Blazers Go Down Swinging in Boston
As disappointing as it is that the Trail Blazers have now lost five-straight games, Wednesday night was a huge step in the right direction. You can never be satisfied with a loss, but there are different ways to lose games.
In this game the Blazers fought, scrapped, hustled, battled back, and had a shot to win in one of the most difficult places to win in the NBA. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I’m asking for. It ended in frustration, but this is what we need to see every night. Obviously, if they had played this way on Sunday and Tuesday, we’d be talking about a 2-1 record on this road trip right now.
As it is the Trail Blazers, who are trying to fight though this stretch of playing 12 of their first 19 games on the road, sit now with an 8-10 record. Disappointing, but at least after this loss you could see the wheels turning. If it takes some suffering for growth to emerge, so be it. It’s a long season.
For almost three quarters, the Trail Blazers had the Boston Celtics right where they wanted them. And, it’s amazing the way these things play out. Despite the fact that the Celtics were shooting 62 percent through three quarters, and still ended up shooting 57 percent in the game, the Blazers were still able to lead most of this contest.
As we’ve witnessed lately, it’s the drought that always kills this team. This time it came late in the third quarter, when the Celtics ripped off a 17-2 run, which grew to 19-2 early in the fourth. The run took the Celtics from behind in the game, to up 16. As always, it happened very quickly. The difference this time was, the Blazers battled back. Hard.
Portland put together a 15-0 run to get to within one point, at 96-95, with under a minute left. They even got the Celtics to miss on the most important possession of the game. But, Ray Allen’s miss bounced out far enough that Kevin Garnett was able to grab the offensive rebound. He was fouled by Wesley Matthews, and on the inbounds play, Allen hit a three pointer. Game over.
So ironic that once again it was Allen who, suffering through an awful night, became the hero. The exact, and I mean exact thing happened last year when the two teams played in Boston. On that night, Allen was 3 for 14, and 0 for 4 from three-point land, when he hit the game-clinching shot. In this game, Allen ended 3 for 12, and hit his only three pointer with 10.7 seconds left.
The Trail Blazers were led, once again, by Wesley Matthews, who scored 23 points, including 5 of 7 from behind the three-point line. I think he’ll be in the starting lineup for a while. Andre Miller, who came alive in the second half, scoring 16 of his 20 points, was largely responsible for the dramatic rally late in the game. Roy had 18, and LaMarcus Aldridge had 18.
The only downside of moving Matthews to the starting lineup is that the bench is now lacking punch. In this game the Blazers’ second unit was 6 for 17, and managed just 14 points. Someone, Nicolas Batum, Dante Cunningham, Rudy Fernandez, is going to have to shoulder more of the load.
We also saw a change in the second unit when Patty Mills got the most significant action of his Blazers’ career. I have to give it to Mike Rice, who called this following Tuesday’s game. He said Patty would get his shot, and he did in this game. He played 8 minutes, recorded a couple of assists, and was solid. I think we’ll see him continue to get the call for 8 to 12 minutes per game.
To listen to Nate McMillan’s post-game comments, click here.
We’re off to Washington D.C. on Thursday, and Friday night take on the Wizards in the final game of this road trip.