Lillard: Loss to Nets Was Embarrassing
TUALATIN -- The Portland Trail Blazers were down 26 at the end of three quarters against the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. With no sign of life, Head Coach Terry Stotts elected to start Eric Maynor, Damian Lillard, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, and Meyers Leonard in the fourth quarter.
A little over two minutes into the quarter, Will Barton came in for Lillard and a minute later Luke Babbitt subbed in for Claver.
Trail Blazer fans were exiting the arena, realizing this game was over and looking to get even uglier with each closing minute. However, to everyone's surprise, the bench played well in that final quarter.
They were playing aggressively, defending with tenacity and attacking the glass with a reckless abandon resulting in an 18-6 run during a six-minute span. In that time frame, the Trail Blazers out-rebounded the Nets 14-5 and when you looked up at the scoreboard, the Trail Blazers had cut the deficit to 14.
Following an immediate timeout by the Nets and sensing his team was on the verge of giving the game away, Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo went back to his starters who hadn't played a minute in the fourth.
Stotts stuck with his bench.
The Nets' starters went on to outscore the Trail Blazers' reserves 10-6 in the final six minutes of the game to win 111-93. Looking back at it, Stotts wouldn't have changed a thing.
“I was going to stay with them the rest of the game,” Stotts told CSNNW.com. “They were the ones who cut the lead to 14. I liked the way they were playing. They deserved to finish it out.”
Lillard said he and the starters were ready to get back in there to make a final push if called upon, but he felt the bench deserved to be out there, too.
“I thought that was big-time what they (the bench) did,” Lillard said. “People were leaving the game. It was a quiet building and they turned the game around and cut their lead. I heard some fans saying, 'Put the starters back in,' but in my head, I felt like they earned that opportunity to stay on the floor.
“Even when Brooklyn put their starters back in, we got three more stops. They deserved every bit to be out there. I felt like coach made the right decision.”
Often you'll see a coach insert their bench once they feel the game is out of reach, only to bring the starters back if the bench happens to make things a little interesting.
Stotts displayed his true character in that final quarter. It's moments like last night that will go a long way with his players.
“It just says that he believes in everybody,” Lillard said. “He could have easily snatched those guys out of the game right at the five-minute mark, but he had faith in them. That's how you develop relationships with players that don't always play.
“He might have a bond with a guy that doesn't get regular minutes, but he'll have his respect. You can get more out of a player when they see a coach doing stuff like that.”
Notes from practice:
LaMarcus Aldridge (right ankle sprain) did not practice today. He was at the practice facility receiving treatment. Stotts says the pain is worse today than it was last night. He is questionable versus Utah on Friday night.
JJ Hickson was feeling under the weather and did not practice today, as well. His status for tomorrow's game will be determined at shootaround.