Trail Blazers fans rejoice! After a season of thrills and spills, close games and semi-frustrating drama, the Blazers finally played your Basic Boring Basketball Game tonight, tipping the Utah Jazz 111-99. That's not damning with faint praise. The Jazz had nothing to play for, were outmatched, and needed to be knocked off. The Blazers did it without question and without qualm, making life easy and preserving their ultra-slim chance at earning homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs thereby.
Among the categories ranging from good to great in this game:
--The Blazers shot a nice 46% clip from the floor.
--Their 11-22 rate from the three-point arc was even better and ultimately proved the deciding factor. The Jazz couldn't defend everything and the three-ball broke their back.
--The Blazers committed a paltry 8 turnovers. They forced the Jazz into 13...not a huge number but significant when you consider the +11 point-after-turnover edge for Portland. A few of those Utah TO's became momentum-killers after the Blazers converted the layup on the other end.
--Portland scored 19 fast break points, an enormous number by their standards.
--The Blazers committed only 12 personal fouls, 7 under their normal number. The defense, such as it was, stayed pretty clean.
Only a couple of items went into the not-as-great category:
--The Blazers also allowed relatively high percentages from the field and arc, 47% and 46% respectively. The defense looked a little disinterested in the odd-numbered quarters.
--Portland allowed Utah to hang close through three, not breaking open the game until Damian Lillard exploded for 14 points in the final period, courtesy of 4 three-pointers. Had those triples missed we might be writing another story tonight, but hey...Lillard Time was legit.
Among the notable individual results:
--Lillard scored only 2 points before that decisive fourth quarter. He might have been laying in the weeds but his offense has been out of step with the team's enough lately that worry started to creep in. The final flurry absolved all sins though.
--LaMarcus Aldridge had another one of those nights where his offense looked disjointed but he made up for it with rebounding. 8-19 for 18 points with 14 boards.
--Nicolas Batum was into this game and shot well inside the three-point arc, scoring 15 on 6-11 with 7 rebounds and 7 assists with 0 turnovers.
--Wesley Matthews shot well beyond the arc en route to a team-high 21.
--Mo Williams returned tonight but looked plenty rusty, shooting 1-7 with 4 assists and 3 turnovers.
--Thomas Robinson shot well, hitting 4 of 6.
--Utah's Rudy Gobert looks better than he did at the start of the season...staying in the flow on both ends, wrestling down some tough boards, and causing problems on defense. He's not earth-shaking but he actually looks like an NBA player.
--Every time I see him I kind of like Jeremy Evans. Derrick Favors too, but that's more obvious. Utah has an interesting (as opposed to "good", but maybe someday) collection of big men.
Hey, what more do you want me to say? A decent effort, some brilliant moments, some slips, and a strong fourth-quarter close to take down a weaker opponent...that more or less sums it up. Thank goodness!
Even more goodness: the Houston Rockets lost by 2 to the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. That leaves the 4th-place Rockets at 52-27, half a game ahead of the 52-28 Blazers. Houston hosts the Pelicans and Spurs before finishing the season with a rematch in New Orleans. Portland plays Golden State and the Clippers at home. The Rockets own the tiebreaker with Portland so the Blazers would have to finish ahead of them to take the 4th seed and homecourt advantage in the first round. If Portland wins out the Rockets would need to drop 2 of 3. If the Blazers lose a game the Rockets would have to lose all their remaining games to leave the Blazers in front.
On the other end of the spectrum the Golden State Warriors are on their way to defeating the Lakers as we speak, which would leave them at 49-30, 2.5 games behind the Blazers in the 6th spot. If the Warriors were to win their final three games (at Portland, vs. Minnesota, at Denver) and the Blazers were to lose both of their remaining games the two teams would end up tied and the Warriors would take the 5th seed by virtue of head-to-head matchup. If the Blazers win either of their last two games they will finish no lower than 5th in the conference.
Golden State comes up on Sunday evening and both teams have something on the line. It should be quite a night!
Your Jersey Contest scores and the form for Sunday can be found HERE. Tonight's Answers: Wesley Matthews scored 21, Thomas Robinson grabbed 2 rebounds, the Blazers committed 8 turnovers, and the margin of the game was 11 or more.