Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

How The Hell Do You Beat The Blazers?

The highlight from last night was Batum hitting a three to send the game to overtime (on a nice little double-screen play drawn up by Terry Stotts), but the memorable thing about the Blazers' 116-112 overtime win against the Clippers last night was how much stuff went wrong for them, and how little it seemed to matter.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32, but he needed 31 shots to do it and went cold for a long stretch in the second half. Damian Lillard disappeared down the stretch, and the Blazers had to hide him on Collison on defense, because they wanted no part of him on Paul or Crawford. Mo freaking Williams was in charge the Portland offense for much of the fourth. And the Blazers still looked terrifying, even as they coughed up lead after lead, because the Blazers are manifold.

LaMarcus might go cold, but it's basically impossible to stop him from getting a good look. Batum looks like a better version of Battier, a 3-and-D guy who can create for himself and for others; in OT last night, the offense ran through him. Lillard and Wes Matthews (and Williams) can drop in threes from a mile out, or drive and kick when they're not falling, and in either case there's Robin Lopez, parked on the offensive glass. You know all this, but it looks different when you see it in a game that's actually contested, by a top 10 defense and an equally loaded Clippers team.


Chris Paul went for 34 and 16, demolished the Blazers every time they switched on him (which was a lot), and basically did his Point God thing all night. Blake Griffin, who has somehow become the most roundly disliked exciting player in the league, put in 35 and 11. This was a good game from a good team, and the Blazers held up.

The Blazers have the most efficient offense in the league, and they've shot the third most threes in the league (one fewer than league-leading Houston). They're tied with Golden State for the highest percentage (40.3), and in a way they're even more terrifying than the Warriors, because the threes come from everywhere. The Blazers' top five perimeter rotation players—Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Williams, and Dorell Wright—shoot a respective 42.6, 43.6, 39, 36.5, and 38.2 percent on threes. And in a relatively off night, they took 36 and hit 13 of them.

This was proof of concept: Every time the Clippers would pull within two or three, the Blazers would keep shooting. Even in the final two minutes of the fourth, when Portland had a one-point lead to protect, there was Batum, firing a three-pointer early in the shot clock, because he was open. That's confidence in the math, a frightening thing to behold if you're trying to make a comeback.

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