The Trail Blazers saw their 13-game winning streak vanish on Tuesday night, thanks to yet another stellar performance by the Rockets’ 1-2 punch of James Harden and Chris Paul. Portland’s guards failed to get going offensively (0-12 combined from three), resulting in big production from role players. Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless led the charge, scoring a combined 39 points.
Shaquille O’Neil spoke about those role players and their importance in the postseason during halftime on TNT. OregonLive’s Tim Brown transcribed the discussion that also included Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis:
Shaq: “Ever since he made the All-Star team, [Damian Lillard] has stepped his game up. But with Portland I’m very impressed. They’re in third in the west right now, but if they wanna go farther, they’re gonna need help from the others. Right now Dame Lillard doing a good job looking for his guys ... Aminu playing really well, he had a good first half. But if Portland wants to go to the second round, and I don’t know about the third round because that belongs to Houston and Golden State, but if they want to get out of at least the first round, the other [players] are gonna have to step up for the Portland Trail Blazers”
Isiah Thomas: “[Portland] are good enough to take Houston or Golden State to seven games.”
Baron Davis: “You want to get out of that seven or eight spot, but I think for Portland, they have an opportunity to get to the second round because they have the guard play. And then when you look at somebody like Jusuf Nurkic and the difference he makes in the middle, they could be a problem for any team in the playoffs. But you definitely don’t want to be playing Golden State or Houston [in the first round.]”
O’Neil has a point, as Portland hasn’t gotten exceptional bench production in the playoffs over the last few seasons. During their current four-year run in the playoffs, the Trail Blazers have averaged just 25.3 bench points per game.
That number has risen slightly this season (28.4), which puts Portland in a good place historically. Over the past two years, teams that have made it to the Conference Semifinals have averaged 27.7 points off the bench.
What do you think? Do role players need to step up even more for the Trail Blazers to be successful in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments.
You can watch the full halftime show on YouTube.