The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Boston Celtics 112-104 on Saturday night to push their record to 28-9 on the season. I got to this game very late so I'm not going to do a standard recap. Instead I'm going to let you rely on Timmay's Instant Recap for details and Ben Golliver's upcoming Media Row Report for quotes and the locker room story. Meanwhile here are some stream-of-consciousness observations from me.
Different Day, Same Stuff: The Blazers started slow in this game defensively, allowing the Celtics to score inside like sweet syrup pouring over a stack of johnnycakes. Blazer guards couldn't stay in front of anybody. Blazer rotations didn't happen. The Celts tore up the paint and were hovering above 70% from the floor for much of the first half. Predictably Portland made a surge late in the second quarter, prepping themselves for the obligatory third-period reversal.
The Blazers scored on (three guesses) triples and offensive rebounds in the first half. If it weren't for those two factors they probably would have hit intermission with 5 points total. But they're dang good at the things they're dang good at.
The third period saw the Blazers giving more help against drivers and Boston drifting towards the outside on offense, a nasty development for their production. (Save in the moments when their bigs drew Portland's bigs out of the lane by hitting jumpers, but the Celts never really took advantage by driving. Jumpers led to more jumpers.) Defense deserves credit here but every time this happens I can't help but think, "Rope a Dope". Every shot seems good in the first half for Portland's opponents but in reality those shots are going in because they're close and Portland is permissive in the lane. The Blazer defense changes in the third period but the opponent's perception of their own offense doesn't seem to. Every shot still feels good, except now those shots are no-good 18-footers instead of real good layups.
Even so, Portland's main advantage in the turn-around wasn't defense. Nor was it torrential offense. The Blazers and Celtics stayed pretty even from the field in the critical third quarter. Portland's advantage came from the foul line where they hit 10-10 shots in the period while Boston managed only 3-4. This time there was pretty solid reason for the disparity. The Blazers were going inside (or at least rebounding inside) while the Celtics bombed away.
Looking at the final stats 20 offensive rebounds, 10-21 from the arc, and 26 foul shot attempts for Portland to 17 for Boston made the difference in this game. Ignore Boston's 20 offensive boards. A third of those came in the last two minutes of the game off of desperation plays. Portland got most of the 50-50 balls and most of the 50-50 calls in this game and that made the difference.
Another Point Guard Goes Bonkers Against Portland: Avery Bradley poured in 25 points on 11-19 shooting in this game. For a while there he was shooting, like, 80%. No matter who the Blazers put in that point guard spot defense remains an issue.
C.J. McCollum Says Hello: Portland's first-round pick scored 10 in 14 minutes on 4-6 shooting, 2-3 from the arc. This was even more amazing when you consider he never touched the ball. OK, maybe he touched it but he sure didn't get the chance to hold or dribble it much. If he can get in an offensive groove without having to massage the ball Portland will benefit...greatly.
Mo Williams Plays Point: The stats (4-9 shooting, 4 assists, 2 turnovers) don't necessarily show it but it felt like Mo Williams responded to recent criticism of his style by making sure to find open teammates, particularly McCollum. A couple times you could almost hear the wheels turning, "See? I had this shot but there's Rook. He's open. I hit him. We made it. Point Guard!"
LaMarcus Aldridge Isn't Fair: It's like you look across the roster sheet every night to see who's playing against him and you say, "This guy isn't near as good as LaMarcus. Should be a field day for LMA." Then you realize you've done that every game for the last month. 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists tonight. And he didn't even shoot that much.
Robin Lopez Isn't Fair Either: Because every time the opponent finally thinks they have the Blazers contained they realize they didn't account for him, especially on the offensive glass. Making the Blazers miss the shot might be 50% of the defense necessary to stop them. Against most teams it's the whole job. Thanks, Robin!
T-Rob Didn't Repeat: But did you really expect him to?
Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard Didn't Even Play: The bench minutes aren't getting that much bigger but more fish are scuttling to scoop them up when Coach Stotts sprinkles them in the tank. Barring injury it looks like 1-2 players are going to be unhappy after each game...not necessarily a bad development. You'd still like to see more production out of the bench and to have more trust in them in general. #veterans
Boston Is Kind of Hurting: It's not just the (now) 8-game losing streak. Normally in these kinds of situations when I assume Portland will take the game handily I spend a fair amount of time scanning the opposing roster for players I'd like to pilfer to bolster Portland's playoff bid. Tonight it was mostly, "No thanks."
Those Green Celtics Road Unis are Pretty: But the combination of their color and Blazer crimson was making my HDTV throw fits.
Cleveland comes to town on Wednesday. Between now and then the Blazers will prepare for the brutal road trip that follows.
CelticsBlog can't be happy right now. But they might be anticipating a little draft action soon.
Here's your link for the Jersey Contest, both tonight's scores and the next game form.