Shorthanded Blazers Trip in Brooklyn
The Nets came into Sunday's game against the Blazers 5-1 at their shiny new home, were coming off a 86-76 win over the Clippers, and were facing a Portland team playing without it's all-star, LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers, who travelled across the country on Saturday, knew that starting a trip against a very solid opponent, in an early game (noon Pacific Time), would be a stiff test. They played well enough to stay in the game, and even held a seven-point lead in the third quarter, but simply seemed to run out of gas down the stretch and fell 98-85 to the Nets.
With Aldridge out nursing a sore back, J.J. Hickson did what he could to make up the difference inside. He was effective, posting 19 points and 10 rebounds. And, Wesley Matthews had another solid game for Portland, scoring 20 points, but the Blazers got handled in the rebounding department and that proved to be a big reason why they came up short.
The Nets, a big, physical team, out rebounded Portland 48-34, including 17 offensive rebounds, and held a 52-34 advantage in points in the paint.
The most intriguing matchup to many, before the game, was at the point-guard spot. Damian Lillard was coming off a 28-point game on Friday, and did his best to hold his own against Deron Williams. Through three quarters they basically cancelled each other out. But, in the fourth, Williams, who had gotten Lillard into foul trouble, effectively carried the Nets to the win. Williams ended with 15 points and 12 assists, while Lillard carded a respectable 13 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.
Bench scoring was a big advantage for Brooklyn as well, as their second unit outscored Portland's 31-9. With Lillard, and Meyers Leonard, who started today in place of Aldridge, in foul trouble, the Blazer bench did what it could to hold down the fort. But, the offense that was missing when they were off the floor was too much to overcome.
Leonard tied his career high with 12 points, and that was just in the first half. But, in the second half, partly due to the fact that he had picked up his fourth foul, was less aggressive and less effective. He ended with 12 points and 3 rebounds.
Even though this would have been considered an impressive upset nationally, the Trail Blazers certainly felt this was a game they could have had if they had played better in the fourth. The Nets, loaded with high-priced veterans in their starting lineup, played like the more experienced team down the stretch and that's usually the difference in this league.
Following the early start, we headed for the airport expecting it to be a quick trip and an early arrival in Detroit. But, due to nasty traffic in the New York area, and because of the fact that we had to head back into lower Manhattan to catch the Holland Tunnel to Newark, that short trip turned into a two-hour stop-and-go drive. Thank goodness it was an early start, as we still arrived at our hotel in Detroit before midnight Eastern. But, it was a tough way to open a 7-game trip.
Monday night the Blazers take on the Pistons, who lost to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.