The Portland Trail Blazers are still too new at this "being good" thing to call any win perfunctory. But Portland's 102-91 victory over the visiting New York Knicks on Monday night ran pretty much by the numbers. Three-point shooting? Check. Great play from Portland's All-Star candidates? Check. Wesley Matthews scoring? Check. Timely contributions from role players? Check. The Blazers got all that and more en route to their 13th win of the season.
I'm not entirely sure what the Knicks were doing out there tonight, but it didn't look much like basketball. More like a battle of the bands featuring Mumford and Sons vs. an Air Supply tribute band whose tape player kept eating their cassette. New York's defense was horrible through most of the game. A blind, two-legged cow could defend better than Beno Udrih did against Damian Lillard tonight. Rotations were non-existent. The Blazers opened the game by scoring at will in the paint, built a 20-point lead, and barely looked back. New York's offense wasn't much better. Forget "If a tree falls in the woods". If Carmelo Anthony scores 30 but his team still loses by double digits, does it make a sound?
You want to know how bad it was? Portland outscored the Knicks 40-28 in the paint. If you only score 28 points in the paint against the Portland Trail Blazers, you are not trying.
This is the kind of game that could turn the knob on Knicks coach Mike Woodson's hot seat up to 11. The Blazers no doubt have their eyes on ways to build upon and sustain their success by adding to the roster. There wasn't one single guy out there in blue tonight who looked like you'd want him. That says something about the current state of the Knicks and the Blazers. eh?
Among the positive signs for Portland: once again they held the opponent to an insanely low fast break total, 4 points. This was a huge issue early in the year but the Blazers appear to have made the commitment to stopping that leak.
Portland ended up shooting 36% from the arc, 9-25, but that number got dragged down by the game being well in hand. They hit every triple they needed to, breaking New York's back on any comeback attempt. The Blazers also got timely offensive rebounding, kept their turnovers low...pretty much covered the basics. On a night like this, that was plenty.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled through much of the game but it was more of a "you guys don't really need me" deal than a critical development. To the extent the Knicks did expend energy on defense (which is like saying to the extent that Ebenezer Scrooge spent a shilling) they expended it double-teaming LMA in the post. He missed a few shots but neither he nor the team ever got stuck in those sets. LaMarcus ended up with 18 points on 7-20 shooting. As is typical of his season, however, he didn't let up on the other end. He grabbed 12 defensive rebounds tonight, 14 total.
Damian Lillard dunked twice tonight, had another layup or two, and shot the most open threes he's seen all season. It was like, "What? You don't want me to step back before I shoot this? Most teams get me to step back. No? OK." He only shot 2-7 from distance but man, he was well within his rights to take every one. He finished 9-20 for 23 points with 6 assists.
Nicolas Batum just feasted on the Knicks tonight. "Should I pass, should I shoot, or should I just laugh at you? Why choose? I'll do all three!" For most of the night he was matched up against Iman Shumpert, one of the fellow-contenders for the all-around-wing-stud trophy. It was no contest. Woodson had to call three timeouts just to change Shumpert's diapers. Shumpert's line: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls. Batum's line: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, a block, 3-5 triples hit, 8-12 shooting overall.
Wesley Matthews had 17 points and 6 rebounds in 38 minutes. He got to guard 'Melo much of the evening. Anthony didn't do any damage while it mattered.
Robin Lopez had 9 points and 7 rebounds. He scored a little inside just to mock the Knicks but Portland didn't need him that much tonight.
With Mo Williams suspended for this game Portland's bench rotation looked like last year's: evenly-divided minutes for guys with middling accomplishments. Didn't matter. New York's bench was worse.
Thomas Robinson missed some shots and grabbed a couple boards. He played tough, just not that effectively.
Dorell Wright was looking to score tonight. He tallied 8 points in 13 minutes, trying to assume the Mantle of Mo. Well done.
Joel Freeland had a couple solid defensive stands but was mostly a neutral factor.
Will Barton got 7 minutes of burn and he was pretty quick up and down the floor. His most surprising stat: 0 shots taken. He did grab a couple boards and he stayed within the defensive game plan better than he seemed to last year. He also looked more under control with the ball in his hands.
Earl Watson also looked pretty speedy for an old guy. He played 12 minutes, had a little trouble keeping up on defense, but otherwise ate innings until Lillard could return.
The Blazers travel to Phoenix on Wednesday before a nice little break for the Thanksgiving weekend. 12 in a row would be something to be thankful for, eh?
Posting and Toasting will recount how the Knicks got posted and toasted.