Nolan Smith: Thoughts on career game
A couple of days ago, Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith had a meeting with his Head Coach Terry Stotts and according to the guard, Stotts just wanted to ask a couple of questions.
“He asked me why I don't play like I practice,” Smith told CSNNW.com. “He said when I get in the game, I seem hesitant when I'm trying to run plays. He said just go out there and play like you practice...[and] said just loosen up and I felt loose when I entered the game tonight.”
That meeting took place well before Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Price went down with right ankle injuries last night in a loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.
To his credit, Stotts was just making sure his guy stayed motivated and ready. Looking back at that meeting now, it might have been an integral factor in why the Trail Blazers were able to bounce back and defeat the Jazz tonight at the Rose Garden 105-99.
Stotts' message to Smith was to play loose and tonight Smith was as loose as he's been during his brief NBA career on his way to a season-high 13 points on five-of-seven from the field to lead an aggressive bench that totaled 28 points.
Smith surprisingly played the entire fourth quarter and scored nine points and shot three-for-three from the floor with zero turnovers in that 12-minute stint.
“I'm happy for Nolan that he came in and did a terrific job of playing defense , making his shots and playing like he knows he can,” Stotts said. “It was just a win we needed.”
Rewind back to a Jan. 19 game at home versus the Milwaukee Bucks, a game Smith admitted that to playing his worst stint of basketball tallying three turnovers in three minutes before getting the quick hook. He was also a -17.
Tonight was the first time since that game where Smith played meaningful minutes. He had a very productive outing, but it didn't look like that would be the case early on.
In the first 21 seconds of his stint, he committed a turnover trying to pass the ball across the court only to hear the jeers and the “Here we go again” looks from the fans.
Smith was thinking the same thing, too.
“I was like, “Oh crap”. But at the same time I felt loose. I had a pep to my step, but I obviously made the wrong play.”
That would be the only wrong play Smith made all evening. He didn't know when his next opportunity would come but he was sure he would get another chance to play when it mattered.
“Wes went down, Ronnie went down, things like that can happen in every game, every single night all around the league,” he said. “So every single day when I'm in the gym, I'm working. I'm preparing for anything.”
That type of performance might be what jump-starts Smith's career into what this organization thought he would become when they took him in the first round out of Duke a year ago.
What was likely just a catchup meeting, turned out to be so much more. It came at the right time. No one could have predicted that Matthews and Price would go down like that.
Hey, that's why Stotts is the coach.
Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers (24-23) with 23 points and eight assists. JJ Hickson collected his 26th double-double of the season by scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 boards.
LaMarcus Aldridge posted a double-double as he went for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Nicolas Batum flirted with a triple-double posting numbers of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.
Randy Foye had 23 points and six three pointers for the Jazz (26-22). Paul Millsap added 18 points and eight rebounds.