Back on Track
If the Blazers are going to contend in the playoffs, they have to get back to the way they were playing to start the year. An 11-game winning streak is too much to ask for, but consistent production and incredible efforts are not.
In Week 17, Portland saw both of those things come to fruition. Defense is still a concern, as it has been all year, but the team fought hard in every game, boasting a 2-1 record with its only loss coming against the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.
Feb. 19 vs. San Antonio
The Trail Blazers have had an incredible amount of offensive success against San Antonio this season, and that remained true in the first game back from All-Star Weekend.
On the night, Portland scored 109 points, which is right around its season average. The problem is that it allowed 111, largely because of Patty Mills’ 29 points off the bench.
The big topic in this one was the disappearing act Nicolas Batum put on. With LaMarcus Aldridge out due to injury, the team needed a third scorer to step up behind Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. The superstar point guard scored 31 points on 13-of-21 shooting (Wesley Matthews also scored 18), but Nicolas Batum put in just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting despite collecting five rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Feb. 21 vs. Utah
Let’s not sugar coat this: The Utah Jazz are awful. They’ve been playing decent basketball as of late, but they have 19 wins on the year, and they’ve yet to establish go-to scorer to behind Gordon Hayward.
Feb. 23 vs. Minnesota
This matchup was arguably the most entertaining contest of the entire season, and if you missed out, take a long hard look at the highlights below.
The effort in this one was infectious, but not from the very beginning. As we’ve seen in the past, the team got down early, and without Aldridge’s leadership on the floor, fans in the arena weren’t sure if a comeback was in the works or not.
By the fourth quarter, players were diving for loose balls, defense was being played across the roster and as it turned out, it was the official coming out party for Thomas Robinson.
In 33 minutes off the bench, Thomas Robinson recorded 14 points and an incredible 19 rebounds. He had a game-high plus-19 in the plus-minus category, and he had arguably the block of the year of the entire NBA season.
As well as Robinson played, this one was a team effort. Lillard scored a game-high 32 points, Nicolas Batum recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds and Victor Claver got in on the action in the absence of Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard.
Portland came to play in this one, and the crowd was as wild as it’s been all year as a result.