After a two week hiatus of Rick’s Picks, we’re back to recognizing notable Portland Trail Blazers performances (question is, were there actually any to write of?).
Jokes aside, the Blazers have played less than stellar basketball over the last few weeks, and their record over that time (3-7 over the last 3 weeks) is telling of their struggles.
Poor bench play, a disappearing LaMarcus Aldridge, and downright awful defense has plagued Portland in their recent contests, leaving many to wonder where this team is actually headed.
There’s something to be said, however, for a 7 game road trip and it’s effect on a young team; Portland was just 2-5 on said road trip and participated in the unwanted opportunity of allowing the Washington Wizards their first victory. A couple of gutsy overtime victories soon followed on that same road trip, and Portland was looking as schizophrenic as ever.
A tumultuous past week in it’s own right, Portland was only able to notch a victory against the Bobcats (one of their OT wins on the road) before falling to the Pacers in their final game before returning home, where they got smacked by the Sacramento Kings.
Currently sitting at 9-12 on the year (same record as the Lakers…), Portland is just a game and a half back of the #8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves. While many would like to see a down season, in an effort to secure another lottery pick, Portland remains competitive in the stiff Western Conference thanks to their recent lottery selection, Damian Lillard (who was just named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November).
Here are the three best Blazer performances over the last week.
First Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (12/3: W @ Charlotte)
Each week you’d expect LaMarcus Aldridge to be a fixture of this piece, yet while some of his performances have been Rick’s Picks worthy, we’ve seen Aldridge disappear at times.
Last Monday’s efforts against Charlotte, however, were one of the main reasons why Portland was able to force overtime against the Bobcats, and what helped secure the eventual victory.
Aldridge, logging a game-tying high 45 minutes, was 12-17 from the floor, added one free throw; while grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing 5 assists and blocking 3 shots en route to a 118-112 overtime victory for the Blazers.
If Portland wants to continue to add to their total in the win column, the All-Star worthy power forward needs to show up each and every night. I’m not asking for 25 and 15 consistently, but it’s not far fetched to see Aldridge get close to a double double nearly every time he steps on the court. That bit of consistency would work wonders for Portland’s success.
Second Star: Damian Lillard (12/3: W @ Charlotte)
Are you starting to see a trend here?
Scouring the week’s box scores brought up next to nothing seeing as Portland only made out with one victory this past week, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the entirety of column is comprised of performances from the lone win.
Lillard’s been an absolute stud for the Blazers this year, and while he does see the occasional rookie stumble, he’s more than made up for them when he’s playing well.
In the game against Charlotte, Lillard, playing 43 minutes, shot 6-16 from the floor, added one three pointer and was an impressive 11-14 from the free throw line. The rookie also added 3 rebounds, 9 assists and one steal against the Bobcats.
Lillard has excelled late in games, as well as in overtimes this year, and his work against Charlotte last Monday was no different. The rookie guard out of Weber State needs to be sure he has a big trophy room, because the Rookie of the Month honors are sure to keep flowing in.
Third Star: Luke Babbitt (12/3: W @ Charlotte)
That’s no typo, Luke Babbitt is getting the third star this week, and he kind of deserves it.
In the game against Charlotte, Babbitt’s line looks less than impressive at first glance. Babbitt, a 2 year pro out of Nevada, played in just 15 minutes, shot 3-5 from the field, 3-4 from beyond the arc, for just 9 points. He also added 5 rebounds, 1 assist, a steal and one block.
See? His line is not impressive.
Rather, it was the two clutch three pointers the forward hit in the 4th quarter that has me even talking about a Blazer win in the first place.
With just over 2 minutes on the clock in the 4th quarter, and Portland down 99-92, Babbitt hit a 23 foot three pointer to cut the deficit to just 4 points.
Then, with the Blazers down 3, and just 22 seconds left in regulation, Babbitt nailed a 26 foot three pointer to notch both teams at 102 apiece, eventually sending the game in to overtime where Portland won 118-112.
The scouting report on Babbitt has always been that he’s a lights out shooter from long range, however, his inconsistencies have made Blazer fans nonplussed as to why he’s continued to find a spot on the roster.
Nonetheless, Babbitt earned a spot in this week’s column for contributing to the lone Blazer win.
Dunk of the Week: Damian Lillard vs. Sacramento.
During one of Portland’s lowlights on the week, Damian Lillard found a way to produce a highlight, and posterized John Salmons in the process.