An Epic Comeback in Charlotte
By mikebarrett Posted in: Bobcats
After this marathon road trip comes to an end the Trail Blazers will have played 12 of their first 19 games on the road. Right after the schedule was released last summer we talked about how it would be a baptism by fire during that first stretch. It has certainly been that. But, we’re also learning a lot about this team, as they are going through this stretch of learning to play together, learning to play in an entirely new system, and discovering they can be deadly in close games. Most importantly, their confidence is on the rise.
Back-to-back overtime games will put some hair on your chest. And, they won both. In fact, they’re now 4-0 in overtime contests this season.
It’ll be tough to top Monday night’s come-from-behind victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. That was straight nuts.
To save space, and because I’m running on fumes as well, let’s go right to the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers trailed Charlotte 97-79. Some of the fans inside Time-Warner Cable Arena were searching for their coats and were getting set to head out into the night. Even my wife admitted to me later on the phone that she turned the game off, and started the bedtime routine with the kids. Thank goodness for the DVR.
With 4:58 on the clock Nic Batum hit a three pointer for Portland and that started a tidal wave. The Blazers would close the game on a 23-5 run, to send the game to overtime tied at 102. There were too many shots, and too many heroes to mention in that final run, but obviously, Luke Babbitt, who wasn’t even in the rotation in the early part of this trip, stuck a gigantic three pointer with 23 seconds left that knotted the game at 102. Of course, Babbitt wouldn’t have had that chance if Nic Batum wouldn’t have a grabbed an offensive rebound and shot a bullet pass to Babbitt to create the opportunity.
Let me stop right here and give some serious props to coach Terry Stotts. How crazy is it that his last substitution of the night came with 5:31 left in regulation? He gambled, coached by feel, went with an unconventional lineup, and then rode it out with that group.
Charlotte substituted five times during that stretch, searching for a way to match what Portland had on the floor.
In overtime, the Trail Blazers grabbed the first lead with a Batum three pointer, and they would never trail again. LaMarcus Aldridge would score after an offensive rebound, Babbitt hit another big three, and it was free throws from there. The Blazers went 8 for 8 from the line in the extra session and that was that. Portland won it 118-112, and became the first NBA team since 2000 to come from more than 15 points down inside five minutes to play and win.
After being down 97-79, the Blazers outscored the Bobcats 39-15 the rest of the way.
Aldridge, who looked like he was about to fall over during my post-game interview with him, ended with 25 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocked shots. He’s the first player in the NBA this season to post numbers like that, in each category. Damian Lillard, who simply continues to put up amazing numbers for a rookie, finished with 24 points, 9 assists, and 3 rebounds. Wesley Matthews, who hit four clutch free throws in overtime, posted 19 points and 7 rebounds. And, the hero from Saturday night in Cleveland, Nic Batum, had one of his most complete games of his career, posting 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists.
I realize I can make your eyes glaze over with some of the stats I toss out on the air, but here’s one that’s better explained in writing. I’m not really sure how to explain why this was the way it was tonight, or how it effected the game, but it’s kind of crazy. I walked up and sat by Stotts on the plane on the way to Indianapolis and shared it with him and he studied it, and then studied it again.
Here it goes. The Trail Blazers, in the first half of each quarter (almost to the second) were dreadful from the field. In the first six minutes of each quarter the Blazers went 2 for 11, 2 for 9, 3 for 10, and 1 for 7, respectively. However, in the second six minutes of each quarter they were a combined 32 for 49, which is just silly. Again, I’m not even sure what to make of all of that. Maybe you can make sense of it. See, this is what I do on these flights- pour over numbers. Yep, I’m sick.
So, this road trip that started with a tough loss in Brooklyn, an ugly loss in Detroit, an embarrassing loss in Washington, and a blowout loss in Boston, has suddenly flipped around. It now has a chance to be, at the very least, a solid road trip. At this point 3-4 on the 7-game trip would be considered very, very good. More than that, this team has its belief back, and that, as we found out in Charlotte on Monday, is a very powerful thing.
Talk to you Wednesday night. Then, we’ll head for home. Finally.