The Portland Trail Blazers went chalupa-plus-22 in beating the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. Charlotte's motto is "We aren't actual NBA players but we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." Still, the Blazers have lost plenty of easy games this season. It was gratifying to see them put Charlotte away early and never look back.
Portland's game wasn't perfect. They allowed too many offensive rebounds and fast break points. But hey, they got the job done. They moved the ball on offense almost to a fault and shot 60% from the floor, 50% from the three-point arc. They put 7 players in double figures, scored 50 in the paint, milked plenty of minutes out of the bench players. What's the bigger picture? Building confidence heading into the next road trip, getting another win on the board, getting Eric Maynor more run in the system, and showing fans that yes, Portland's offensive scheme really does put points on the board sometimes.
Plenty of Blazers put up gaudy stats tonight. Most should come with an asterisk because of the opponent. Running the offense was the main thing. It was impressive how the Blazers stuck with that even when it became patently obvious that anybody on the team could get an acceptable shot at any time. You have to love that about this year's squad. Highlights of the individual performances:
LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. It's nice when your star does other things.
Nicolas Batum scored 20 on 8 of 11 shooting with 5 assists. In the first period, leading the break with the dribble, he tossed a pass off the backboard for Meyers Leonard to catch and dunk. Leonard did and both smiled mischievously. I'm not sure about propriety there but Leonard now had his face wagging out there for a second show-up-the-opponent moment in three games. Let's hope he doesn't get a target on his back before he actually learns how to play.
Damian Lillard also had 20 points plus 7 assists and looked like he could do anything he wanted.
Wesley Matthews still looks hurt on defense. It's just not there for him right now.
Only three bench players are getting off the leash this week. Eric Maynor was the main attraction with 10 points on 5-8 shooting with 3 assists in 24 minutes. Meyers Leonard had a career offensive night with 6-8 shooting and 15points himself plus 6 rebounds in 21 minutes but again...dang...he is really, really bad at defending the paint. Really. I suppose this is what raises some of the questions about the showboating. If LeBron James does it, he's LeBron James. Can't argue with that. But as much as I like Leonard's boyish charm and offensive ability--and I like both--this kid has the defensive fundamentals of a slightly moldy pumpkin right now. A fair number of people are going to think he should keep his head down and learn his craft before we see him clowning in SportsCenter highlights. Again, Batum's pass started it. Leonard had no options other than catch it and dunk. But the pass isn't the image that will stick in most people's minds.
Victor Claver was the third bench guy in the rotation with 18 minutes. He's looking more confident on his shots again, which is a good sign.
So now, that fun little weekend is over. It's time to get back to work. The Blazers play 3 tough games on the road this week, then return for 2 of 3 tough ones at home. Then it's 5 more on the road. After that the opponents get really tough. I'm not sure if the rallying cry for the finish of this season will be "Rip City" or "Thank you sir, may I have another?" In any case, 8 of the next 11 are away from the Rose Garden and few of those road games bring favorable matchups. Brace yourselves and hope that these two free and easy games can somehow carry over.
Rufus on Fire doesn't have an enviable job this year. Every time the Bobcats shot tonight I felt sorry for the rim.