In was a fun night in the Rose Garden as the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Trail Blazers defeated the Golden State Warriors in high-scoring style, 118-110.
Portland could have mailed it in with their all-star and number one option Aldridge out with a sore right hip, but instead the Trail Blazers stepped up to the challenge of compensating for his absence.. And when I say Trail Blazers I do indeed mean the whole team.
J.J. Hickson stepped into Aldridge’s shoes as best he could to control the post with big-man Joel Przybilla. He racked up a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-17 shooting. His boards coupled with Przybilla’s 14 led the Trail Blazers to a 45-38 rebounding advantage, a feat they’ve struggled to achieve even with a healthy Aldridge.
But the story of the night wasn’t the front court stepping up, instead it was the play of the wings. Led by Jamal Crawford—who put up a season-high 34 points—Wesley Matthews, Raymond Felton and Nicolas Batum gelled together as a group to carry the load typically borne by Aldridge.
“I knew coming into the game we were missing our top player LaMarcus, that everybody had to step their game up,” Crawford said. “LA’s our All Star, our franchise player – unquestioned. He’s done so much already in the season, we just want to see him get healthy. But for now, everybody has to step up. Even though I had a big scoring game, it’s never about me. It’s about our team. Ray quarterbacked us. Wesley hit some big shots. Przy had some crucial rebounds. JJ was great. Everybody that came in played a part in this. You win as a team and you lose as a team.”
Win as a team they did. Matthews added 18 points and four boards, Felton had the team’s second double-double with 16 points and 10 assists and Batum rounded out the scoring wing quartet with 14 points and five rebounds.
When asked if they felt as if they played any differently they all responded with a resounding no. Matthews summed it up best when he said, “Playing how we’re capable of playing, basically. Moving the ball, sharing the ball and having fun out there.”
Now it’s a matter of combining the team effort with Aldridge on the floor as the main option and doing so in a fun and entertaining manner.