NBA Scores 2014: Blazers hold off Raptors in OT
Portland recorded its third overtime win of the year, plus 3 other things we learned in the NBA on Tuesday night.
It sounds weird to say, but the matchup between the Blazers and Rockets on Tuesday night — which Portland won 102-97 in OT — may have been a Finals preview. At the least, it was a matchup between two teams who appear capable of contending into June.
Typically there are only a handful of legitimate title contenders and they are known by January.This year, though, things seem to be different. As January comes rolling around, we still have no idea who to anoint the favorites. Instead we have about 10 teams who you could make a case for and the Blazers (26-7) and Raptors (24-8) are in that group.
But the story on this night was the Portland Trail Blazers, who continue to fly under the radar despite possessing every trait a title contender is supposed to have. The Blazers have two stars, one, Damian Lillard, an electric point guard who loves the clutch. He scored 26 points and dished out nine assists against Toronto. The other, LaMarcus Aldridge, a post-up beast who can get his shot any time he wants, like he did against the Raptors the tune of 23 points. He also added in 13 rebounds.
The Blazers shoot three pointers and move the ball. Their 106.3 offensive rating is the eighth-best number in the league. The difference this year, though, is these Blazers defend. They certainly did Tuesday when they held the Raptors, owners of the league’s top offensive rating, to 40 percent shooting. Portland prevented Kyle Lowry, who scored 26 points but was just 10-of-26 from the field, from feeling comfortable. Much of that work was done by the long Nicolas Batum, especially late in the game. Lowry missed seven of the 10 shots he attempted in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Blazers also closed out on Toronto’s shooters, forcing the Raptors into misses on 18 of their 22 three-point attempts. On a night when the team shot just 40 percent from the field, a defensive effort like this was needed. The was the reason the Blazers were able to erase a 13-point fourth quarter deficit and pull out the overtime win.
Is Portland the Team to Beat in the West? Probably not. But the Blazers are certainly in the conversation, and it’s time they start getting their due.
3 other things we learned
The Josh Smith-less Detroit Pistons might be a good basketball team. The Pistons won their third game in a row, a 109-86 blowout victory against the Magic in Orlando. The three wins have come by average of more than 15 points. They’ve also all come after the team’s decision to release Josh Smith. Could this all be a coincidence? Perhaps. And Jodie Meeks going off for 34 points and connecting on nine three pointers, like he did against the Magic, is something we probably will never see again. But, Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons waived Smith for a reason. To ignore how well the team has played since then would be silly, even if it is only three games.
The Spurs might have to fight for a playoff spot if Kawhi Leonard’s hand doesn’t heal. Leonard has sat out San Antonio’s last eight games with a right hand injury. The Spurs are 2-6 in that stretch, the latest loss a 95-87 one coming in Memphis against the Grizzlies. The loss dropped San Antonio to 19-14, the seventh-best record in the Western Conference, just two games ahead of ninth-place Suns, and three-and-a-half ahead of the Thunder. The Spurs are 12th in the NBA in offensive rating and seventh in defensive rating. Respectable ranks, but not championship level, and certainly not the level of play we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in San Antonio. Yeah, it’s still early, and we’re all seemingly required to always assume the Spurs will be okay because they are the Spurs. But at some point, especially in a stacked Western Conference where playoff spots aren’t guaranteed, the Spurs are going to have to start playing better basketball.
Brook Lopez still has some game. Lopez, who spent the past month recovering from a back injury and coming off the bench, scored a season-high 29 points in the Nets‘ surprising 96-82 road win over the Bulls, snapping Chicago’s seven-game win streak. That this output came against Chicago’s big and talented front line is even more promising for the Nets. Of course, since this is the hapless Nets we’re talking about, none of this really matters. But a healthy and performing Lopez can maybe help this team get to the playoffs.
Play of the Night
3 fun things
Blazers 102, Raptors 97 (Blazer’s Edge recap | Raptors HQ recap)