Nov 23

Backcourt Saves the Night

By mikebarrett
Damian Lillard has played in just 12 NBA regular-season games.  That's pretty crazy to think about.  He's now averaging 20.2 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three-point range.  

Lillard posted a new career high on Friday night at the Rose Garden, scoring 28 points, while dishing out 8 assists, and didn't commit a single turnover.  More importantly, he helped carry the load against a very hungry and physical Minnesota team that came in determined to snap a three-game losing skid.

Yes, you're right.  I shouldn't have gone two paragraphs without mentioning Wesley Matthews. Because even as the legend of Lillard continues to grow, he probably wasn't the MVP of this game.  So, let's just say I'm doing this alphabetically then.  

Matthews was just as brilliant on this night, as his team leaned on him just as much as it needed a superstar performance from Lillard.  Matthews, like Lillard, delivered big time.  Wesley scored 30 points, on 12 of 17 shooting, and recorded 4 steals, while providing the defense and scrap that he always does.

Let's combine their numbers.  Lillard and Matthews, Portland's starting backcourt, was 23 for 34 from the field, 9 of 14 from three, with 11 assists.  They outscored Minnesota's starting backcourt 58-21.

Best of all, again, they came up huge on a night when the Blazers needed something like this.  Portland didn't want to head out on this monster 7-game road trip with a home loss to a division rival.  They came from 13-down to defeat the Timberwolves 103-95.

Portland's defense has taken a beating lately, with good reason.  And, in the first half a Minnesota team, that isn't known for its offense, was scoring in bunches.  The Wolves shot 57 percent in the first quarter, and was still at 48 percent at halftime.  But, in the second half, the Blazers buckled down.

Terry Stotts spent the morning shoot around explaining the need for a better game at the defensive end of the court.  Matthews even said the coach "called them out," showing them numbers, stats, and the team's defensive ranking in the league.  It may have taken a while, but they took the message to heart.  

In the fourth quarter, when it mattered most, the Trail Blazers held Minnesota to just 5 of 21 shooting, and 17 points.  

It was a good thing.  You don't win many games where you're outrebounded 47-33, and outscored at the free-throw line 28 to 8.  The Timberwolves ended up with 17 offensive rebounds, which led to a 17-4 advantage in second-chance points.  Amazing that Portland was able to weather those numbers and still win.  Thanks to Lillard and Matthews, they did.

There was also J.J. Hickson, who sat out the Phoenix game with a sore shoulder.  Still playing in pain, Hickson came back for this game, and posted 14 points and 13 rebounds.  Minnesota pounded the ball inside, repeatedly in the second half, and Hickson dug in and took the punches.

We've talked a lot about the difficulty of this early-season schedule for the Trail Blazers.  They are 6-6 so far, but it's about to get a whole lot tougher.  Lillard admitted after the game he's never seen a road trip like he's about to experience.  Not many NBA teams have to go through what the Blazers are about to.  It'll be 7 games in 12 days, their longest trip since 2008.

We'll head for New York on Saturday, and start the trip off with a game against the Nets in Brooklyn.  It'll be a 3 o'clock start (Eastern Time), and it'll seem like a noon tip for all of us.  Then, the trip will take us to Detroit, Washington, Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Indiana.  Yes, we travel well in the NBA, but trips like this are brutal.  

It'll be just another challenge for a young team that's still learning to play together, with a point guard still learning the professional game.  


  1. I love it that the Blazers have a Big Three and that it's a different three almost every night! Makes it very hard for opps to know ahead of time who to prepare for, who to focus on. Makes it a game time decision every night, and they can't just take one guy out of the game and expect to win.

    Mr. Clean (JJ) was back tonight and was a big cog in the win.

    by dgpdx on 11/24/2012 12:34 AM
  2. I still get amazed this year at how we manage to pull some of these games out...down for most of the first half and a portion of the 3rd and then we wake up and play like a veteran team would play...maybe that is a "good" thing??? LOL

    I have been a Blazer fan since year number 1 (1970-71) and I am witnessing something this year I have never seen...a rookie with so much poise and control! I would have never guessed that this young man would play such an important part so early in this 2012-2013 campaign but he definitely has and this boy is more than impressed. I believe Kass said it best in chat tonight...if you were to tell me we would be at .500 at this point then I would say that is success...and it is my belief it is because we have this awesome young guy named Damian Lillard. Even though Wes had such a great game and did everything you could imagine to help pull out this victory, you still want to look at our rook and say "man, this guy is awesome and how lucky Portland is to have him!"

    Anyhow, tonight's game was a first half stinker. We were lucky to be down by only 5 at the half. Horrible defense AGAIN, no blocking on the offensive boards and way too many fouls (BUT, some were the infamous ghost fouls" that our rook's like Leonard get). It was one of those games like playing Dallas and Dirk...whenever he drives to the hoop or makes any kind of move he get's a call...same with Mr. Love! And our free throw shooting was just awful. I believe at one point I added it up and we would have been ahead by like 4 but were behind by 6 because of all the free throws we missed!!! Remember what the Shonz use to say boys...gotta make your free throws! LOL

    Anyhow, in the 3rd we started making shots, caused a few turnovers and took control by the end of it and in the 4th we simply just played "good basketball" which won us the game. So many times we have a nice lead and then we play this "run out the clock game" or "forget our attack game" and we let the game get close. I like when the Blazers play the last 2 minutes like normal...run the offense and attack the hoop like they normally would. It is when they try to play the clock game that they get in trouble and end up with bad shots and getting beat on the other end of the court...not tonight though!!!!

    This was a hard fought win and a must needed before this road trip coming up. Let's all hope that it helped the team grow just enough to come back home feeling proud!!! ;-) BLAZER FAN TILL I DIE!!!!

    peace out,

    by daddylogan on 11/24/2012 1:03 AM
  3. Nice win. Wish I knew what has gone wrong with our free throw shooting this year. It has been bad before, but tonight was just hideous. Could have cost us the game.
    It's also worth noting that while LaMarcus had a poor game, Nic made a solid contribution, with blocks, steals, assists and rebounds, even though he wasn't a scoring leader. He is, however, making too many turnovers of late
    It was good to see a game turn out precisely as Mike Rice predicted. He liked the match-ups of our guards against their Minnesota rivals, said they needed to exploit that, and put special emphasis on Wesley's need to take it to them. It's a reminder that underneath all the trademark Rice goofiness, there's a very sharp coaching mind at work.

    by David Maclaine on 11/24/2012 1:07 AM
  4. Hey Mike:
    A great game, I just got back from a fantastic Thanksgiving vacation to top it off with an exciting win like that.
    Us Portland Trailblazer fans have known that we have a star in DLill for quite sometime, and now the NBA is finding out. Can you imagine what the headlines would be if he was playing for the NYK, Boston, LA, or Miami.
    You didn't mention Batum and I like David Maclaine thinks he played a solid game. He held off Kinky Kirilenko to a stand still and that is very important.
    With LMA on the bench and JJ being in foul trouble the first half, I thought the night was a goner, but like always the Blazers stood fast and put out a heck of a game. This is the second game that opponents tried to out physical us and got the short end of it. I didn't get to hear the Phoenix game, but it sounds like they won by just out scoring us.
    Anyway, great game before heading out on the big road trip. I am thinking that we are better road warriors this year and I hope the team has learned their lesson of playing the record instead of playing the team as we are not that distance from the bottom of the heap, but just now gaining on the top teams.
    Like daddylogan mentioned about the great Kassandra, if anybody would have told me we would be 6-6 with this new team, I would have LMAO.

    by Hg on 11/24/2012 4:18 AM
  5. Great call tonight MB. The TV can't catch everything that goes on, and one of the best calls of the night was when you decribed Stott's reaction to Lillard hitting Batum who shot a contested 3 with 4 seconds left in the quarter. He hit it of course, but it made it that much more entertaining to get your take on Stotts throwing his arms in the air. Poor guy is gonna be bald by season's end.
    And I don't know what's more rediculous, Rice's deal, or the fact that he never knows what the deal is when you explain the item... I laugh every time. Never gets old. Have a safe trip and bring home some wins!

    by Blazer Fanatic on 11/24/2012 5:48 AM
  6. Like others, I am impressed with Lillard's game. No one would guess he is a rookie. I think the freedom Stotts allows his players to play with suits Lillard well. I appreciate that DL is eager to learn and continue to improve. It was another great win tonight!

    by dockaren on 11/24/2012 5:51 AM
  7. Of course being somewhat long winded when coming to talking Blazers, I like the idea of posting up Wesley and Batum when LaMarcus is out at the elbow. I think LaMarcus is more productive down low, but being in foul trouble tonight and the refs favoring Love with the calls, he couldn't really post up without fouling out. If Lillard later on learns that skill, he will have the skill that Dre had, with BRoy's shooting ability and closure. I keep asking myself what he can't do, except play D and he is learning that from Price.

    All the discussion we had about BRoy and Dre and now we have the two of them wrapped up in one. How can you beat that?

    by Hg on 11/24/2012 7:24 AM
  8. Glad Wes came to play. DLill continues to WOW! Can we please work on points in the paint and free throws. I would add drawing fouls to that list but until we can hit free throws, what is the point. I agree that its nice to have three who dominate. Funny though that our rookie is always one of them.

    by allie-oop on 11/24/2012 7:36 AM
  9. I was frustrated with the lack of defense in the first half. Due to my busy schedule, I would have been disappointed if I spent my few hours of free time watching the Blazers crumble. I turned the game off. I got a txt from my father asking if I watch the game. I looked at the score and saw we were up 10.

    Mathews and Lillard also played a big role that you forgot to mention Mike. They closed, and closed very well. That's something that's huge in games like this, where Minnesota is trying to attack the rim and we lost Aldridge due to ridiculous foul trouble (if I don't see that Love gets a warning, it'll be more proof that this league is ridiculous and this flop rule is simply a joke because it protects Superstars and fines the "nobodies").

    It was nice watching the closing minutes and see the Blazers with energy and a decent shot selection. That was missing in the first half.

    However, I'm still a bit concerned. We started the season off with a great win and played a full 48 minutes against the Lakers. Why haven't we done that? It's getting tiring and boring watching uphill battles all the time.

    As for this road trip, the Blazers NEED to pick up wins against teams they should beat. What doesn't surprise me though is the Blazers will likely play terrible and drop some of those games but play great and come up short against Boston and the Nets.

    We simply need to see LaMarcus be that leader he was the previous 2 seasons though. He's falling in love with the jumpshot. I miss the big bangs. He seemed to try to do that against Kevin Love (and Love flopped) to make a point. We need that every game. Get the big fella aggressive. I do however have a feeling its more due to him not having a scoring, big center.

    by Herr on 11/24/2012 8:03 AM
  10. Here is Damian Lillard's 28 points and 8 assists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgxlfpUKHEk

    by Shem on 11/24/2012 8:32 AM
  11. This was a great comeback game after the Phoenix debacle. Great to see defense a priority and seems we adjusted to improve in those areas that needed improvement. LA posted up, JJ was a beast and Wes and Damian were really there to play. I wanted to sweep the Wolves and it's a good start! Go Blazers!

    by riverman on 11/24/2012 11:25 AM
  12. For the 2nd straight home game, other TV carriers were not blacked out in the PDX area. The Bulls game was on WGN and last nights' game was on NBA League Pass, both in high def. Have the blackout rues changed?

    by dgpdx on 11/24/2012 11:29 AM
  13. I'm thinking that this will be Damian Lillards' team before the end of the season. He is that good already and is quietly becoming the leader. Last night he found out early that Wes Mathews was on and just kept feeding Wes the rock all night.

    I also loved his comment in the Oregonian today that "sometimes the ball sticks," meaning that ball movement on offense gets stagnant. When this team moves the ball, they score big; when they don't, they don't. Lillard is the key to all that. Future All-Star in PDX!

    by dgpdx on 11/24/2012 11:35 AM
  14. Is the heartbeat of the team. Sets the tone defensively. Outworks everyone in the building ( including Mike Rice ). Steak shooter. Has a never say die attitude.
    Wesley Matthews
    Kevin Love is a tenacious rebounder. He is very physical. All nose, elbows and knees. That style of play bothers LaMarcus. LMA grows tired of the constant banging.
    DLill is a gold nugget. Pure. He started moving his feet defensively. Showing some emotion.
    The very DAY LaMarcus becomes option #3 IT'S ON in rip city.

    by Divotking on 11/24/2012 4:14 PM
  15. you can play defense every night. The offense some nights just isn't there. If you are playing defense you can still win.

    by Ancientone on 11/24/2012 4:29 PM
  16. JJ 6-10 14 and 13 enough said

    by Divotking on 11/24/2012 5:20 PM
  17. I like seeing a lot of different guys getting quality floor minutes during real game time situations. However, sitting out the first game of a long road trip is not effective leadership. Just saying.

    by Divotking on 11/25/2012 2:26 PM
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