Trail Blazers vs Bobcats Monday, 03/04/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Cruise To 122-105 Win Over Bobcats

  1. Written by: erikgundersen

    The Portland Trail Blazers (28-31) took care of business from the opening tip this evening. The Trail Blazers took the lead with 10:17 left in the first quarter and never looked back as they were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats (13-47) handily by the score of 122-105. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, becoming only the third NBA player this season (Tim Duncan, DeMarcus Cousins) to do that.

    Sunny days in the Pacific Northwest are hard to come by in March and it seemed like everybody in the Rose Garden, including the Trail Blazers were enjoying it. Terry Stotts got up shots with Jay Triano before the game, with Stotts even calling a swish from about thirty-five feet. The locker room before the game was uncharacteristically loud and boisterous before the game. It was the last time the Trail Blazers could bask in the warmth of their fans and of their home gym.

    "For the most part, we were pleased obviously to get the win," said Terry Stotts. "I was disappointed with our defense in the first half. We gave up way too many things -- energy plays, hustle plays, rebounds. On the night, I don't know if necessarily it was a good defensive night, but it was a good win. I thought we played well, particularly offensively."

    The Trail Blazers were basking in the warmth alright, as everybody seemed to be in a rhythm all night long on the offensive end. The Trail Blazers scored 68 points after first half on 65 percent as well as shooting eight for 13 on threes. Nicolas Batum (20 points on eight of 11 shooting) and JJ Hickson (15 points, eight rebounds, 7-8 shooting) got the night started but Meyers Leonard stole the show in the first half, throwing down dunk after dunk, including one on a fast break that Batum threw off the glass.

    "I didn't care for it in the fact that it was kind of messing with the game a little bit," Stotts said about the off the backboard lob early in the game.

    After both players were talked to about it at halftime, Leonard wanted to make sure that it was not his idea, even if he was down for the end result.

    "Actually, this is the honest truth," Leonard prefaced. "I saw Nic take off and I was like you know what, run behind him and yell 'go off the glass Nic'. But then I was like, 'he's just going to dunk it,' then for whatever reason I was going to make sure he didn't miss or something then he did (throw the ball off the glass) so it is what it is. He makes plays, probably a little risky, but hey."

    Stotts wasn't happy with it but hey, the sun was out, that's a good excuse for anything in Oregon. Next time Meyers should just come back with that. But Leonard did acknowledge that he learned his lesson in sportsmanship.

    However, the dunk and the talk about the dunk overshadowed the fact that Leonard has played three solid games in a row.

    "He's playing well. I think everybody can see he's playing with confidence, playing with energy, kind of figuring things out and where to be. I like the progress he's making," said Stotts.

    "I think that I've just had confidence, I've played hard and just found myself in the right places at the right time especially at the offensive end. Also, for me, I've been trying to work on and watch film on rebounding, find better angles, be stronger in the post and I feel I've done that," Leonard said.

    "He's playing well. He's starting to pick things up, starting to understand stuff, starting to listen. Playing with more energy which is his best asset at the moment and that's what we need from him,"Wesley Matthews, who scored 14 points and shot four of seven from deep, said.

    Damian Lillard, who scored 20 points and dished seven assists including eight points in the matter of 1:05 to end the first half, said after the Celtics game that Leonard has been more dominant in practice, by dunking the ball and blocking shots, the same sentiments he shared tonight. LaMarcus Aldridge, who knows a thing or two about being a developing big man in the NBA, says he sees the growth on a daily basis too.

    "Yeah, just being more confident. He's learning the game and I think one of the hardest things for a big is to learn timing and I think he's figured out the timing of being a big man and he's playing better."

    Leonard's career nights, on what seem like a nightly basis as of late, are coming in the context of a steady rotation along with Eric Maynor (10 points, three assists in 23 minutes) and Victor Claver (five points, three assists in 17 minutes). Although Stotts won't say it's a set rotation, Aldridge believes Stotts is liking what he is seeing.

    "Yeah, I think he's found a rotation that he's liking right now. With me coming out in the second and sitting for a while and letting Meyers and those guys play longer."

    Despite the sunshine, the dunks, the threes and the fun, the Trail Blazers know what lies ahead. A tough road trip starting against the currently fourth-seeded Grizzlies, whom Stotts said is "one of the hotter teams in the west right now."

    "Memphis is a great team and we know it's not going to be like that (as offensively successful as tonight). And, we've got to bring our defense," said Wesley Matthews. "They pound the ball inside, they'll play grind it out game, they'll run and put points on the board and we know we can too. We're going to have to key in defensively a lot better than we did tonight."

    The Trail Blazers had their fun in the sun. But now, they will have to get their "grit and grind" on down South against a Grizzlies team that's won nine of their last 10, with their only loss coming against the Heat in Miami. Tip off is set for 5PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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