Trail Mix: Blazers 102, Lakers 86
The Portland Trail Blazers cruised into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s emphatic 102-86 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. The loss was the Lakers’ 11th straight and towards the end of the game, you could hear the fans in the 300 level try to start a “BEAT LA” chant.
But with Kobe Bryant out for the season as well as rookie Julius Randle and Nick Young leaving the game after the third quarter, the chant quickly faded as the Lakers did in the third quarter.
The game was somewhat close at halftime even though the Lakers didn’t look they wanted to be there after losing by double-digits to the Nuggets on Tuesday who are far from a pillar of continuity and stability.
The result on Wednesday was expected. And now the Blazers stand at 36-17 going into the All-Star break. The Blazers talked about what that means after the game.
Having missed 35 games from their starters due to injury, the fact they have the same record speaks for itself after having a clean bill of health up to this point last season.
As of recent, it has been the play of CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard off Portland’s bench that has impressed. Leonard has played in 19 games in a row going into the break. McCollum has scored in double-figures in three of the last four games.
“CJ has had 3 or 4 good games and for him, I think you can see his confidence growing, coming into the game looking for his shots, not hesitating and being ready to make plays,” head coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s at his best when he does that. Meyers has had a body of work. He’s had a good, six, eight weeks or whatever it is and I think he’s growing more confident and consequently, the players on the court are trusting him as a player.”
Now they look to the weekend with most players not involved in the All-Star festivities going to some place warm. Others are going to see family.
Of course, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard will be front and center this weekend. And Wesley Matthews will be manning the 3-point racks.
Aldridge, now going for the fourth time, says it gets more special every time.
“It’ll be fun. As you do more I think it becomes even more special, rubbing elbows with those guys. It’s just a big time weekend for you,” he said.
And with New Orleans’ Anthony Davis bowing out of the game due to a shoulder injury, there is a spot in the frontcourt open alongside Marc Gasol. With three perimeter players slated to start in Stephen Curry and James Harden and Klay Thompson in place of Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin.
“I mean I would like to start,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I wouldn’t. I think I’d be lying if I did. Luck hasn’t always went our way up here in the Northwest so we’ll see what happens.”
Aldridge has always felt like a bit of an underdog and I guess in his eight years here he’s also picked up a little bit of Northwest gloom. Western Conference head coach Steve Kerr has a lot of options and it’s not exactly a secret that this could be Tim Duncan’s final season. And considering the way the Spurs were revered after their last two Finals appearances, nobody would cry foul if Duncan got the nod.
But if all else fails, Aldridge can point out to Kerr that if he starts the starting frontcourt would be “LaMarc Gasoldridge,” which if Kerr enjoys a good pun, should sway him.
- On what Aldridge said to Wesley Matthews about the 3-point shootout: “I told him, I said go win it. And that was it. Don’t come back with nothing but a win. If you don’t win, don’t come back, basically. That’s it.”
- Matthews practiced a few times over the past few weeks. He definitely wants to win the 3-point contest. “Feeling good. It will feel good as it gets closer. Right now I’m not excited for how much packing I’ve got to do. Other than that, it will get there. My teammates are excited for me. Everybody else is. And it’s competition.” Matthews also said he won’t be staying for the big game as he will go to his home in Madison, Wisconsin to cheer on his teammates. “I will cheer for them from the comforts of my home,” he said. “I’m excited for them. I’ll be rooting for them. I’m going to be in Wisconsin.”
- Multiple players mentioned after the game that they were aware of the possibility of a trap game against the Lakers before the break and they kept themselves from getting caught. “That’s what we need going into break,” Matthews said. “A momentum game like that. Won our last two, should of been 3. I was proud of the way we played in Dallas. We should have won that game. It would have been easy for us. For the turn of events that we’ve had, streak in the fourth quarters to fold against Houston but we didn’t. That was a big win for us. You know, a ‘trap game’ after two days off, a game against the Lakers going into break. It kind of scripted itself that it could have gone the other way for us but we didn’t let it. I feel good going into break.”
- Meyers Leonard confidence continues to grow after putting up 10 points and seven rebounds. “I think I’m feeling more comfortable out there. More assertive. Certainly being able to space the floor and have confidence to shoot the ball from 3 is something I’ve really worked on. Guys are probably giving me a hard time that I turned down a few tonight. It’s all a part of the process as I’ve said before. I certainly have to continue to work on the defensive end, rebounding, running the floor. You know, making the energy plays. Of course the shooting comes along with that. “
- Nicolas Batum has been looking forward to the break for a few days. Heck, he may have been looking forward to it since training camp since he had very little break. “It was a pretty tough stretch for me,” Batum said. “And the worst first half of the season since I got here my rookie year. So, just I want to put that behind me. Move forward and move on and I’ll be okay.”
- As far as how much it will help his ailing right (shooting) wrist that has a torn ligament, Batum isn’t so sure. “I hope so. I don’t think I will work on it. I just want to relax. Put my wrist on the side and rest it. And it should be okay.”
- LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been pretty darn good since electing to put of surgery on his left thumb, says it feels ok. “It feels OK. I’ve had it hit a few times and it hasn’t been too bad. Tonight was one of the easier nights on it. It’s been fun.” Aldridge also looks forward to having a few days without having to use and immobilize the thumb over the break. “A few days of not getting it hit and it not having to use it that will be big time,” he said.
- Stotts is going “somewhere warm” for the break and says he has no preference what players choose to do over the break whether it’s get away from the game or work harder on it. “I don’t have any preference what they do. Everybody’s different, everybody needs different things. I just want them to enjoy the break however they enjoy it.”
- The Blazers don’t play again until Feb. 20. Hope everybody enjoys the festivities this weekend and the celebration of the game that it is. And also hope those of you who have an extended President’s Day weekend are able to enjoy it. Be sure to check The Columbian and our Blazers section, follow @Blazerbanter on twitter or +erikgundersen on the Cyberdust app for coverage of the weekend from New York and Brooklyn. I’ll definitely be trying to post some Vines as well. And with the trade deadline looming, we’ll keep our ear to the ground.