Was Nicolas Batum’s shot a short corner three and not a long two?
Did Kobe Bryant play whack-a-mole with Damian Lillard’s head on the Trail Blazers’ final shot?
Did the Blazers get the short end of the stick with the officiating?
If you answer “yes” to these questions, then you watched the Blazers lose in Los Angeles, 111-107 on Friday night.
We can talk about the 28-14 foul discrepancy that burdened Portland and saddled four Blazers with foul trouble. And the fact that the Blazers only attempted three free throws through the fourth quarter – that last coming at the 6:15 mark when Will Barton took over the play and scored while getting fouled. We can also harp on the fact that Aldridge and Matthews had grown so frustrated with the officiating that they both picked up (and rightfully earned) technical fouls. The problem with that was Lakers center Dwight Howard also had argumentative moments but finished the game without making a donation to the NBA Cares charity. No tech for Howard.
Now, after picking apart the officiating. Let’s focus on what really matters:
The Blazers (25-30) are now 11th in the Western Conference standings after losing their seventh straight game. This one should sting the Blazers, but maybe it’s the proper kick in the pants for a team that hasn’t seemed right in more than two weeks.
The Blazers finally held a team under the 50-percent shooting mark and competed all night against the Lakers. Matthews was the poster child of this effort. In spite of the injured left leg, Matthews hobbled through 36 minutes on the floor and chased around Bryant. Yes, Bryant finished with 40, but Matthews forced him into a turnover with 32 seconds remaining in the game. The Blazers had a chance to take the lead or tie the score at that point. And really, what more can you ask on the road, against a good team?
Aldridge had the advantage over the smaller Metta World Artest, backed him down off the right side in a one-on-one. But as we all know, Aldridge likes to go right… this time, he spun towards the middle of the floor, his left side. Still a good shot, but the ball clanked short.
Going back to Matthews’ defensive play – he gave the Blazers a chance at the end. Just a tough, tough performance for Matthews, who hasn’t played since Feb. 13. Matthews finished with 15 points and a team-high 8 assists. There were other bright moments:
Meyers Leonard, despite the three early fouls during the second quarter, played locked-in during his 13 minutes on the floor: four points, four rebounds one block.
Batum looks to have broken through the wrist pain. He shot 9 of 14 from the floor and officially made a pair of 3-pointers (the last one should’ve counted). Although that particular shot wasn’t ruled a three, Batum immediately got to his spot, jumped and fired. He hasn’t shown a quick pull like that in a while.
J.J. Hickson had another active showing and got his 29th double-double of the season, 22 points and 11 rebounds.
So, enough happened to both enrage and encourage the Blazers to get back on the floor and snap the losing streak. The Celtics will be in town on Sunday and I fully expect to see a more determined Blazers team in the Rose Garden.