Everybody's hero tonight. - Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
The Portland Trail Blazers came back from a late 18 point deficit, beating the Charlotte Bobcats in overtime and shocking the home crowd in two straight games.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists) and a red-hot-late Damian Lillard (24 points, 9 assists). Wesley Matthews (19 points, 7 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (17 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) also came up big late. Luke "Clutch Three" Babbitt's 9 points will be remembered all season long, while Joel Freeland and Will Barton had a few nice moments along the way.
First Quarter: Charlotte 14, Portland 5. That was the point when Blazers coach Terry Stotts already needed to take his first timeout. It was 20-6 afterward. Charlotte feasted on dunks and layups early, with the lane wide open. At the offensive end, the injured Matthews was fairly useless, with long misses on three's that led to fast breaks. Remember last season's Blazers? This was worse.
Eventually, the bench (aka Will Barton!) came in, brought some energy, and Aldridge finally got a few shots. The Blazers cut it to 5, only to get burned by a 3-pointer late to be down 8 after one. They made the Bobcats look like the Miami Heat for most of the quarter.
Not going to win any games playing matador defense and giving up more than 30 points a quarter!
Second Quarter: More of the same, as the Bobcats scored 5 points in 20 seconds to force the lead back to 10. However, the starters returned (plus Joel Freeland), Matthews heated up, and the Bobcats lead evaporated. Freeland continued to show he can hang with the big boys, scoring 6 points to help the cause. Charlotte led by 3 at the half.
Note: JJ Hickson played 4 minutes in the first half. He did not look sick or injured. Speculate at will.
Freeland/Barton have combined for more points in the 1st half than our bench has averaged per game so far this season… #onthebrightside
by Moosen PDX
Third Quarter: Batum hit a jumper to cut the deficit to one. But the Blazers missed their next 5 shots and were soon down by 6 again. Portland's defense tightened though, forcing tougher Bobcats shots,and before long the game was tied. Then a 4 point Blazer lead. However, like most recent Blazer leads, it was short-lived as they yet again fell apart after taking a lead. Poor defense (including giving up multiple three-pointers, and a 4 point play) left them in a hole again. Charlotte led by 5 after three.
Fourth Quarter: Coach Stotts kept the bench in the game. Ooops. You know it's a bad sign when Luke Babbitt is running the offense. That led to a turnover. The next possession was a Nolan Smith turnover. Then a Barton turnover. Just like that, the Blazer 4 point lead was now a 10 point deficit after a series of bumbling plays at both ends. It was "turn your TV off and find something to clear your mind" bad. The starters came in, and the Bobcats lead grew to 17. Yes, the Blazers were outscored 26-5 by the Charlotte Bobcats with the game on the line. After Aldridge dominated the first half, he had almost no field goal attempts. Two different possessions ended with Sasha Pavlovic airballs from three. They finally got two free throws, for their first points in over 5 minutes.
That's when the Blazers went to work, quickly cutting the 18 point lead to 4 with 2 minutes left, thanks to a hot Lillard and a Babbitt three-pointer. They cut it to three with a minute left, and Charlotte missed a chance to put it away. From an offensive rebound, Luke Babbitt got another three point opportunity, with a chance to tie... AND HIT IT! The comeback was complete! That led to this response from Coach Stotts:
Charlotte had possession with 22 seconds left, and a chance for the win. They gave the ball to Kemba Walker, who missed a jumper. Let's head to overtime... again!
In the first quarter: the blazers didn’t play for the first 5 minutes
In the second quarter: the blazers didn’t play for the first 5 minutes
In the third quarter: the blazers didn’t play for the first 5 minutes
In the 4th quarter: the blazers didn’t do anything for the first 5 minutes.
Overtime: Luke played decoy from three, passing it to Batum, who swished a three instead. They maintained that lead for the first two minutes, but started struggling at both ends again. However, Batum and Babbitt forced a turnover on Gordon, and Babbitt MADE THEM PAY with another huge three-pointer. Gordon cut the lead to 2 with 90 seconds left. Off a steal, Aldridge made a nice pass to Matthews, who was fouled on his sore thumb. Charlotte called a timeout to "ice" Wes, but he calmly sank both anyway.
After a missed Bobcats three, Matthews was fouled again after a nice Lillard pass against the shot clock. Matthews calmly sank 'em both again with 30 seconds left. At the other end, Charlotte grabbed an offensive board, and Walker hit one of two free throws. Batum rebounded and was immediately fouled. He hit both free throws, but Gordon got lucky on a three, accidentally banking it in. There was no stopping Lillard though, who sank two free throws to leave shell-shocked Bobcats and their fans defeated and deflated.
Aldridge was asked after the game what was the key to the comeback. His reply? "Defense."
Babbitt's best game of his career
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis later. The next game is Wednesday night, at Indiana. -- Tim