The Portland Trail Blazers' outing against the Philadelphia 76'ers tonight wasn't laughably easy, but it might have been worth a few chuckles. The Blazers dispensed with the 2020 World Champions 114-93, never losing a quarter and never losing their composure despite missing most of their frontcourt.
With Robin Lopez still nursing a hand injury, Chris Kaman expecting a child, and LaMarcus Aldridge still under the weather, you might have expected the Blazers to suffer at the hands of Philadelphia bigs. Joel Freeland and Thomas Robinson started the game. Meyers Leonard got 15 minutes and Victor Claver 17. Normally that'd be scary time for Portland. And Philly did score inside, amassing 64 points in the paint. But that's the only place they scored. 64 in the key + 18 free throws = 82 points. They scored 93 total in the game. That there is a severe lack of jump shooting.
The Blazers had no such problems. Thanks to Wesley Matthews and his 7-14 clip Portland went 18-43 from distance tonight, 42%.
Let's repeat that: the Blazers shot 42% on three-pointers and they attempted 43 of them.
Here's the list of Trail Blazers that didn't attempt a three: Freeland, Robinson. Everybody who shot 2 or more made one at least. Portland's offense had Philly's defense spread so thin a puff of air would have made a bubble out of them.
And make no mistake, that defense wasn't pretty. When the Blazers weren't assaulting the arc they were forming a highlight reel of dunks, alley-oops, and offensive-rebound putbacks. This game had everything: Lillard slams, Batum set-ups, Biebergymbo...
Uh, what's Biebergymbo?
It's that thing where a 7-foot guy with a Biebs haircut treats the rim like monkey bars after jamming on it. :::puts palms together, brings both to lips, inhales deeply while smiling wryly:::
The only thing wrong with this game (besides Philly's defense, which I hope they kept the receipt for) was 19turnovers on the part of the Blazers. Some of that was lineup mixing but some was inattention. But the Sixers coughed up 18 themselves, making the game resemble a comedy act at points.
But that's OK, it's probably not a good idea to take a matchup against the Sixers seriously. It was a win for Portland. Philadelphia once again looked stacked with young, athletic stars but had almost no continuity or ability to use them. They're like a souffle at this point. You know at some point they're going to be fully baked but in the meantime you'd best not open the oven to check on them because they're just going to fall all over the place.
Besides Matthews' three-point barrage, Lillard's showmanship, and Batum finally looking like he belonged in the offense again, all the major revelations came from lesser players getting the chance to shine due to injury.
Joel Freeland collected fouls like hotcakes, outmatched in size and quickness, but he still did his Joel Freeland thing of winning his matchups. He got 17 rebounds in 25 minutes, making up for the absence of Aldridge and Kaman in that department.
Thomas Robinson still looks random in almost everything he does.
Meyers Leonard had 7 rebounds in 15 minutes but his shot still isn't confident and he sets screens about as well as a pot of lobster bisque.
Victor Claver hit a three! (He also earned 5 personal fouls in 17 minutes. Did we mention those Philly guys are quick?)
Dorell Wright looked like he knew this was an opportunity to earn more playing time. He played professionally, racking up 8 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes.
CJ McCollium and Allen Crabbe have settled into a split-personality deal where McCollum gets aggressive on offense but just when you think he's won the spot from Crabbe, AC plays great defense. For now it's still the reserve guard buffet with Coach Stotts taking a scoop from each tray as whim suits. The nice thing is, both guards are giving the coach reasons to put them on the court rather than reasons to keep them off.
Two Random Thoughts to Close With
1. Am I the only one who wouldn't touch Michael Carter-Williams with a 40-foot pole no matter how nice his stats are?
2. Something's been bugging me lately. I'm a little tired of clock disparity on last-second shots in the NBA. For the home team 0.5 seconds is more like a second and a half. Catch, spin, release...buzzer. For the road team the horn on an 0.5 second attempt sounds before the receiving player can raise his hands. I understand "home cooking" but for me this is an integrity of the game issue. I want a second to be a second in every NBA city and for teams to win or lose honestly, even if my team sacrifices a game or two as a result. This is supposed to be basketball played by guys in different-colored jerseys, not guys in different-colored jerseys playing basketball if they can win at it and something else if they can't.
The Blazers welcome the New York Knicks to town on Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
Our Instant Recap will give you a better idea of game flow.
Liberty Ballers continues to invent synonyms for "lose" while awaiting better days.
You can now phone in your questions to our weekly podcast with Phil Naessens at 234-738-3394. We tape on Tuesdays so get yours in now!