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.