The Portland Trail Blazers, without their best player (LaMarcus Aldridge), their best backup big (Joel Freeland), and Meyers Leonard, played a Spurs team without their two best players (Tim Duncan & Tony Parker). The result was a haphazard, high-energy affair that was as frustrating as it was scintillating. The Trail Blazers fell to the Spurs 111-109.
Everything in this game was shaded by the fact that both teams were missing key players. The difference may have been that the Spurs rotate their stars out of games to get additional rest for years now, and they can adjust better without them than a Blazers team who, until now, had used just a single starting lineup the entire season.
Oh, and there was the matter of a man named Patty Mills. You might remember Blazers owner Paul Allen had a crush on him, for good reason, as it turns out. Mills had 29 points on 50% shooting, about half of those coming in the decisive fourth quarter.
Damian Lillard was a man tonight. Criticism about his ability to finish at the rim was put to bed, as he drove time after time after time, initiating contact and (more importantly) focusing on making the shot after said contact rather than exaggerating the foul. The number of left-handed layins he flipped up in traffic was obscene. Lillard’s 31 points came on 13-21 shooting. He also added 4 boards and 6 assist; easily a top-5 game for him this year.
If Lillard knew the Blazers were missing Aldridge’s 24 points a game, Robin Lopez knew the Blazers were missing Aldridge’s 11 rebounds a game. Lopez had 6 offensive rebounds and 14 total to go with his 11 points and 2 blocks. You couldn’t have asked him to do much more… save for a crucial late-game play that we’ll get into later. One miscue, however, doesn’t erase a game’s worth of individual good deeds.
Wesley Matthews was aggressive. He may not have shot particularly well, but you couldn’t for a moment blame him for not trying. He had 18 points on 33% shooting, and also added 5 boards, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
There were times not too long ago that Dorell Wright didn’t see the court for weeks. That’s pretty significant, considering he started this game. He also had a heck of a first half, scoring 10 points on 4-8 shooting, but didn’t attempt a shot after that. Still, I would take that from him, especially when you add in the 5 boards and 2 steals.
Nicolas Batum looked uninspired. His first field goal came in the fourth quarter, and he finished 2-8 for 8 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists with 2 blocks and a steal. A mediocre Batum line. Blazers fans expect more, and well they should.
Thomas Robinson, on the other hand, looks like he’s about one more mental leap away from being a legit player. That might have been a mirage, but it could also be the sign of maturing. His 10 points came on 4-7 shooting, and he also had 9 boards in 23 minutes. Not bad.
Mo Williams was Mo WIlliams. This game, it was for the best. He really does push the tempo like no other Blazer can or is willing to. He was the Blazers’ second leading on 8-14 shooting for 19 points.
Lillard is trying his floater more and more. He missed his first two, but hit the third. Here’s hoping that will encourage him to bust it out more often.
Dorell Wright looked better than I remembered.
Victor Claver got more minutes tonight than he has all season combine, but his contributions didn’t show up statistically. He offered respectable defense on occasion, though little else. He’s also taller than I remember (6’9″).
Batum got a technical foul for arguing a call. That’s about as heated as he ever gets.
The officiating was…. Questionable… at times. However; the axe swung both ways, so it’s difficult to chalk the loss up to anything more than being outplayed.