mikebarrett

Jan 07

Blazers Improve to 5-0 in OT Games

By mikebarrett Posted in: Magic
If you want to beat the Trail Blazers this season, you'd better avoid getting them in a game that's up for grabs in the final seconds.  This team wins the close ones.  

Yet another team learned that lesson on Monday night at the Rose Garden.  When you get the Trail Blazers down you've got to completely knock them out.  Yes, that's easier said than done, as the Orlando Magic have now found out.  

Portland is now 10-2 in games decided by six points or fewer, and 5-0 in games that require overtime.  Oh, and you want get offensive with them?  You might want to try something different.  The Blazers are 13-1 when they shoot better than 45 percent, and are now 12-2 when they score 100 points or more. 

If that's not enough numbers for you, here are a few more.  The Blazers are now 4-1 in January, have won 11 of their last 14, are 12-5 since the end of November, and have won eight-straight home games.  

How are they doing this?

Yes, they've got a very potent starting five, including the odds-on-favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors.  And, they've got an all-star power forward, along with an underpaid and undersized center.  They've got one of the few players in the league who has more than lived up to his big off-season contract, and they've got a bulldog off guard who is as tough as nails at both ends of the floor.  

They also have one heck of a first-year head coach, who continues to make all the correct adjustments, is creative with his substitution patterns, and draws up very effective plays in late-game situations.  More than that though, Terry Stotts has this young team believing and completely selling out each and every night.  Someone, somewhere, is going to have to start giving Stotts some credit for what he and his coaching staff are doing in Portland.

No one, and I mean no one, expected Portland to be four games over the .500 mark 34 games into the NBA season.  

After Saturday night's win in Minnesota, which put the cap on a 3-1 road trip, I talked about the difficulty of playing four games in five nights.  Well, Monday night ended a stretch of five games in seven nights, which included coast-to-coast travel through three time zones.  The schedule, and when and where the games are played, has more to do with winning and losing streaks in the NBA than anyone who hasn't experienced it knows.

Monday night the Trail Blazers were dog tired.  I talked to LaMarcus Aldridge in the back of the locker room.  He told me he had energy in the first quarter, and then couldn't really feel his legs during the rest of the game.  The last thing he and his teammates needed was an overtime contest at the end of this brutal stretch.

The Orlando Magic were starting a road trip on Monday night, and are tired of losing.  They fell to Miami in overtime on New Year's Eve, and then lost to Chicago by two points, and lost a late lead and fell to New York by eight.  Now, they've lost nine-straight games and this was probably as deflating a loss as they've had during this streak.

The Magic had endless energy in this game, and were red hot from the field most of the night. They led by nine at halftime, and stretched that to 11 in the third quarter.  They got a clutch bomb from Jameer Nelson with nine seconds left to force overtime, and that's when their hopes ended- they got the Blazers in a situation where they don't lose.  At least not this year.

Yes, I'm this deep into this blog without pointing out perhaps the most amazing stat of the night- four of Portland's starting five ended this game with double-doubles.  That's the first time that has happened in the NBA this season.  Last year it happened only once, out of all the games that were played.  

It's difficult to pick which stat line was the most impressive.  JJ Hickson recorded his 20th double-double of the season, scoring 20 and pulling down 15 rebounds.  Aldridge had 27 points and 10 rebounds.  Nic Batum scored 16 points and dished out 10 assists, and Damian Lillard had 18 points and 10 assists.  Wesley Matthews, even though he didn't join the double-double club in this game, ended with 24 points, four assists, and three rebounds.

Lillard, who had his hands full with Nelson all night, had probably the most impressive sequence of the night.  With under two minutes to play in overtime, Lillard hit outside jumpers on back-to-back possessions, and then at the other end stole the ball from Aaron Afflalo, leading a fast break that put Portland up six points with just over a minute left.  He may have missed a three that would have won the game at the end of regulation, but he more than made up for it with that series of plays.

The Trail Blazers scored a season high 125 points in this game, and did two things they don't often do- they beat an opponent on the backboards (44-36), and outscored an opponent in the paint (60-44).  What they did do is win another close game, and that's something we should be getting used to.  

So, this five-in-seven-nights thing ends, and what do the Blazers get now?  They get Miami Thursday, Golden State in Oakland on Friday, and Oklahoma City on Sunday.  Brutal.  

You want to predict those games?  I don't.  If the Blazers have taught us anything this season it's that we don't know anything.  I like that.

Talk to you Thursday night.

 
Previous Story: A Trip to Remember

35 Comments

  1. This is getting to be a habit, and a good one too! Four double-doubles in one game -- fantastic. I've waited a long time to be able to root for a team that actually uses all its weapons rather than always going to the same guy down the stretch. We don't need no stinkin' go-to-guy, we got five of them!

    In case anyone missed this from Mike's last post, I posted a link to some excellent data on NBA shooting this season:

    http://www.82games.com/locations.htm
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/7/2013 11:50 PM
  2. I was pretty relaxed about this one, once we took care of that lead in the third quarter. I suprised myself with one prediction. At about 5:30 to go we went down four and my immediate thought was "We'll be up four by the three minute point." And so we were. For whatever reason, Nate's teams played tight late in close games. This team doesn't, and we're starting to believe that if it's tight down the stretch it's in the bag.
    Of course I also love the matched sets of double-doubles, with the two rebounding guys both getting twenty, while the assist guys didn't--we know who they were feeding most of the night--while the odd man out still picked up 24 points. I'm also really stoked about the way Nic and Wes and Luke are shooting the three with such confidence. Instead of looking tight even on the open ones the way they did a year or two back, they look smooth and assured even when they're curling off picks to make a quick stop and shoot. When those are going down, the other team is toast.
    You know, I really love the Blazers of the early nineties who came so very close, and this team has a long way to go to measure up to them. But what drove me nuts about that team was that for all its great running game, hustle, defense and rebounding, it really didn't have a grade A shooter on the roster. (Clyde was a C+, Terry a B, graded in comparison to other guards)
    The current team has four three-point shooters who would beat the Blazers' best from 92 (Nic, Wes, Damian, and Luke versus Terry). Sure I'd happily trade any of them except Lilliard to have Clyde in the mix. But you might try what I've been doing and match those two teams in your head, comparing them man for man. Buck Williams was a great banger, but past his prime: LA is a better scorer now in his prime. JJ versus Duck is apples and oranges, or rather, lean, fast guy versus solid wide-body who can't jump, and the numbers certainly favor Hickson. Lilliard doesn't play D the way Terry did, but Terry on his best day couldn't get his own shot the way Damian does. Nic has a more rounded skill set than Jerome--better shooter and passer--but without Jerome's drive to rebound or get out on the break. I'd take the guy they can't sag off when he's in the corner. And yes, Clyde beats Wes in every category except shooting: better passer, rebounder, shot-blocker, open court player. But in a half-court game the edge isn't that huge, because Wes is a good defender and is solid on the boards, and because Clyde's ability to get his own shot any time he wanted was not matched by that much skill in knocking the shot down, and when he decided he wanted to be a three-point shooter...well, we all know what happened then. (See finals versus Chicago, and the Jordan shrug).
    Anyway, we'll see how much of the current glow gets knocked off after we take on two of the league's very best plus those assassins on the bay. But this is turning out to be a much more enjoyable season than most of us expected.

    by David Maclaine on 1/8/2013 12:52 AM
  3. Mike this was a fantastic game. Both teams played great ball and both teams fought to the finish.
    Against Minny their guards was weaker then our so we bombed them with threes, This game their guards could cover us so we bombarded them in the paint until the started sagging then we bombarded them with threes. We can tighten up or defense now, which is great, Our bench is starting to play like a bench, Pretty soon we are going to be a real team, LOL. But is still bet we don't get any recognition. Which is OK with me.

    The great thing about the Miami game is we can just relax and play ball, with no pressure. and that makes us play lots better. I just hope we play good and make it a competitive game which I am sure they will.

    by Hg on 1/8/2013 12:54 AM
  4. @Sarahacht:

    Well we missed our first two shots and won, but we sure wasn't guaranteed a win.
    Maybe you should keep predicting wrong and we will keep winning.

    by Hg on 1/8/2013 1:00 AM
  5. It may be chilly outside, but this Blazer team is sure heatin' up. That Magic team is resilient, they put up one heckuva battle. Took bonus basketball to beat them. Great team effort. Did every Blazer score tonight? Lemme look at stats... they did! Every Blazer had a basket! Niiiiice

    by Tobyus Sanchezo on 1/8/2013 2:45 AM
  6. Mike,

    You stated it perfectly at the end of your post: "If the Blazers have taught us anything this season it's that we don't know anything." I like that as well. Sure it would be nice to know your team is going to win the game 8 times out of 10. But where is the fun in that? We get to watch a young, talented group on paper work out their kinks and become a young, talented group on the floor.

    I'll admit that at the beginning of the season, I was not on the Stotts bandwagon. I didn't feel like he had enough credentials to help rebuild a winning mentality in Portland. He has started to prove me wrong. And I'm perfectly ok with that! If we can find a coach that is a "diamond in the rough" just like our team and it works, I'm all for that.

    I never expected much from this team all year. They have really started to come together and produce victories. Exciting and nail biting ones at that. I still can't expect a playoff appearance but maybe if I keep down playing their success, they might just prove me wrong once again. And again, I will be perfectly ok with that.

    by CrazyRusty on 1/8/2013 6:55 AM
  7. What a starting five! Four doublers and Wes had another monster game. I continue to be amazed at the production from the starting unit. And good minutes from Claver and a few threes by Babbit will seal the deal in any game.

    Glad you gave Stotts some love, I do think the success of the Blazers does coincide with him and the rest of the coaching staff.

    I wasn't sure about the last play call though, with a clear out for Damian. It was very Brandon Roy-esque, and I don't think Damian is quite there yet. Brandon would have probably taken it to the paint and finished at the rim or have pulled the same step-back closer in, both higher percentage shots. I realize Roy is 6'6" and Damian is 6'3", but I think I would have rather have seen D lil get his shot blocked than shoot the three. And if you've noticed, Damian has gotten much better at finishing at the rim, in just 34 games this season. Charge into that paint, Damian, put the pressure on the officials and get nasty.

    With all that said, what impressed me the most, however, was the little smile the crept up on his face after he missed the step-back three. The camera barely caught it, but I saw it all the same, and I knew we would win in overtime. The smile was full of swag, calmness, desire, and passion. He wanted that shot. He needed that shot. And what's more, he wasn't bothered one bit that he missed that shot, because overtime just meant another opportunity to shine.

    This is why Portland is so good in close games. This is why we excel in overtime. It all starts with the calm and collected swag of Damian Lillard. Trail Blazer fans, if you are not excited about the future of D lil and the prospect of getting a big free agent this summer, get ready...It's on.

    by MJB on 1/8/2013 7:10 AM
  8. Wow, what a fun night it was in the Rose Garden last night!
    I could not be any happier about my decision to pass on watching that boring National Championship game so I could come support the Blazers after that road trip.

    I do not know exactly what it is about this team, but it is one of those teams that you can not help but love. This team makes it nearly impossible not to support and cheer for them. They play their hearts out each game, while doing it unselfishly. I wish I was able to explain more about why they are so easy to root for, but I just can not put my finger on it right now.

    Good to see Stotts getting some credit. I cant wait to see what the future brings to this team.

    by Bentleya on 1/8/2013 9:02 AM
  9. Good Luck Abby Chin

    by LA 2012 on 1/8/2013 9:12 AM
  10. Mike, I'm glad you made all those points about coach Stotts - sure the Blazers aren't an elite team (like perhaps the Warriors seem to be) but the fact that us, blazer fans, are totally surprised by being 4 games over 500, means the rest of the NBA is way more surprised at it.

    My hope for the next 3 games - 2-1. But I'd be ok with 1-2 if we fought hard in all 3 of them.

    by joe.k on 1/8/2013 9:32 AM
  11. by joe.k on 1/8/2013 9:33 AM
  12. The exhaustion of the team showed early in the defense. The character and intestinal fortitude showed in the final score. This team is growing up fast. Now the bench needs to show what they are made of.

    by Ancientone on 1/8/2013 9:36 AM
  13. @ancientone: Hey buddy those are my feelings exactly. LaMarcus said he had the energy at the beginning of the game but by the end of the first quarter he couldn't feel his legs because they were numb with fatigue.
    I don't know if I can agree with you on the bench showing what they are made of, because I do feel they are putting out all they can, they are just not good enough or hasn't learned yet. IMO, they are not nearly as good as I want them to be, but thank goodness they are better then they was.

    by Hg on 1/8/2013 9:59 AM
  14. I am so with you on Coach Stotts credit. I've never liked the idea of building a team around one or two players. Part of the success of winning any sport is keeping the opposition off balance. Stotts does that so well with his substitutions. At the end of last year, LA was getting beat up.

    Four double doubles speaks volumes about why we are winning. Having a lot of go-to guys for the winning shot is awesome. I am loving LA's points in the paint, his drives to the basket and JJ's slam dunks. It's nice to have both inside and outside shooting.

    Above all, i love watching how much confidence the players have in each other. Stotts has done a great job of TEAM building.

    by allie-oop on 1/8/2013 10:07 AM
  15. MB,

    Hi again! I meant to try and find you at the scorer's table before the game but I got sidetracked. I'll try for the game next Saturday against the Bucks.

    Anyway, what a performance by our Blazers! Despite Reddick and Afflalo getting red hot, we still stuck it out and won. What a performance in the third quarter with 37 points! I'm extremely proud of these guys right now. They have definitely exceeded my expectations in almost every way, and a HUGE kudos to Stotts for his coaching. Such a refresher from Nate and his set substitution patterns that backfired more often than not. I loved his decision to put Batum on Afflalo starting late in the third quarter, if I remember right.

    Despite Scott Foster's multiple terrible calls (and I broadcast basketball, so I know they were god-awful...) I wasn't worried at all in the final stretch. I knew that once the regulation buzzer sounded that we had it in the bag for OT. Teams who win don't need the refs to decide the game for them...they decide the outcome themselves.

    My voice is almost gone but my passion for this team isn't! Can't wait to do it all over again on the 19th!!! Go Blazers! I smell the playoffs already...

    -Max Milander '14

    by linfieldrunner on 1/8/2013 10:27 AM
  16. Hg: I think they are putting in the effort they need to develope the confidence of the starters eg. Freeland is a much better shooter and scorer than he is showing, confidence.

    by Ancientone on 1/8/2013 2:33 PM
  17. I love that Mike, a bulldog off guard. There is NO ONE in the NBA that plays with more toughness, more scrap, never say die, in your chin defense than Wesley Matthews. There is a reason he was who the team sent on draft day to welcome Damian and Meyers. There is a reason he went to summer league. He set the tone for this team. This team has his personality. All the players have toughened up this year. You can see it in Batum's face. LMA is playing strong. Damian is just Damian. He already had gravel in his gut and spit in his eye.
    The fair weather fans are coming out of the closet. That's fine by me. It only means we are on a roll.
    4x double double. Impressive. Balanced scoring. Give the coaching staff an A plus.
    No team is excited about coming to the RG right now. The Heat are playing the Pacers tonight. Miami better bring their A game Thursday.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 1/8/2013 6:57 PM
  18. Indiana won. The Heat only scoring 77 points. Be ready Blazers the Heat will bring their A game.

    by Divotking on 1/8/2013 7:29 PM
  19. Divotking: Amen to both posts. Welcome to anyone supporting the Blazers.

    by Ancientone on 1/8/2013 9:43 PM
  20. Does anyone here agree with this guys take on JJ Hickson:

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/8825002/dwight-howard-rebounding-specialists-post-empty-numbers-nba
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/9/2013 3:40 AM
  21. @don, Couldn't read the full article because I'm not an insider, but I'm assuming it says Hickson has impressive rebounding numbers but doesn't add much to the team's rebounding performance. Is that correct?
    If it is, you could argue that it is true that teammates concede some defensive rebounds to Hickson that he normally wouldn't get. When J.J. is on the floor, teammates know he is an animal and will go after every rebound, and may simply just make sure they box out their man and let Hickson clean the glass.
    But fact is, he is averaging around 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, which is all hardwork, positioning, grit, and top-five in the NBA.
    Bend and analyze stats anyway you want, but I wouldn't classify Hickson's rebounding as empty. Here is another point: anyone who has played basketball knows rebounding uses up a lot of energy. Fighting for position and exploding off the floor are energy intensive. I would argue that because Hickson is willing to do this constantly, the other 4 players on the floor save energy over the course of the game. This could be a key argument for why the Blazer's starters can log such heavy minutes, and have still been dynamite in finishing games. No doubt in my mind, Hickson makes this team better by leaps and bounds.

    by MJB on 1/9/2013 7:04 AM
  22. @MJB: I am not a BB player, but I do agree with you. Boxing out fighting for rebounds and being the junk yard dog takes lots of energy, work and dedication.
    Second chance points can make the difference in the game, many times over.

    Like you, I couldn't read the whole article, but comparing rebounds to home runs in baseball is ridiculous to begin with. You could compare rebounds to errors in Baseball, as neither one will make or break the game, or you could compare made Baskets to home runs as they both could make or break the game.

    Boxing out and rebounding is very important in games, couple of facts prove that,
    The reason we lost to Dallas in the play offs was because Chandler got up the energy to fight and get most of the rebounds on offense, which prevents the Blazers from running out. In our offense of fast pace fast hitting, rebounds, steals or forced turn overs can make or break any of our games.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 7:37 AM
  23. @MJB:
    Nice take on rebounding. It is the dirty work of basketball. Pure effort. Pure work. All NBA teams shoot near 50%. Therefore every rebound, every possession is worth one point to me. Rebounders rack up points and receive none of the glory.
    @ Maclaine:
    You are always a good read.

    by the golden ladder on 1/9/2013 8:19 AM
  24. Hello MB .... Your right about blazers road games and have a day off look at miami they play on the west swing till the 19th and their off till till the 23rd .. I feel sorry for you guys

    by LA 2012 on 1/9/2013 9:10 AM
  25. Every where I read, I get this, we are not as good as our record shows, in fact the ;
    then I hear, wait until we play the next three games then you will see they are not that good. Well has anybody said we were good enough to beat the top teams of the NBA?

    The way I look at it, is there is very little pressure on the next three games other then home court advantage. So, if we just rev it up go out have fun and see what we can do to stay competitive, and not worry about wins or losses; if we lose and play well as possible, no one will think much of it.

    The record we have is a great indication of the teams we have played in their present condition, as in B2B, injuries and fatigue. Losing or winning the next three games will not change how good the Blazers are, it might change the win and loss record, but really, did anyone expect us to be over 500 at this point, plus we have beat some pretty good teams, so no one can overlook us, nor can they count us out; although in many ways I wished they would count us out like OKC did Washington, but I don’t believe that will happen.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 9:33 AM
  26. Nicholas Batum. Nate started him as a rookie. His role was limited. Nate wanted him to be a specialist at defensive assignments and a 3 pt. shooter. Nic did those things and held his starting spot. In the off season he would go home, play with his national team and do everything on the court. Come back for NBA season and slip back into his limited role.
    Along came Terry Stotts. He asked Nic to do everything on the court. To expand his game. The leash has been removed. The results are evident.
    If you watch Nicholas 1/4 by 1/4 he is doing different things at different times to help his team win. Score in bunches- rebound- block shots- assists- defend. He appears to have a good feel for what his team needs and when.
    Throw in an atta boy to the coaching staff as well.
    The frenchman has been turned loose.

    by the golden ladder on 1/9/2013 11:21 AM
  27. @the golden ladder: I agree with you on all accounts of Batum.

    all so in a session with Casey, his bad back has speeded up the growth in facilitating. which adds to his resume, When his two things that he has accomplished, shooting and defense has temporarily been taken away because of his back, instead of going to the bench, he started looking for other ways to help, now that his back is feeling a little better, those added skills will have value to no end. And yes that is a contribute to Stotts and Batum, for being on the same page.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 12:39 PM
  28. @the golden ladder and @hg
    I dunno if i'd put that on Nate. Nic has been steadily improving every year. but even during this year we often see his immature side (not putting the ball down on the floor, and just spotting up for 3's, sometimes awful ones!) loosing the ball while dribbling...

    i dont think its a stotts thing, i think it's just nic improving every eyar, to now become a semi-consistent player who helps out the team in a big way every night -

    let's not forget, this is his 4th year, but he just turned 24... he's young, and still very much improving

    by joe.k on 1/9/2013 1:06 PM
  29. @Hg:
    On Thursday, do you think Batum's assignment will be LeBron ? Tall order. I can't really think of a better matchup around the NBA. Except for maybe Durant.
    As far as matchups go, our 5 on their 5 is not too bad. Batum needs to try and keep Lebron away from the paint on both ends.
    If Spoelstra goes small, which is likely, Babbit may be a part of this game.
    I also see our backup veteran center getting some minutes. Try and take some charges.

    by the golden ladder on 1/9/2013 1:12 PM
  30. @the golden ladder:
    I am sure Batum will be on James and Wesley on Wade. Oops I forgot who plays their point guard, is it Beasley. I don't remember him being anything other then a drug user, But Lillard will match up with him OK.
    LaMarcus and JJ will do OK, I can't remember what’s his face name is LOL.☺☺☺

    We will have to watch LeBron posting up Batum, as he is bigger and stronger then Batum.
    It doesn't sound like Leonard will be back but Joel is getting better at shooting and rebounding, and they don't have anybody that can stop JJ or Joel.

    One more thing I worry about, is the fact that it is on TNT, and many complaints has been filed about the zebras favoring Miami. Maybe they will heed the complaints, but more then likely let it go, in order to get opposing owners and coaches mad where they can levee fines. Of course Dallas and Miami go way way back so that may be a special complaint. I have seen it in our games where the refs have showed favoritism to star players, so I know they will favor Miami.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 2:27 PM
  31. @Joe k:

    I don't necessarily put it on Nate, I have no animosity for him at all, I only mean that Stotts and Nate was two different type coaches, and yes he did demand his SF to stand at the coffin corner. I got to talk to James Jones at one of the Fanfest, with a couple of other fans and he said his job was not to rebound or get involved, but when opponents put up a shot he was to go to the coffin corner for a dagger three.
    Batum complained about it a lot also. Nevertheless, this is about where Batum is now, not a duel between two coaches, and Stotts with playing his players to their strength instead of what he wants from them, is a credit to Batum and JJ's growth. But then again he went to an ISO with Lillard in the closing minutes of the Orlando game, so maybe there is a little Nate retained in Stotts. Regardless of injury coaching, experience, a big contract or what, I love what I am seeing in my Batum, Ha gotcha.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 2:48 PM
  32. @Hg:
    Stotts goes to that ISO play for the last shot of the game because-
    1. Damian is most likely to create his own shot ( amazing for a rookie considering the talent on this team )
    2. He plays it to do no worse than a tie ( passing the ball is a risk he is willing not to take )
    Remember the hand off play from Babbitt to Damian for the win. We were behind in score if I remember right. Or Batum on the curl for the win.
    When tied I suspect Stotts will go to the ISO every time. It is simply low risk.
    If there was a significant matchup favorable to the Blazers he might try that play sometime.
    5-0 in overtime it would be hard to argue not to play safe and finish no worse than a tie.

    by the golden ladder on 1/9/2013 3:08 PM
  33. @golden ladder;
    Yes I was fine with the shot, but with that much time left, I thought we could have got a higher % shot, but yes there was the turnover factor.

    by Hg on 1/9/2013 3:25 PM
  34. MJB: Yes, that's exactly what the article was about, rebounders that don't help the team that much. And they chose JJ as the first example. The thing I feel they overlook is how much JJ's energy affects his teammates. It's been a long time coming for us to have a high-energy guy like JJ. The dude is relentless and that effort rubs off on everyone around him, even the fans.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/11/2013 3:08 AM
  35. Golden Ladder, Hg, et al: I've written more than once about how Nate McMilan's offense was not taking advantage of Nic Batum's abilities. As far as being able to show all his talents on the court, this is almost his rookie season. He's just now learning what he can and cannot get away with in his increased ball handling (which was almost nil under McMillan) and I think that explains his sometimes excessive turnovers. Those will decrease as he learns what he can't get away with against NBA defenses. The dude is an all-star waiting to happen.
    --
    don


    by dgpdx on 1/11/2013 3:14 AM
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