Offense Carries Portland Over Charlotte
By mikebarrett Posted in: Bobcats
It was another very good outing by Portland's starting five, another solid contribution from the bench, and another relatively easy home win. Yes, like Saturday, that was expected. And now, it's off on the road for a very difficult three-game road trip as the team continues to cling to hopes of hanging in the race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The win wasn't perfect, and you can't expect 60 percent shooting very often, but at the end of the day the Trail Blazers will take the 122-105 win over the struggling Charlotte Bobcats.
Before you start thinking that the win should have been even easier than it was, a little credit is due to Charlotte on this night. They haven't been competitive lately, and have been getting absolutely destroyed on the backboards. I half expected them to roll over and not even put up a fight on this night, as their road trip was coming to an end and they were playing the second of a back to back.
But, this overmatched team played a hard, scrappy game. On Friday night in Utah the Bobcats were out rebounded 62-24 in Utah. Sunday night in Sacramento they were outboarded 60-31. In this game, they actually ended up outrebounding Portland 44-41, including a 21-11 edge in offensive rebounds. The Blazers aren't a bad rebounding team, in fact they sit somewhere in the middle of the pack. The Bobcats simply earned the edge in this vital category and that's the only reason this wasn't a 40-point Portland win. I would imagine, even though disappointed once again, Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap had to be proud of his team's effort on this night.
In the end, because of their offense, the Blazers were able to absorb the defeat on the boards and still win fairly comfortably. It wasn't only because of their offense, but again, was because of their bench too. Terry Stotts appears to have settled on an eight-man rotation, and it worked well again.
That's the funny thing about a bench unit. We've talked Portland's bench all season. Sometimes all it takes is one player to really turn things around. Right now it appears the Eric Maynor trade was a huge victory for Portland. Not only has he been a calming influence, but his steady hand has coincided with the arrival of Meyers Leonard as a dependable backup big man and Victor Claver's continued consistency and productivity off the bench.
Maynor scored 10 points, Leonard had a career-high 15, and Claver was very solid in his 18 minutes. Those three players were a combined 13 for 21 from the field, and added 10 rebounds and 7 assists. You get that each night from the second unit and you've got a chance to win every game, because the starters have shown they can play with anyone in this league.
Damian Lillard, who many expected to hit a rookie wall at some point, has actually seen his numbers improve here the latter stages of the season. He had 20 points on Monday night, and also dished out 7 assists. For the first time this season, Lillard is averaging 19 points per game, and is on his way to his 5th consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award (I know, March just got started). I don't see any sign of Lillard getting anything but better the rest of the way, and that's saying a lot.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who has seen his rebounding average take a little bit of a dip lately, grabbed 14 rebounds against Charlotte and also scored 23 points. JJ Hickson had 15 and 8, Wesley Matthews scored 14, and Nic Batum shot the ball better than he has in weeks, hitting 8 of 11, and scoring 20 points.
Portland improved to 10-2 on the season when shooting over 50 percent in a game.
The Blazers remain three games in the loss column out of the eight and final playoff spot in the west. Yes, it's a longshot, and they'll likely need help, but the fact that we're still talking about this is notable. If you keep waiting for them to raise the white flag, you're going to be waiting a little longer. No one on this team has conceded anything yet.
The old cliche in this league has to do with taking things one game at a time. At times Stotts has divided things into sections, into road trips or homestands, but right now, with the margin of error so thin, you're going to see the Blazers totally go back to simply trying to win the day. Start chipping off wins, only focusing on the next 48 minutes, and seeing if they can live to fight another day.
That next day will be Wednesday in Memphis, when the Blazers take on the red-hot Grizzlies. That'll be followed by a game at San Antonio, before the road trip wraps up with a game in New Orleans.
Talk to you from the road.