Somewhat lost in all the hubbub of LaMarcus Aldridge posting a second consecutive 40+ point game, were the unheralded contributions from first-year Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright. After the entire bench scored an embarrassing seven points in Game One against the Houston Rockets, Wright more than doubled that total by chipping in 15 points himself during Game Two.
Not only did he chip in 15, but he did so in a highly efficient manner – on four of five shooting (three of four from beyond the arc and four of four from the line). In addition to his scoring contributions, Wright also added four rebounds, two steals, two assists, and three blocks in 18 minutes. The more you look at it, the prettier that stat line gets.
While Aldridge has been lights out thus far in the series, eventually his production will start to flag, due to fatigue if nothing else. Consider this – even if Aldridge still puts up an incredible 30 points a game for the rest of the series, that would leave a void of about 15 points (compared to his last two performances) that someone else on the team has to fill.
At least some of this void has to be made up by role players, and it is extremely encouraging to see signs of life from Wright. I’ve been a pretty big fan of his throughout the year, and actually still think that he should have received more minutes during the season. That’s in the past though – it’s playoff time now, and it looks like Wright came ready to play.
Beside his on-court production, I have no doubt that his off the court influence has had a huge role on the entire Blazers team as well. As has been noted before, Wright is the only Blazer on the team with a championship ring (2006 with the Miami Heat). Even though he did not play much on that team, you can bet that he saw and learned exactly what goes into a successful, extended playoff run.
The playoffs are a legitimate grind, and mental toughness is just as important as the physical side of things. Having an experienced, nine-year veteran’s presence and wisdom to aid a young team is invaluable. Not only does he have the general experience, Wright’s aforementioned championship exposure just adds another level of pedigree to his voice amongst the team.
The Blazers have a legitimate shot to make it out of the first round for the first time since 2000. To do so, they will need the continued help of Wright, both on and off the court.