The Portland Trail Blazers saw a few bobcats prowling their neighborhood on Thursday night. They didn't panic. They just did what any frontier-minded Pacific Northwest citizen would do, shooting at them repeatedly until they went away. The result was a 134-104 victory in which the Blazers tied their season (and franchise) record for three-pointers made, hitting 21 of 33 from beyond the arc.
For once there's not much to this game that the final score doesn't tell you. If Charlotte's defense were a sock even your grandma wouldn't bother darning it. She'd chuck it out, head to the mercantile, and get material to make a new one. The Blazers shot 58%, 64% from distance, running plays just like they're drawn up in practice. The night recalled the December 14th victory in Philadelphia, the other game in which the opposing defense just wouldn't (or couldn't) react to Portland's attack. The Blazers scored 39 in the first period and never looked back, reaching 30+ points in every quarter thereafter.
Charlotte's offense wasn't awful; it just wasn't adequate to the job at hand. Al Jefferson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Gerald Henderson all found success but for the most part their team got stuck shooting jumpers. Everybody knows that you never get into a land war in Asia, you never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and you never, ever get into a jump-shooting battle with the Portland Trail Blazers. Charlotte all but waved the white flag when they started firing from mid-range, never cutting Portland's lead closer than a dozen and spending most of the night down 20+.
The Blazers got scoring from every source possible save the foul line and forced turnovers. They hit 54 field goals, dished 34 assists, doubled up the 'Cats 12-6 on the offensive glass, and even ended up only 6 points behind in the paint, 36-42. It was a laugher.
Charlotte isn't a horrible team. They're just stocked with players you'd like to see coming off of Portland's bench right now and the one guy who definitely exceeds that description--Kemba Walker--went 2-10 for 6 points and 3 assists. But if you want to amuse yourself and generate some post-game discussion after a mostly-perfunctory win, do what I did during the game and identify the Charlotte players you'd like to trade for to bolster the Blazers roster if the Bobcats ended up selling at a reasonable price of a couple young guys.
LaMarcus Aldridge took only 13 shots tonight but who could fault him for that on a night when his teammates were making it rain 3's like counterfeiters at a strip club? The 13 attempts tied for team high in any case. Aldridge only scored 10 but he corralled 15 rebounds. The latter were far more important to Portland's separation than the former.
Damian Lillard matched Aldridge with 13 shots but he hit 9 of them, 6 of them triples on a perfect 6-6 night from range. From the opening moments of this game the Blazers looked totally comfortable against the Charlotte defense. Totally comfortable is a bad place to leave Lillard if you're the opponent. Lillard scored 24 and dished 7 assists.
Nicolas Batum equaled those 7 assists, added 6 rebounds, and tossed in 8 points for good measure. Too bad he didn't have 5 steals or he would have gotten the small straight.
Wesley Matthews led the team with 25 points. The nifty thing about that: he attempted only 11 shots. That's a pretty impressive point-per-shot ratio. A 5-6 clip from the arc and 4 of 5 free throws made helped out with that.
Robin Lopez had 5 rebounds but he was guarding Al Jefferson across the court and it's not like Aldridge left him any. At the beginning of the second half the Bobcats tried to change their fortunes by guarding everybody else but Lopez, leaving him in loose single coverage or alone. He made them pay double-time with 7-10 shots and 14 points. The strategy didn't exactly work.
As you might suspect in a huge blowout, Portland's bench players got plenty of run tonight. Mo Williams led the charge with 15 points and 10 assists in 21 minutes. Mo likes teams that can't play defense.
Meyers Leonard played 20 minutes and hit an array of jump shots, shooting 4-7 but missing two three-pointers which the crowd and the defense were both egging him on to take. He had 10 rebounds as well.
Dorell Wright played free and easy in this game, looking to get in some scoring opportunities. He hit 2-5 triples for 6 points in 16 minutes. Wright seems a little antsy lately, as if he's pushing when he gets on the court. It's not awful but you can tell that he's not in the same groove as his teammates.
Joel Freeland went for 6 points and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes of play.
Will Barton was the best of the rest, looking comfortable handling the ball and taking his shot. He's far more poised on the attack now than he was last year. Barton scored 10 points in 9 minutes, hitting 4-5 shots including both triples he attempted.
Allen Crabbe tried to put Portland over the record but hit only 1 of his 3 long-ball attempts for 3 points in 7 minutes.
Thomas Robinson reminded us what a real rebounder looks like, gobbling up 5 in 9 minutes of play.
Earl Watson had an assist in 7 minutes. He sees the floor occasionally but with young guards beside him during all of those minutes he barely gets to touch the ball.
Closing Thought: Watching the starters tonight it struck me that one of the beautiful things about this offense is that 99% of the time the guy touching the ball is in scoring position. The Blazers move the rock but it almost never stops anywhere outside a threat zone. The defense never gets to relax and on nights like this one where everything goes in, it's just a torrent.
Rufus on Fire will be chagrined that their team was not.
Up Next: A rematch with the 76'ers on Saturday. Will we see the three-point record threatened again?