Blazers play the game the right way, down Bobcats in smooth win
PORTLAND — The phrase playing basketball the “right way” is generally considered to belong to Charlotte coach Larry Brown.
The Trail Blazers stole Brown’s words Monday night.
And after enduring a midseason slide that saw Portland momentarily fall backwards while living life without injured All-Star guard Brandon Roy, the Blazers are back to playing the game the right way.
Portland downed the Bobcats, 98-79, at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,106.
In doing so, a young, re-energized Blazers team zipped the ball around the court and thrived in transition.
And when Portland was not sprinting through lanes and finding open shooters, the Blazers (29-21) were locking down and playing the type of no-give defense coach Nate McMillan has long preached.
Just as importantly, Portland did not force a single player to carry the load as Roy watched from the bench in street clothes.
At times, LaMarcus Aldridge shined. Others, it was Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum or Rudy Fernandez.
No one dominated. But no one was forced to shoulder too much weight.
“I think we’re hard to guard when you have most of us on the floor,” said Aldridge, who scored a team-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Bayless and Batum added 15 points apiece for the Blazers.
Portland had six players hit double figures in scoring, and the Blazers shot 53.3 percent (40 of 75) from the field.
“We’re making an effort to get the ball up the floor,” McMillan said. “We’ve been talking about that forever it seems like.”
The Blazers have won two consecutive games after going through a rough 1-4 stretch from Jan. 22-29.
In addition, Portland is 6-5 since Roy strained his right hamstring. Roy has only played 45 minutes during Portland last’s 11 games while recovering from the injury.
With Western Conference playoff contenders Utah, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers waiting on the horizon, Monday’s smooth win over a Bobcats squad playing its fifth road game in eight days was openly
“It’s a good win for us with our upcoming schedule,” McMillan said.
Stephen Jackson topped the Bobcats (24-23) with 23 points, while Gerald Wallace contributed 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“We didn’t match their energy, and they were so much sharper in every area,” Brown said. “They played with unbelievable energy, shared the ball, and did all the good things.”
The good things came down to efficient offense and tight defense.
The Blazers limited Charlotte to 40.6 percent (26 of 64) shooting from the field and 26.1 percent (6 of 23) behind the 3-point line.
Portland also recorded 48 points in the paint, despite playing without a center. And the Blazers’ bench accounted for 45 points, while the Bobcats’ rang up just 19.
The Blazers are 17-0 this season when holding their opponents to 90 points or less.
“From start to finish, we were pretty consistent, pretty efficient with our offense, our defense,” McMillan said. “I thought the game plan was a good game plan (and) the guys followed that.”
A 3-pointer by Bayless from the left wing gave Portland a 10-2 advantage.
The Blazers stretched their lead to 21-12 before Charlotte countered with a methodical offensive attack that mixed pick-and-roll sets with lane penetration.
Insertion of Portland reserves Fernandez, Steve Blake and Dante Cunningham gave Portland new life, though.
“We knew they would play small basketball and we could match up with them,” McMillan said. “They did a nice job of getting stops and then running out and making shots.”
Bayless and Aldridge carried Portland into halftime. As Bayless flew past Charlotte, Aldridge picked away at the Bobcats with mid-range jumpers. Portland took a 51-43 advantage into the break.
Aldridge then dominated the third quarter, scoring six consecutive points and finishing with 10 for the period.
A swished 3 by Fernandez from the top of the key then made it 82-70 Blazers with 7:30 to go.
“It was a great win,” McMillan said. “We enjoyed this.”
The Blazers sit in third place in the Northwest Division, five games behind first-place Denver. … After scoring a career-high 52 points Saturday against Dallas, Miller recorded eight points and a game-high 10 assists versus Charlotte. He did not score his first basket until 2:09 was left in the second quarter. … Cunningham, a rookie forward, scored a season-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. … Portland rookie guard Patty Mills made his Rose Garden debut with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. He took one shot and failed to score … Batum’s nine rebounds tied a career high.
Best Blazer: Forward Nicolas Batum scored 15 points and tied a career high with nine rebounds.
Big numbers: Portland is 17-0 this season when holding opponents to 90 points or less.
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