Talkin' Ball: Blazers bench solidifying roles
The playoffs are upon us. Finally, the grueling 82-game season is coming down to the wire and the Trail Blazers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, at least from the way things ended a year ago.
Winning just six times in the final two months of the season, riding a 13-game losing streak into the offseason, Portland found themselves at 24-5 to begin the season and were the league's darlings. Eventually, the injury bug hit, staking claim on the team's All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, twice, allowing the team to come back to earth.
Still, fifth place in the Western Conference standing exceeds the expectations of some, with some projecting the Blazers to end the season seventh or lower, even out of the playoffs. Portland can fall in the standings, though gained a game on the Warriors, Suns and Mavericks Sunday while jockeying for position, pushing Memphis farther out of the playoff hunt, winning three straight since the return of Aldridge to the lineup.
In the Blazers final seven games of the season, they are 11-8 against those opponents, struggling with Phoenix, commanding the Utah series, and splitting with nearly everyone else.
The Trail Blazers allow 105.7 ppg against these opponents, though, up from the 102.3 points they have given up per game this season, but make up for it by scoring a point more per game against these teams, as well.
So, let's take a look back at how the Blazers faired against their opponents. Who won? Who shined? What are the Blazers opponent's weaknesses and what is the likely outcome to be as Portland winds down the regular season?
Each opponent is listed as it appears on the Blazers schedule, beginning with the Lakers:
Blazers record vs. Lakers this season: 1-1
First meeting (114-108 W) LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and nine rebounds. Damian Lillard had 26 points and nine assists, and Matthews scored 17 points for the Blazers. Portland blew most of a 20-point lead before holding on to beat the Lakers 114-108. Xavier Henry scored a career-high 27 points and Jodie Meeks added 20 for Los Angeles. Lakers mounted a 24-5 run with a lineup featuring no point guard. The Blazers also blew a 17-point lead in the first half, but answered with a 41-point third quarter.
Second meeting (106-107 L), flip the script. The Lakers, who led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter, pushed the lead to 97-86 in the fourth. Damian Lillard hit one of two free throws to give Portland its first lead since the first quarter. But the officials reversed a possession call with 7.1 seconds left, giving the ball to the Lakers. Bazemore pitched to Wesley Johnson on the lob and the deciding layup, and Lillard missed a 3-pointer as time ran out. Robin Lopez had 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Batum had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers.
By the numbers:
Both teams are very streaky against one another, finding themselves up by double digits, sometimes twenty or more only to find themselves locked in a tight game when it comes down to the wire.
Nic Batum has great success against the Lakers; 17 points, 15 rebounds in one game, 9 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists in another
Blazers committed 20 turnovers in the last meeting between the two teams
Not so big of a secret: If Pau Gasol is on, Blazers in a world of hurt; was 3 for 15, 6 points in first game, which was a loss; 10 for 20, 22 points and 9 rebounds in 107-106 win
Lakers jumbled roster, did not play Steve Nash or Chris Kamen, have been battling without a point guard.
Lakers shooting 45.9% FGs, 39.1% from 3, 107.5 points per game, surrender -2.5 points to the Blazers
Blazers record this season vs. Suns: 1-2
First meeting (91-104 L), Goran Dragic scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe added 22, leading the Phoenix Suns to a 104-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on opening night. Damian Lillard scored 32 points, including 6 of 12 3-pointers, for the Trail Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 28. Portland fell behind by 16 in the first half and 17 in the second before getting within five with 3:15 left.
Second meeting (90-89 W), Damian Lillard couldn't believe it. He had a clear path to the hoop hit a layup with 6.5 seconds left to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 90-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Suns led by as many nine points in the second half. No stellar performances from the Blazers: Lillard finished with 11 points and eight assists in the Blazers' fourth straight win. Lopez had 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Aldridge had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Third meeting (106-120 L), Dragic scored 31 points, Channing Frye added 25, snapping the Blazers' 11-game winning streak. Suns wiped out a 16-point second-quarter deficit. Two of Portland's first three defeats had come to the Suns, who shot 52 percent from the field. Blazers were 1-2 against the Suns and 12-1 against the rest of the league at that point. LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and Damian Lillard scored 16 points for the Blazers. It was Portland's 22nd loss in the past 26 trips to Phoenix.
By the numbers:
Phoenix pushes tempo on Blazers, creating havoc.
Dragic had career high assist night (10), almost tied it in in two of the three games against the Blazers.
Suns shoot close to 50% against the Blazers.
Nic Batum shoots very poorly from beyond the three point line against the Suns (3 for 16 in three games)
Robin Lopez is a double-double machine against his former team.
Phoenix shoots 48.8% from floor, 32.8% from 3, average 104.3 points, hold a +8.7 point margin on Blazers.
Blazers record this season vs. Pelicans: 2-1
First meeting (110-107 W), Lillard scored 29, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews added 18 points each for the Blazers. Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans each missed 3-point attempts in the final 5 seconds. Anthony Davis and Evans finished with 21 points each to pace five New Orleans players in double figures.
Second meeting (108-110 L), Tyreke Evans sank a mid-range, pull-up jumper with 1.2 seconds left, and Holiday scored 15 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-108. Anthony Davis added 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Lillard scored 29 points and Aldridge had 28 for Portland.
Third meeting (111-103 W) Lillard finished with 27 points, Nicolas Batum added 22 and Wesley Matthews had 20 for the Trail Blazers, who played without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, out with a low back contusion. Anthony Davis scored a career-high 36 points for New Orleans. Portland was trailing 94-89 with 7:30 to go in the fourth quarter when Lillard scored the game's next seven points, and his jumper with 4:15 gave the Trail Blazers the lead for good at 96-94. Lillard nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game and give Portland the momentum it needed to snap its four-game skid with a 111-103.
By the numbers:
Pelicans are 13 or 51 from the three point line against the Blazers this season, 25.4%
Damian Lillard is consistent against the Pelicans, scoring 29, 29, and 27 points in the three meetings; 51.7% from the floor,
Robin Lopez had a career high 6 blocks in the Blazers 108-110 loss to the Pelicans
Anthony Davis gets his shot, has made 36 shots against the Blazers this season on 59 attempts (61%), 28 ppg
Pelicans shoot 49. 2% from floor, 28.2% from 3, average 106.7 ppg, are 3.0 underdogs
Blazers this season vs. Jazz: 3-0
First meeting (130-98 W), Wesley Matthews scored 24 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points and 15 rebounds, who had won four straight and 15 of 16. Portland made 17 of 23 shots from 3-point range for 73.9 percent, an NBA record for a team with at least 20 attempts. Portland also surpassed its previous franchise mark of 16 3-pointers. Damian Lillard added 21 points. Alec Burks had 16 points to lead the Jazz, who trailed by as many as 42.
Second meeting (105-94 W), LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and Damian Lillard added 18. Robin Lopez added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Wesley Matthews added 16 points. Alec Burks shined once again against the Blazers, had 20 points for the Jazz, which trailed the entire second half after nine ties and nine lead changes in the first half.
The Blazers had 23 assists and shot 47.1 percent (40 of 85) from the floor, while committing just 11 turnovers.
Third meeting (102-94 W), Lillard scored 14 points in the final period and finished with 28 in a 102-94 victory over Utah. LaMarcus Aldridge sat out with a left groin injury. Robin Lopez had a career-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers. Enes Kanter matched his career-high with 25 points and added 10 rebounds for the Jazz. Utah opened the final quarter with a 73-64 lead.
By the numbers:
Jazz shoot 43.6% from the floor, 35.5% from 3, 95.3 ppg, are 17.0 point underdogs to the Blazers.
Blazers franchise record 73.9% shooting performance from distance overshadowed by the Blazers combining 13 for 39 33.3% from three point line.
Blazers committed 21 turnovers when they beat the Jazz by 32
Aldridge shooting better than 50% from floor, averages 22 ppg, which is less than his season average (granted he is on the floor 5 fewer mins per game against the Jazz).
Blazers record this season vs. Clippers: 1-1
First meeting (116-112 W/OT), LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 10 rebounds despite having wisdom pulled and wasn’t sure if he would even play. Blazers had won 7 of 8 games leading up to this game, advanced to 24-5 on the season after this meeting. The Clippers were playing the second game of a back-to-back. Blake Griffin had 35 points and 11 rebounds, while Chris Paul finished with 34 points and 16 assists.
Second meeting, (117-122 L) The Clippers and Trail Blazers went back and forth for 48 minutes. Blake Griffin scored 36 points, Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists. Paul made 10 of 15 shots in his second game back after missing 18 with a separated right shoulder. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and Damian Lillard had 21 for the BlazerThe loss was their fifth straight to the Clippers at Staples Center. Jamal Crawford added 25 points. Blazers lost both games of a back to back heading into the All-Star break
By the numbers:
Blake Grffin average 35.5 ppg, 58% shooting, 10.5 rebounds
Chris Paul 27.5 ppg, 14 assists PER GAME, 26 for 44 (59%)
6 Blazers have scored in double figures each game against the Clippers.
Blazers have committed 16 turnovers in each game against the Clippers this season.
Damian Lillard averages 5 turnovers a game vs. the Clippers, 50% from floor, 20 ppg
Aldridge 25 of 42 (59.5%), 28.5 ppg against the Clippers
Clippers shoot 50.3% from floor, 40.0% from 3, average 117.0 points per game, hold a 0.5 advantage over Blazers.
Blazers record vs. the Warriors this season: 1-2
First meeting (113-101 W), Blazers beat Warriors to extend win streak to 10 games, LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 21 rebounds and the Trail Blazers beat the Warriors 113-101. Matthews had 23 points while Damian Lillard added 20 points and nine assists for the Blazers. Portland and Golden State got into a scuffle initiated by Andrew Bogut against Joel Freeland, led to three ejections: Matthews and Williams, along with Warriors Draymond Green
Second meeting (88-103 L), Stephen Curry had 38 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Warriors stepped up defense to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-88. Golden State outshot Portland 41.8 percent to 33.7 percent and forced 15 turnovers. Damian Lillard had 16 points and four assists, and Wesley Matthews scored 21 for the Blazers. Aldridge had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, going 2 for 14 from the floor, 10 points. Blazers had entered that game having scored nearly 110 points per game. It was a season low in points and shooting percentage for the Blazers
Third meeting, (112-113 L) Klay Thompson returned after a one-game absence to attend his grandfather's funeral in the Bahamas, scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 11.1 seconds remaining to lift the Warriors to a 113-112 victory over the Blazers. It was the Blazers 5th loss in 6 games. Warriors were down by 18 points in the second half to come back and beat the Blazers. Steph Curry led all scorers with 37 points. Damian Lillard finished with 26 points and Nicholas Batum had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers LaMarcus Aldridge did not play due to groin injury.
By the numbers:
Warriors shoot 45.3% from floor, held to 38.9% from 3, average 105.7 ppg against the Blazers, hold a +1.3 advantage over Portland
Klay Thompson 24.66 points per game, 26 of 53 for 49% from the floor, but only 7 of 20 from distance.
Steph Curry 32 of 68 for 47% from floor, 13 of 29 from distance (44.8%). Has had performances of 22, 37, 38 points, 32 ppg. Averages:
Aldridge 9 of 35, 25.7% against the Warriors in two meetings, shot 22 of 25 FT 88%, 16-19 in first meeting where he scored 30 points
Lillard 20.6 points per game; 5 for 20 from distance;
Wesley Matthews scores 19 ppg and 50% from three point line
Blazers and Warriors both shoot under 40% from the three-point line