the second Blazer with a double-double in one of his most assertive games of the season. He, too, had at least three big dunks, some of them in traffic, and a number of blocks that made you scream, “WOOOO, THAT WAS NASTY” (with apologies to Wheels). His 16 and 12 was made all the better by his 3 blocks, and that he played just 26 minutes.
Damian Lillard had a rough game, but his “rough” games are better than a lot of people’s best. Did he ever put his head down? Naw. Did he quit? Naw. He just kept working, and didn’t even let a flagrant foul by Devin Harris get him down. Yes, Harris’ throwdown of Lillard on a fast break was downgraded to a common foul, but Dallas was already down by 20 and the refs probably wanted to give them some sort of break. Lillard stoically collected 14 points and 10 assists in his 31 minutes.
Wesley Matthews looked like he was going to be stone cold after going 6-7 from deep last night, and he just about was, but he threw together a few shots, and provided a nice burst of energy to start the 3rd when, frankly, I thought the Blazers looked a little lax and might let Dallas back into it. That fear was quickly extinguished, however. Matthews had just 10 points in his 28 minutes.
Mo Williams played about as within himself as I’ve seen. It’s very nice to see him disrupt the opposing defense without having to jack up shots. It’s also a nice yin-yang thing when he and Lillard are on the court at the same time, Williams preferring to push the ball like there’s 5 seconds left on the clock and Lillard opting to move it slowly like winter-time molasses. Williams had 8, 4, and 3 with 2 steals in 19 minutes.
Joel Freeland hit some nice shots and played solid defense, refusing to be any less vertical than a stalagmite and pissing off driving opponents who didn’t understand that contact doesn’t necessarily mean a foul. The defense has a right to their airspace. Freeland also hit some jumpers, finishing with 6 and 5 in 13 minutes.
CJ McCollum was the spark off the bench for the first of what will be many times in his career, but boy, was he confused by double teams in the fourth. He’s got to work on that. Just look at what Lillard and Williams do and dribble through it, man! He had 7 points in his first shift late in the first quarter and early in the second, but just 2 more later for a total of 9 points in 17 minutes. His headfake early in the second to freeze the defense, drive, and get his shot was unlike anything any other Blazer does. Add that to his floater and a nice three point stroke, and you can see why Portland drafted him.
The rest of the bench was so embarrassing in that fourth quarter that it would be a disservice to say anything else about them.
- He’s still burning off some rust, but CJ McCollum will be a nice, nice piece.
- You know the game’s over when Will Barton hits a stepback three, blown lead or no.
- Wes Matthews had a few weird offensive fouls called against him, got mad, and got a technical foul. Still, he continued to post up, and was later rewarded with free throws. He didn’t have a good game, but that kind of resolve is what sets the Blazers apart from other teams.
- LMA was going nuts in the third quarter, capped by his getting a steal, leading the break, finishing, and forcing Dallas coach (and former Terry Stotts mentor) Rick Carlisle to call a timeout. That was a lot of fun to watch.
- There were three technical fouls: the aforementioned Matthews tech, one on Dalembert, and one on Dirk Nowitzki. To everyone’s credit, the officiating was particularly bizarre in the first half.