Road Takes: Blazers take second game of back-to-back in Sac.
Getting to this late, but as promised here are some thoughts on last night’s win against Sacramento
So, how about that defense?
The Blazers won their second straight game against the Kings in as many nights to give them a 4-2 record and their second back-to-back sweep of the season.
The Blazers were excellent on Friday night against the Kings at home from the three-point line and their offense was humming with six players scoring in double-figures. Saturday’s game in Sacramento started out very different from that story-line as it seemed like nothing was going to fall for the Blazers in the early going.
Additionally, Damian Lillard couldn’t buy a bucket going 1-for-15, his second-worst shooting performance of his young career since going 1-for-16 against Orlando on February 10th, 2013.
Last year, that would have meant more panic than a bank run in
1928 (Bank-runs actually didn’t start until 1930, as pointed out by reader @pdxblake on twitter) but this year the Blazers stuck to the script and scrapped to get a win they needed.
DeMarcus Cousins was a beast, scoring over 30 points for the second game in a row. However, Portland’s defense limited the Kings, who average over 21 three-point attempts per game, to only 12 three-point attempts.
The Blazers took away the Kings high-value attempts and the Blazers also pummeled the Kings on the boards for the second straight game, out-rebounding them 52-33.
The Blazers got solid contributions again from their bench with Joel Freeland continuing to provide energy and defense in his back-up center role as well as veterans Dorell Wright and Mo Williams finding the bucket, scoring eight apiece.
Aldridge continued to be the foundation for the Blazers with 22 points and 14 rebounds including a big shot late in the fourth quarter of the game when the Kings got the Blazers lead down to eight after it had been as high as 22.
Robin Lopez turned in a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double and Nicolas Batum filled up the stat-sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Blazers turned in another team performance but it seems that nobody is in a zone quite like the one Wesley Matthews is in right now.
He’s scored 18 points or more in five straight games, something he’s never done in his career before. Additionally, among players who average over 10 field goal attempts per game, Matthews has the highest effective field goal percentage, a metric that includes the added value of three-pointers, in the NBA. Matthews’ eFG% is at 68.8% and the second-highest is Miami’s Chris Bosh at 63.1%.
Matthews and Aldridge were able to manufacture the points, it was the defense’s ability to stop everyone but Cousins that won them the game.
The Kings came into the two games 15th in offensive efficiency and are now 19th after their two games with the Blazers.
Also, after the Houston loss, Portland was giving up the most attempts in the restricted area in the league per game. After a couple of good games they’ve improved slightly, ranking 24th now in attempts in the restricted area according to NBA.com and are still in the top-10 in midrange jumpers taken by their opponents.
Another telling statistic for this defense is also eFG% and it is something the Blazers have pointed to when talking about the defense.
After the last two games, Portland is ranked 14th in opponents effective field goal percentage. They were 26th last year in that category and finished with the 26th ranked defense in the league.
Few, if any, could expect an elite defense from this unit after last year’s struggles. However, it appears they are making strides to be average in that respect. Coupling a respectable defense with elite offense has worked well so far.
Things don’t get easier for their defense as they welcome the Detroit Pistons and their top-10 offense to the Moda Center on Monday night.