Each and every week I sit down to write this column I feel like I’ve seen a different Blazers team take to the court over the previous week.
Some weeks the non-existent bench shows signs of life, or Damian Lillard shows why he could be an all-world point guard, then other weeks Portland seems lethargic, Nic Batum’s wrist costs Portland crucial possessions, or that non-existent bench lives up their namesake.
This past week, as Portland began a torrid 6 game road trip, old problems began to show their face again; there’s one problem in particular that will not bode well for Portland on this road trip, and that’s defense.
In all but one of the Blazers‘ four game this past week, they allowed the opposing team to score over 100 points (in their lone win, Minnesota still managed 98 points).
You can’t win games by routinely allowing teams to score in the triple digits, it just won’t happen.
So, by the end of the week, Portland witnessed it’s record dip below .500 for only the second time since the middle of December, and happen to be slumping at the wrong time, right before the All-Star break.
While it may seem ideal to work out the problems during the break, it’s much more optimal to head in to the time off with a head of steam.
With Miami on tap next for Portland, that head of steam seems highly unlikely.
The next few weeks should provide some insight in to Terry Stotts’ mettle, and his true worth to this franchise.
Now, on to the awards.
First Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (1/4: W @ Minnesota)
On a nightly basis, Portland’s All-Star continues to shine brightest for this young team. After working off some of the early season rust, Aldridge has settled in as the primary option for this roster.
In 39 minutes against the Timberwolves, LA put up 25 points–on 12-17 from the floor and an uncharacteristic 1-5 from the charity stripe–adding 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in Portlands 100-98 win.
The win kicked off Portland’s 6 game road stretch, but would be the only time they’d notch a win all week.
Aldridge’s contributions against Minnesota powered Portland for all four quarters, further proving he was well deserved of a spot on this years Western Conference All-Star team.
Second Star: Damian Lillard (1/4: W @ Minnesota)
It’s beginning to feel redundant, and frankly irrelevant, to continue to point out that Damian Lillard is just a rookie, and seems far beyond his years even though he only has just over 50 NBA games under his belt.
What the dynamic Lillard brings to the court, on a nightly basis, is one of the main reasons why Portland is battling for the 8th spot in the west, just past the half point in the season.
Last Monday night, against Minnesota, his talents were on full display, yet again, as the rookie poured in 21 points–on 9-17 from the floor and a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line–while also contributing 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
A stat stuffing performance from the point guard out of Weber State, and it certainly helped Portland secure a win in their first of a 6 game road trip.
Third Star: JJ Hickson (1/6: L @ Dallas)
Seemingly playing for a big contract next year, Hickson has shown an incredible motor all season long, proving to be the double-double machine scouts thought he could be so many years ago.
In 33 minutes, Hickson tallied 14 points–on 5-9 from the floor and 4-5 from the charity stripe–and grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with one steal.
Yet another double digit rebounding night for Hickson, who fits perfectly in Portland’s frontcourt alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
Neil Olshey proved to make very sound decisions in last years offseason, so re-signing Hickson, again, should be one of his top priorities heading in to this summer.
Dunk of the Week: Meyers Leonard vs. Minnesota
Meyers Leonard reminds Blazer fans why he was worth the number 11 pick in the draft with this monster alley-oop slam. Enjoy.