Three Up and Three Down
Well, you know what they say, stats don't lie. Wait a second... yes they do.
At the end of the TV broadcast my partner and I were both in agreement that we'd never seen a team win when it was on the short end of a 25-7 turnover discrepancy. Winning when you turn the ball over 25 times is one thing, but to win when you turn it over 18 more times than your opponent just doesn't happen. It had never happened in Blazers' history- until now. (the last NBA team to win when turning it over 18 more times than an opponent was the Lakers in 2010)
In a game that had the intensity of one played in April, with a playoff spot on the line, the Trail Blazers got hot at the right time and defeated the Denver Nuggets 111-102, handing Denver it's first loss of the season.
There are some reasons why the Trail Blazers were able to turn the ball over like they did and still win. First, they shot 52 percent from the field. Second, they held Denver to 40 percent shooting. And, third, they outrebounded the Nuggets 50 to 30. That doesn't explain all of it, but comes close.
Oh, how nice it was to see Wesley Matthews find his shooting eye from behind the three-point line in this game. He hasn't been missing badly, but with each passing miss in the first two games seemed to start pressing. He's a very streaky shooter, as you know. When he gets it going, look out.
Matthews picked a good time to get it going in this game. After the Trail Blazers had given back a 13-point first-half lead, and settled for a tie at halftime, Denver seized the momentum in the third quarter and quickly went up 59-55. Then, during a three-minute stretch, Matthews hit four bombs that put Portland back on top, and pumped life back into the building.
After Matthews stole the show in the third, he turned things over to Jamal Crawford early in the fourth. Crawford caught fire and scored 14 of Portland's first 16 in the final frame.
Then, it was Raymond Felton's turn to take over late in the fourth. Felton had also been struggling, but had eight points in the fourth, including a massive three pointer with 1:46 left that put the Blazers up 107-100, and basically put the game away. For good measure, he drew an offensive foul on Ty Lawson in the closing seconds.
In other words, it was a "team win" as Marcus Camby tweeted after the game. They got help from everyone that played, and picked up a key divisional win.
Speaking of Camby, how huge has he been in these first three games? He had 12 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and was a big presence on the interior for Portland all night.
Nicolas Batum shot just 1 for 6, but stats tell another lie here as well. Batum's defense was crucial to this win, and he blocked 4 shots.
The guys who have been carrying the offensive load, LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace, didn't have to in this game. They weren't bad, as they had 13 points apiece, but it was nice to see Portland balance things out and use the backcourt's offense to shoot down an opponent.
Now, if they can shoot 52 percent and not turn the ball over 25 times, we'll really be on to something. That complete game is coming, it's just nice that we haven't seen it yet and this team is still 3-0.
Now, we're off on the road. Saturday we'll fly to L.A. and Sunday will take on the Clippers at Staples. That'll be followed by a game at Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. Then, it's back home for a game against the Lakers.
Yes, it gets tougher from here.