Now in his fouth NBA season, Wes Matthews finally missed his first NBA games in his career after a consecutive streak of 250. It's not surprise that Ironman is the superhero he personally identifies with. He appears to be past the nagging hip flexor that sidelined him from 6 games (and cut 2 other games very short), and his toughness and is back on full display.
His first game back was understandably quiet versus the Knicks, but resulted in a huge win on New Year's Day. He and the team followed that up with a giant egg in Toronto. Getting into cities late at night, if not early morning, and across time zones, is a handy-cap that comes with being a Blazer. A back-to-back game doesn't exactly make it any easier. Wes had played 30 min or less each of those games. Since the loss in Toronto, Matthews has been on a tear. The Blazers won then next 3 games (in 4 nights) and Wes shot 14 of 22 from three (64%), averaged 39 minutes and 23.3 point per game, and registered totals of 10 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.
Here's a look at the 26 games Wes has played where he was not dealing with his hip injury:
Ranks 6th for Three Pointers Made Per Game (2.46) and tied with Nicholas Batum!
Ranks 16th in Steals Per Game (1.61), 3rd among all SGs
Ranks 39th in Points Per Game (16.65), 9th among all SGs
Ranks 18th in Minutes Per Game (36.8), 5th among all SGs
And, no one in the NBA plays as many minutes with fewer turnovers per game (1.57).
As I've been rattling these stats off for various players, I do realize stats are subjective. But I also realize, and most Blazer fans do, that Matthews is also an excellent defender. And it's hard to know that without watching him play. When Wes steps on the court, you'd think he was wearing an Ironman suit with his motor stuck in high gear. The Blazers first overtime victory epitomized what Wes does for this team, a huge three to tie the game followed by and a huge steal versus James Harden to force overtime. It shouldn't really surprise any Blazer fan that the Blazers are 5-0 in overtime. They are built for crunch time, and close games. Many will argue it's just coincidence, and that will even out as the season wears on. But I see something that stats don't show: the kind of effort, belief, and will to win that Wes exemplifies.
And I haven't even mentioned how Wes is the guy that traveled to Summer League as a fourth-year veteran, jokes around and hangs out with teammates who he calls friends, and the guys that provides motivation for the Blazer to aspire for more. His attitude is infectious and the chemistry he's built amongst teammates is invaluable. The only demons this Ironman seems to be fighting are the one's telling him that the Blazers are not a playoff team.
"I've been telling you guys this since the start of the year; we're resilient, we can play... We're a playoff team." - Ironman (Wesley Matthews)
UPDATE: Matthews hit 2 clutch three pointers in the final minute, and played some clutch defense to force a missed last second shot that could have won it for the Heat. And... he was sick - litterally sick. Wes also held LeBron to 15 points, ending Jame's streak of 54 consecutive games of 20 points or more dating back to last season.