mikebarrett

Dec 22

Lillard's Second Half Extends Streak

By mikebarrett Posted in: Suns

Just as there were on Thursday night against Denver, there were some wacky stats on the final box score on Saturday night against Phoenix at the Rose Garden.  And, once again, we’ve learned to disregard conventional ways of thinking about this year’s Trail Blazers.

There was only one stat that mattered when the night came to an end- Portland 96, Phoenix 93.

A homestand that started with a hideous loss to the Sacramento Kings, ended with Portland winning five-straight games to get over the .500 mark at 13-12.  Considering the youth, the new pieces, the new system, and the fact that the Blazers played 12 of their first 19 games of the season on the road, that’s a more than respectable record at this point.

I usually start off these game recaps by giving credit to a person who simply pops out in my mind as deserving it the most.  Tonight it’s simple- Terry Stotts.  When you look at some of the combinations he’s trotting out on the floor, the faith he’s showing in some players who perhaps don’t have the track record to deserve it, and the in-game adjustments he’s making to secure these impressive wins, how can you not be impressed? 

Yes, he does have the best rookie in the NBA running his system, so that makes life a little easier.

In just the 24th NBA game of his life, Damian Lillard was once again the best point guard on the floor.  It’s amazing how many times we’ve said that so far this season. 

What a homestand for Lillard.  If the rest of the NBA hadn’t been paying attention before, they most certainly are now.  Actually, to simply describe him as the best rookie point guard in the NBA doesn’t do what he’s doing justice.  He’s playing like one of the best point guards in the NBA, period.

Against Phoenix on Saturday, Lillard, as he often does, felt his way around the game for the first 24 minutes.  Then, suddenly, he took over.  The Suns, who continually tried to double team Lillard just to get the ball out of his hands, had no way of stopping him in the fourth quarter.  He ended with 25 points, 7 assists, and once again delivered in the game’s biggest moment.  With Portland leading 94-91 with ;41 seconds left, Lillard shook Goran Dragic on to his heels, then stepped back and drilled an 18-footer that put Portland up 96-91.

Phoenix still had a chance to tie the game in their final possession, but Portland’s defense scrambled around the floor covering all long-range shooters, and forced a desperation three from Dragic, which was followed by a Shannon Brown short two-point shot, that would have been practically meaningless, as time ran out.

Have I mentioned JJ Hickson?  Talk about a solid stretch of basketball.  Hickson made it seven-straight double-doubles on Saturday night, becoming the first Blazer since Arvydas Sabonis in 1997 to post seven in a row.  In this one, Hickson recorded double figures in scoring and rebounding before halftime.  He ended the game with 19 points and 15 rebounds.  So, in the last three games, Hickson has combined for 61 points and 49 rebounds.  That has to be one of the most dominant three-game runs in franchise history.

Once again the Trail Blazers had to win playing shorthanded, something we didn’t think they’d be capable of doing just weeks ago.  They beat Denver without LaMarcus Aldridge on Thursday, and only had Wesley Matthews for 9:49 of this game.  Matthews, who you could argue is the heartbeat of this Portland team, missed the better part of four games on this homestand.  The Blazers won all four.

Aldridge was impressive against the Suns as well.  Playing on an ankle that we were sure would keep him on the bench in street clothes once again, Aldridge played over 39 minutes, and posted totals of 17 points and 9 rebounds.  He didn’t have the lift on his jumper, and struggled, shooting just 5 for 15, but played solid defense and gave a warrior-type effort.

Nic Batum, who’s still playing with a very sore lower back, filled several different stat catagories once again, including turnovers, which disappointed him, but he gets a pass on this night.  His 7 turnovers didn’t take much away from his overall game.  He ended with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, nearly posting his first-career triple-double.

Now, as for the amazing numbers, the Blazers ended this game with 69 field goal attempts to Phoenix’s 89.  You simply don’t win very often when your opponent gets 20 more chances to score than you do.  This was due to Portland’s turnover issues.  They had 22- an ugly number.  The Suns took full advantage, outscoring the Blazers in points off turnovers 22 to 5.  That’s another lopsided number you can’t see if you expect to win.  But, they did. 

One big reason why the Blazers were able to survive those totals was because of their aggressiveness at the offensive end.  When they saw the outside shots weren’t falling, they went to plan B.  That resulted in Portland attempting 28 free throws, to Phoenix’s 11.  Portland ended with a 15-point advantage in free-throw makes.

Now it’s Sacramento again, and a chance to run the winning streak to 6.  Then, it’s Sacramento again, and possibly a chance to run the streak to 7.  And, they’re going to have to do it shorthanded again.  Matthews didn’t make the trip with us to Sac, and will stay behind to rehab his ailing hip.   The Kings, as you probably know by now, will be without their leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, most likely for both of the next two games.

Talk to you Sunday night.  Remember, it’s an early 6pm start.

Feel free to fill in the blanks I left you, about this game, about this team, and about this streak. 

 

16 Comments

  1. Good morning Mike. I suspect these last 5 blogs have been fun to write? LOL I really think the thing the stands out to me is the obvious...Damian Lillard. Where would the Blazers be without him? How lucky are we (or how smart was Olshey?) This "kid/rookie" is the heartbeat of the Blazers and what a joy it is to see him succeed in his first year. He is everything we could have wished for. Better then a Greg Oden, better then a Sam Bowie, and maybe even better then a Brandon Roy??? What strikes me most about him (being a rookie mind you) is how he tries to involve the team in the first two quarters of the game...basically how unselfish he is and how he tries to get everyone on the team in a groove on offence. Not a selfish bone in his body...but come the second half of games, he decides when it is time to take over, when some offense and dominant play is needed and he takes care of business! The confidence in this kid is amazing as well as the poise. I do believe it rubs off on the others as we now see the veterans already in this short season patting their rookie on the back! (Did you see the way LA ran up and patted DL on the back tonight after he made his step back jumper?) JJ has also been a monster lately...or should I say ever since he came to Portland? His shot lately is so much improved...he seems to now be an option on the Blazer offense. I wish there was a way to measure everything he does because he would lead the league if that was the case. Even on rebounds he does not get, he was near the ball or had a shot at it...he is like a Rodman (but he can shoot and Rodman couldn't...lol). Bottom line is this was an awesome homestand and one for the Blazers to be very proud of with this young team and in a season we are re-building and finding our niche. But, to me, the two players that earn MVP for the 5 out of 6 wins are Damian and JJ. Now lets take that effort to Sac and get our revenge and make this 6 in a row...we owe them a good butt kicking...right??? GO BLAZERS!!!

    peace out,
    daddylogan

    by daddylogan on 12/23/2012 1:32 AM
  2. Love watching the Blazers play! Love watching Lillard! Great win!

    GO BLAZERS!!

    by mgb on 12/23/2012 1:33 AM
  3. BTW Mike...I have a great trivia question for you guys to use on air that I can almost guarantee nobody will get...have someone PM me if they want to use it!!! Watching the replay of the Phoenix game on NBATV...gotta love the ending!!!! :-)

    peace out,
    daddylogan

    by daddylogan on 12/23/2012 1:37 AM
  4. Yes MGB!!! Is not Lillard fun to watch? ;-)

    by daddylogan on 12/23/2012 1:38 AM
  5. Hey mike, What a game to watch, Phoenix is a very tough team. It seems that we have completely reversed the table on them. We have about the best PG in the NBA that can play the pick and pop, or pick and roll to two great front line that also plays solid high-low post. We have Batum, that can fire us a three with the best of them, as Richardson used to do to us, I think Claver is going to be a great outside shooter and both him and Batum will be great facilitators and Batum being a PTFoward.

    BTW, do you remember Mike Rice saying, earlier last summer, that many teams will start out trying a high tempo, fast hitting offense, but will give it up because of pressure from the announcers, Media, and the fans for turning the ball over so much. So the high rate of turn-overs is expected from this new team, new coach and new system, we have to grit our teeth and just get use to it. Besides that, IMO, although Phoenix was playing the lanes and going for the steals and creating turn overs, and Portland made extra trips to the free throw line, those were just contributing factors in the game. The game winner and the pick to click was as you said, Stotts for his in game adjustment. and of course Lillard heroic play in the second half; the whole team playing team ball and of course JJ and his interior toughness. I'm Lovin it.

    by Hg on 12/23/2012 5:10 AM
  6. Love it when we win, no matter how they get it done!

    by dockaren on 12/23/2012 6:04 AM
  7. DLill is stone cold. One would think he doesn't understand what it is he has been doing. That's not the case with Dam. He knows.
    I can't think of words to describe JJ. He has transformed himself from a player who was waived from a cellar dweller team to one the hottest players in the league. Entirely of his own doing. His coach or team didn't plug him into the perfect role. He plugged himself in.
    Nic was close to a 13-10-10-10. :)
    I said it before, when LaMarcus becomes option #3, its on in Rip City.
    Get well Wes.
    Stotts has made this team unpredictable for opposing coaches.
    We deserve this Blazer fans. What we have been through with injuries and the season of year last. Enjoy the ride.

    by Divotking on 12/23/2012 9:00 AM
  8. It's been so fun to watch Lillard grow in just 24 games. He has proved already to be one of the top 5 point guards in the NBA this season. Not only that but every game I watch, it seems he is making the players around him play at a higher level. My hero though is Mr. JJ Hickson! That turn around left handed jump shot down on the block last night was pretty. The way he made that move and finished it with that soft touch shows he has been working on it! We know we can get 10+ rebounds from him every night just from pure hustle, but if he is working on his offensive game that hard, watch out he could become a real offensive weapon as well! I love the heart he shows on the floor and it spreads through the rest of the team. HEY WHO'S HAPPY TO BE A BLAZER FAN THIS HOLIDAY SEASON??

    Rip City!

    by CGblazerFAN1 on 12/23/2012 9:04 AM
  9. Lillard may be Mr. Fourth Quarter, but JJ is definitely Mr. First Half! Without JJ in this game, we would've been blown out. Without Dame in this game, we would have lost a squeaker. Loved them both.

    by Jeffery Phillips on 12/23/2012 9:31 AM
  10. Glad Victor Claver had 7 points in 14 minutes with a 75 % efficiency, and equivalent to 21 points in the 42 minutes Batum played. Claver was not considered to be a "number one, not even a number two " in Spain or In Europe and thus we would be positively surprised if he does better playing with Blazers than Rudy did. May be the Coach -and the whole team as a group- know better than us in Europe how to improve a 100 % better player.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 12/23/2012 10:08 AM
  11. Didn't get a chance to see the game. I subscribe to the Blazer streaming which only works sometimes and in my oppinion is a rip off. It works just often enough to keep me coming back like a gambler.

    Claver has a totally different set of skills than Rudy and and plays more as a facilitator and knows the nuances of basketball.

    Fascinating to watch Batum grow under Stotts.

    DLill is a ready polished diamond who is a good reason more players should stay in school.

    And JJ, the guy has turned into a Moses Malone.

    by Ancientone on 12/23/2012 12:32 PM
  12. Here are Lillard's highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge4QOa67zg8

    by Shem on 12/23/2012 1:27 PM
  13. Thanks. At least I got to see some highlights

    by Ancientone on 12/23/2012 1:57 PM
  14. I agree, Stott's is the man. I love how he makes his substitutions and keeps everyone guessing. JJ and DLill have been simply amazing. talk about will to win.
    I am having fun cheering for this team.

    Merry Christmas all!

    by allie-oop on 12/23/2012 2:58 PM
  15. Nice blog MB and nice response as always from HG. I like it when they move Battum to PG and play Claver at SF, because that is what they are doing not the other way around. Look at Batum's assists going up. JJ Hickson is flirting with 20 point 20 rebounds, and I believe it will happen sometime this season, Maybe against Sac. LET'S HOPE!

    by rakcool on 12/23/2012 3:04 PM
  16. Hey mike,

    Happy late anniversary!! I won't be in Sacramento as normal for the game, I'm back home in Portland for the holidays! Hope to see you back in Portland for the next game against the kings. Good luck in Sacramento tonight!

    Tony

    by CGblazerFAN1 on 12/23/2012 3:43 PM
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