LA: Getting first win in Boston as a Blazer
BOSTON – There’s a different level of confidence brewing in this Portland Trail Blazers’ locker room.
There’s a different belief. Guys feel like they can actually win every single game once they take the court.
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews reveals that wasn’t always the case with this team.
“We feel like we’re going to win every game when we play. That’s the mentality we’re supposed to have,” Matthews told CSNNW.com. “I felt like we could compete in games last year. We knew we were going to be in games, and for the most part we were. But this year we feel like we can actually win every game.”
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After a convincing 109-96 win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Friday, a place they haven’t won since March 31, 2004, Portland extended their winning streak to five games.
But it’s the way they’re doing it. They’re blowing teams out, winning close ones and grinding out ugly ones like what we saw against the Suns on Wednesday night. They seem to have an answer for everything thus far.
Sitting second in the Western Conference with a 7-2 record and first in the division, Portland has shocked some folks. The season is young and encouraging, yet the captain of the team demands that they stay the course and urges them not to get too excited with what they’ve been able to accomplish.
“I said after the game, ‘Let’s stay hungry,’” Aldridge told CSNNW.com after a game-high of 27 points and 12 rebounds, earning his fourth consecutive double-double. “A lot of young guys can get comfortable and feel like we’re there and we’re not. It’s up to me to let them know we have a long way to go.
“I don’t want to jump on this and start being too rah rah about what we’ve done. But when you win four or five in a row, people love you. Then you lose four or five in a row and they’re saying ‘let’s trade somebody.’ So I’m not allowing us to get too high or too low. We have to be right in the middle. We know we’re doing good things right now but there’s more to do.”
So if I get Aldridge’s drift, he’s not about celebrating right now. And rightfully so. There’s too much ball to be played. Yet still, seven wins in nine tries are impressive no matter how you slice it.
“I like the way we’re coming together as a team,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said after tonight’s win.
Nicolas Batum struggled from the gate, clanking his first five shots, but ended the game with 18 points on six-of-15 shooting to go along with his six assists.
Damian Lillard supplied 17 points and knocked down two threes. That’s important because he has made the most threes (212) by any NBA player in his first 100 games. Tonight’s game was only his 91st.
“It’s cool to have those records, but I’m just happy we got the win,” Lillard said.
Mo Williams has found his rhythm over the last few games chipping in 18 points and a game-high eight assists off the bench. Matthews added 13 points and Robin Lopez secured 10 boards and a block in 36 minutes of play.
This is a true team with multiple weapons that can hurt you at any given time. One night it may be Williams, like it was tonight. The next night it could be Thomas Robinson. Portland isn’t as predictable as last year’s roster.
“I feel like we’re going into every game feeling like we definitely have a chance to win,” Aldridge said, agreeing with Matthews. “Our talent level is better. I feel like guys have gotten better this year. We’re doing pretty good stuff, but I just want us to keep it in perspective.”
Portland now takes its talents to Canada to face the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. With one down on this four-game road trip, the Trail Blazers are seriously making a case that they belong where they are.
Might we have sold Portland short? Maybe. Maybe not. One must reiterate that it’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s good their captain in Aldridge knows that because he’s definitely keeping them level-headed throughout this entire process.
But one thing you can’t ignore is their new-found mentality. It’s a mentality that we’re not leaving this place without a win. Having that outlook for every single game as a unit has blossomed into a great start.
Keeping that mentality may be the hard part. But so far so good. This team may be better than we all thought.
“Last year we went into games saying ‘We have a chance. We can do it,’” Lillard said. “This year we’re going into the games like, ‘Man, this is a game we need to win.’ It’s a difference in just saying we’re going to have a chance and we’re going to win this game…No matter who (opponent) it is.”