Trail Mix: Blazers 102, Hornets 100
The Portland Trail Blazers came back from 23 points down on Tuesday night to defeat the Charlotte Hornets, 102-100 at the Moda Center.
In addition to our game story from tonight, we’ve got the Trail Mix.
- Terry Stotts said the Blazers first half was disappointing. “After a disappointing first half probably at both ends, I really liked the way we defended in the second half. We stuck with the things that we needed to do. I thought we were more aggressive in the second half. The unit that was in the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter–I think it was four guys off the bench plus Allen–did a really good job of getting energy, being physical, getting the crowd into the game and we were able to feed off that. Being down 23 and coming back to get a win no matter how it happens, is pretty good.”
- We’ll get to the praise for guys like Steve Blake and Joel Freeland in a minute. Damian Lillard had the game’s most confusing play with 3.9 seconds left after working his way out of a Charlotte trap. He even admitted to possibly traveling before putting up the shot. “When we drew the play up I knew that I would get a catch. got the catch and I saw their coach tell them not to foul right away. So I held it. They both started reaching and they slapped my arms a couple of times and once I didn’t hear a whistle I figured I would try to move around because I felt my feet start shuffling a little bit. I didn’t want to travel. I may have but I decided to put the ball on the floor and when I did I didn’t see how much time was left. And I just saw how many bodies was around me. I just thought they would be aggressive. Instead of turning the ball over and going the other way I kind of jumped up and my instincts just took over. I know it wasn’t the greatest play. You know we won the game.” Stotts offered this interpretation: “You know they trapped. We didn’t…that’s my fault. We have to give him more outlets. We knew that they were going to trap. More and more teams are looking to trap right away. Our spacing wasn’t very good when he got double teamed. He tried to bust through the double team and got caught in the air. I don’t think he wanted to shoot it but you know we didn’t give him a lot of choices either.”
- The play was very weird and had the Blazers lost, would have been in a dead heat for dumbest play of the year with Aldridge’s foul on Chris Paul this past Saturday.
- Joel Freeland got the call in the fourth quarter and stayed in the game for his defense on Al Jefferson. “I thought he played well,” Stotts answered blankly when asked why he went with Freeland. He then added: “He was going to play. I just like the way he was guarding Jefferson. I liked the energy he was providing and I just felt like we were best when he was on the court.” Statistically, the Blazers closing line-up of Freeland, Aldridge, Matthews, Blake and Lillard was dynamite. They outscored the Hornets by 9 points in 7 minutes according to NBA.com. Their net-rating, point differential measured out over 100 possessions, was +96.9. Absurd. Aldridge said of Freeland’s game, “That’s great. That’s who we was before he got hurt. He was that guy that would come in the game that gave you great minutes. Block shots, clog the paint and then you know just finish around the basket so I thought tonight he looked great for us.”
- Freeland also came over to help on the final shot by Neal which could have caused him to hesitate, though it looked like he had clear shot and just held it too long. After the game Neal said he was “a tenth of a second too late,” via CSNNW.com.
- Of the Blazers I heard talk about Neal’s shot, most didn’t think it was going to count after it had happened. Matthews had the most interesting interpretation “I thought they should have waved off right away cause he grabbed the net first. But, it didn’t matter. Only thing that really hurt us was a three so he made it, Joel made him take an extra dribble, he didn’t get a shot off and off to Denver.
- Freeland grabbed 7 rebounds off the bench and some big offensive ones in the third quarter. “I felt good. It’s been a long time since I had that many minutes. I think it was the preseason that I got close to that. It’s just a lot easier when you get that many minute to get into a rhythm really. I felt good on defense and did the things that I had to do.” He also talked about the task of guarding Big Al on the block, who finished with 22. “They’re a great team and I had to play against Jefferson who is an incredible scorer in the low post. So for me, it was just being solid and staying down on his pump fakes really.” Freeland makes staying down on the toughest pump fake in the game sound easy.
- Steve Blake got a lot of love from Terry Stotts, Damian Lillard and Robin Lopez in our game story. Put Wesley Matthews and Aldridge on the list for guys who loved Steve Blake tonight. “He was huge. Big time. He’s that piece that you really can’t put your finger on and he’s always in the mix of something good,” Matthews said. “He gets us going offensively. He pushes the tempo, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s not afraid to get after it on the defensive end and just makes plays.” Aldridge goes way back with Blake. “That’s who Steve is,” Aldridge said. “Active guy whose going to be kind of pesky. Guarding the guards and trying to get turnovers and moving the ball around. I thought he did great tonight.” He was only 1-5 from the field but the Blazers needed everything.
- The Blazers were noticeably a step slow or somehow out of sorts in the first half. The Batum injury could be one excuse but Aldridge offered up a curious one to their offensive woes. “It’s early. Guys are still finding a rhythm. Guys are still getting comfortable back in the offense. Guys are going to make shots but our defense can always be there. Second half I thought our defense was great. I thought guys took away tendencies I thought RoLo, Joel, Chris did a great job banging with Al. He’s a tough guy to guard down there and I thought our defense picked up.” Although Aldridge thinks it’s rhythm issue, the Blazers still have the 6th ranked offense in the league per NBA.com after Tuesday’s win.
- Matthews was proud of the way the Blazers won. “We’re just grinding it out. Possession by possession. We never hung our heads when we got down 23, we continued to push and play. We didn’t turn on each other. We didn’t turn on ourselves. We just kept playing basketball and then you know the game’s funny. It will flip for you if you’re doing it the right way and the shots we were missing earlier we started making.”
- Matthews also made a great play late in the game when he stood up a Lance Stephenson drive that led to Stephenson falling into the seats court side. He thought the play was poetic justice. “Well the play before that we were up against the shot clock and I made a move and I got to my step back and I let my shot go and I thought it was good. It felt good when I left my hand and I just hear he was just chirping. So I was praying that it went in because I had a lot of liners to say back but it didn’t. He came back at me and I just found this poetic, this is just perfect.”
- Casey Holdahl of TrailBlazers.com has Robin Lopez’s response to his brother Brook‘s comments that he’s “an idiot.”
- Lance Stephenson had some amazing Lance Stephenson quotes after tonight’s game via Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver.
Lance “definitely” wants more late-game opportunities & says CHA “could have mixed it up” offensively in 4th pic.twitter.com/PE6PoGBwzh
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 12, 2014