Top Blazers Last 7 Days
Last week I wrote of a depth problem with this year’s Portland Trail Blazers squad, and how a solution needed to be discovered if they were to stay competitive.
Well, a solution is starting to reveal itself, and it’s not by way of a trade, or any current player stepping up. No, the solution is increased minutes/workload for the current starters; a solution that could wear out as the season goes on.
However, this temporary remedy played in the Blazers’ favor this past week as they snapped out of their losing skid and began stringing together some wins.
After a defensive lapse against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Portland traveled to Sacramento to square off against the Kings. Led by rookie Damian Lillard, Portland was able to finally notch a victory, breaking the losing slump they had been mired in the week prior.
Returning home for two games against Houston and Chicago, Portland was able to ride the momentum gained in the contest against Sacramento and won an OT thriller against the Rockets (their second OT win over Houston this year) and beat the Derrick Rose-less Bulls two nights later.
3-1 on the week isn’t half bad, and Portland was able to get back to a .500 record on the year. It’s a work in progress, but Terry Stotts’ squad is starting to learn how to win.
Here are the three best performances by a Blazer over the past week:
First Star: Nicolas Batum (11/16: W vs. Houston)
For the third straight week Nicolas Batum finds himself in this column, and as he continues to justify the $46 million contract Portland gave him over the summer, I expect him to continue to be a fixture of this piece.
In last Friday’s game against the Rockets, Batum was filling the stat sheet and helping Portland overcome Houston in yet another overtime game.
The Frenchman was 13-of-19 from the field, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished out four assists, and blocked an astounding five shots to go along with one steal.
Batum, one of the league leaders in minutes played, logged 47 minutes in the overtime win.
Second Star: Damian Lillard (11/13: W @ Sacramento)
Lillard, the rookie point guard, has been more than just the talk of Portland during his first few weeks as the starter for the Trail Blazers; he’s been noticed around the entire league.
Sure, he’ll make the occasional rookie mistake here and there, or shoot for a poor percentage, but that’s expected in Lillard’s first season in the NBA. It’s the positive impact he’s had this year that’s had everybody taking notice.
Coming off of a four-game losing streak, Portland traveled to Sacramento to take on the Kings in an effort to right the ship.
In 35 minutes of play, Lillard was simply on fire all night, shooting 7-of-10 from the field, 5-of-6 from long range and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe for a game-high 22 points. The rookie also added nine assists and two rebounds while powering Portland to its third win of the season, effectively breaking out of the slump they were enduring.
Lillard’s impact continues to justify Portland selecting him sixth overall in the NBA Draft, and seeing as how he leads all rookies in points per game (19.0), assists (6.1), steals (1.5) and minutes (37.5), Lillard is the early front runner for Rookie of the Year honors.
Third Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (11/16: W vs. Houston)
The quieter performance in last Friday night’s overtime tilt against Houston was by forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
While Batum was out making the highlight plays, and seemingly scoring at will, Aldridge was up to his usual consistent self and kept Portland within reach of the high-powered Rockets (or more accurately, James Harden).
Aldridge put up 29 points on 11-of-19 from the floor and 7-of-9 at the free-throw line, while adding six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 43 minutes of play.
It was easy to single out Batum’s performance because of the loaded box score at the end of the game, but it was Aldridge’s consistent play, from start to finish, that kept Portland competitive. The forward hit a couple of big shots in the 4th quarter, while staying active on the glass, to help get the game to overtime.
With a strong start in the books for Aldridge, he seems poised to repeat as a selection to this year’s All-Star game.
Dunk of the Week: Batum (Sacramento, Houston and Chicago)
Batum had a heck of a week, and it was hard to single out any one dunk, or play, the forward made. This week you’ll get some extra helpings of his highlights.