Blazers grind out ninth straight win in Charlotte
Behind a combined 49 points from their starting backcourt, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Charlotte Hornets 105-97 for their ninth straight victory.
Wesley Matthews helped jump start Portland’s offense in the third quarter, scoring 11 of his 28 points.
Damian Lillard’s three-pointer tied the game at 69. Wesley Matthews was spectacular in the third quarter, waking up the Blazers dormant offensive attack. LaMarcus Aldridge had a forgettable night, going 3-for-18 from the field for 9 points and 14 rebounds.
Charlotte’s starting backcourt didn’t fare so well. Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson went a combined 10-for-30 from the field for 23 points. Stephenson was also limited to a spectator’s role in the fourth quarter.
For the Hornets, their misery continues. For the Blazers, they continue to rack up wins even if it isn’t in the most impressive fashion.
In the second quarter Portland shot 5-for-21 and couldn’t buy a basket. Aldridge was struggling from everywhere and even Matthews’ post-ups were looking forced. The Blazers bench also didn’t provide the lift that’s been a reliable force this season.
In addition to Aldridge, Chris Kaman also struggled from the field. Kaman was 5-of-12, picking up his game a little as the Blazers extended the lead in the fourth quarter. Despite an off night from their highest-usage players, Portland still won. In addition the their backcourt, Robin Lopez made a habit of getting timely put backs.
Lopez was Portland’s best big man from the opening tip, screening well, attacking the glass and menacingly protecting the rim. Lopez finished with 15 points, 10 rebound, 3 blocks and probably a few other Charlotte shots he changed. Lopez has been getting better and better on the defensive end and this game he was shutting down Charlotte’s avenues to score.
Stephenson had played well in the second and third quarters, especially when he was setting up his teammates. But what he and Walker couldn’t do for the majority of the game was hit shots. Once Brian Roberts, who started 6-for-6 from the field, cooled off it was a struggle for the Hornets to stay close.
Matthews showed the whole repertoire by scoring in the post and hitting six threes. Lillard was also devastatingly efficient from three, going 4-8 and seemingly stopping any Charlotte momentum in the second quarter.
Aldridge’s great game in Philadelphia didn’t carry over but with Matthews and Lillard outplaying the Charlotte guards he didn’t need to have one.
Al Jefferson scored 21 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort. Charlotte also lost starting power forward Marvin Williams, a 40 percent three-point shooter, after the first half and did not return. At the start of the third quarter, the Hornets looked like they didn’t miss a beat by pushing the lead to 13 on the first play of the second half.
But as they’ve done throughout this winning streak, the Blazers just kept grinding it out and eventually brought Charlotte’s offense to a halt while finding their rhythm from the three-point line.
As of tonight, the Blazers are fifth in the league in defensive efficiency. Again, it’s still early in the season but their defense continues to trend up and bring them back into games.
- After going with a 10-man rotation the last two games, Terry Stotts tightened things back up and went with nine guys against Charlotte. The two players who had played in that 10th spot, Dorell Wright and Will Barton both registered DNP-CD’s. It looks like Allen Crabbe has earned a spot in the rotation as of now. Crabbe went 1-for-3 from 3, scoring three points on the night in 16 minutes. Coming into the game “Cool Breeze” was shooting 38.5 percent from the three-point line.
- The Blazers play Memphis on Friday, who are currently tied for the best record in the NBA. They play the Lakers tonight. So they should still have the league’s best record when Friday comes around and Portland tries to go for their 10th straight win. Should be fun.