The Portland Trail Blazers played about 6 minutes of good basketball which, as it turns out, is about all you need to beat the Jazz by double digits, even on their own floor. The good guys prevailed 111-99.
There wasn’t a whole lot of good in this one. The Jazz repeatedly pulled (and the Blazers repeatedly fell for) tricks you’d see at the YMCA. Driving into the middle and faking the shot to pass to the big man down low was popular, as was following nearly every shot to get a chance at offensive rebounds. For the most part, the Blazers looked content to let the Jazz run around and feel good about themselves, racking up an 8-point lead after the first that never grew, and mostly batting around 1- and 2-possession runs that kept the game within 6 points.
After scoring just 2 points through the game’s first 3 quarters and 3 minutes, Damian Lillard yawned, stretched, scratched his head and decided he’d wake up for a few minutes.
Splat. Swish. Splunk. Snock, snock. Sloop. In exactly 3 minutes and 24 seconds, Lillard hit three 3′s, a pair of free throws, and one more three for 14 points.
Seeing the Blazers were now up 11 with about 6 minutes to go, he yawned, stretched, scratched his head, and put on his robe and slippers. He was done. And he really didn’t need to do anything else.
Lillard also finished with 6 assists and just a single turnover in what may have been the most interesting game of his season. He was resting, WHILE playing a game. Has anyone even ever done that before? And when he needed to turn it on, he did, before turning it right back off. It was fascinating, really, and gives hope that come playoff time, we might be able to extrapolate those 14 points over a 36-minute game and see him score 150 points all by himself.
A boy can dream.
Speaking of dreaming, the rest of the Trail Blazers didn’t look like they wanted to stay awake for this one, either. Sure, LaMarcus had a few of those patented “turn toward the middle and absorb contact” drives, and he did his fair share of complaining about no-calls, but they didn’t have any urgency behind them. That’s okay. He still finished with 18 and 14, by his standards a sub-par game, but still acceptable.
Nicolas Batum coasted with the best of them. He hit shots when he needed, but decisions like opting for a light one-handed dunk in the open court with nobody within 20 feet said about all that could be said for his 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists… wait, what? He almost had a triple double? Sure didn’t look like it.
Wesley Matthews was his usual gusty self, getting hot for stretches and playing hard to rub it in the face of the franchise that allowed him to be stolen by the Blazers all those many years ago. He had 21 points.
Robin Lopez had 12 and 8 in what would now be a relatively quiet night for him, which shows just how much he’s grown this year.
Mo Williams didn’t look like the time off last game did him any good.
C.J. McCollum got 4 points in 1 minute. That’s 144 points per 36 minutes. FREE C.J.
With the Blazers’ win and the Rockets’ loss (!!!), the Blazers are just 1/2 game behind the Rockets for the 4th seed and home court advantage in the first round. Due to Houston owning the tiebreaker, however, the Blazers will need to win out (at home against the Warriors and the Clippers), AND need Houston to lose at least 2 of their next three (playing the Pelicans twice and the Spurs once). Or Houston could lose 3 and Portland win 1. Given the Pelicans’ best player is out for the season and given how good the Warriors and Clippers can play, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the 4th seed won’t happen. However, the Blazers are close to locking up no worse than 5th. A win against either the Warriors or the Clippers will do that, as would any Warriors loss, if my math serves.
All we can do is hope the stars align, and if they don’t, that the Blazers fight like hell.