Hold up. Check this out. The Portland Trail Blazers (10-2) complete a sweep of their four-game road trip with a stop in Wesley Matthew’s backyard in Milwaukee to play the Bucks (2-8) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks dealing with early injury woes but have had luck against Portland, winning the previous four but enduring a five-game losing streak. The Blazers allow the Bucks to hang around for much of the first-half and end up taking care of business late despite below average shooting, winning 91-82 and improve to an incredible 10-2 record. Portland became the second team in the league to reach double-digit wins and sweep the east to continue to light the NBA on fire.
Milwaukee’s projected starting five hasn’t played more than one minute together yet this season and have been destroyed with multiple key injuries to their offensive firepower. Tonight saw the return of Oregon Duck alum Luke Ridnour, Caron Butler and Gary Neal. They had three days off and looked springy but it was just another team effort from Portland that sealed the deal at the end.
Matthews’ sizzling three-point shooting continued from the opening tip, playing in front of his mother and grandmother he connects 2-2 and schools rookie Nick Wolters by posting him up and hitting turn around jumpers. The Blazers on defense were simply content to watch the Bucks take midrange jumpers just as they were in Brooklyn; only they don’t have the shooters that the Nets do. Ridnour, coming off ankle injury was sharp early for six points. Portland would’ve been up by more than single digits by spreading the floor with extra passes but six first quarter turnovers allow Milwaukee to score easy in transition. Damian Lillard gives Portland a quick scare when he drives inside the paint on the last play and gets a knee to his hips and needs some time to get back to his feet. Portland is up 24-23.
Lillard showed he was just fine as he nailed a deep three-pointer to start the second. Blazers defense continues to be lazy with their passes and interior defense, combined with pesky aggressiveness by the Bucks and Milwaukee extends their lead to four. The Bucks shoot 52% and slowing the game to their tempo: real bump and grind and getting to the foul line. Portland does improve their turnover ratio (none) and defensive stops from Robin Lopez lead to a 10-0 Blazer run mainly from LaMarcus Aldridge. Milwaukee withstands the show and Portland is only up 53-51 at halftime.
The best way to describe the first half from the second half is for those who have younger siblings will understand this situation. When I would play my younger brother in video games, my parents always insisted that I play nice and not destroy him. But when they weren’t looking I’d keep it close in the beginning but then run away eventually. This was Portland in the second.
The Blazers came out of the locker room destined to get Aldridge into his groove, hitting him with fancy, extra passes and bam – it’s a ten point lead. The third was an overall ugly quarter featuring a lot of no calls on either end, wild and lazy passes and Portland still can’t put Milwaukee away.
The three-point shooting surprisingly goes cold for the Blazers that leave the door wide open for the Bucks to tie and regain the lead but they couldn’t capitalize. The usual hot suspects: Matthews, Lillard, Mo Williams and Nicolas Batum would be “stupidly” wide open but couldn’t nail. A late push from Butler would have normally kept things interesting. Batum and Williams create several Milwaukee turnovers and the Blazers hold on to get the win despite many missed opportunities by the Bucks could never take advantage of.
Who was Hot
- LaMarcus Aldridge is now the leader in the NBA for most field goals and continues his stellar consistent play: game-high 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block on 10-22 shooting. When the Blazers needed a basket, he was there as always.
- Although Damian Lillard’s stats would indicate a solid performance (19 points, six rebounds, three assists) but he struggled with his shot. Many were of him driving into the paint to get contact and get a whistle but the whistle never really rang tonight.
- Wesley Matthews seemed destined to keep his shooting streak alive but his touch faded as the game went on. Every time he’d pull up for an open corner shot the bench would pop up expected a three but his shot started to become too short or way off. After starting 2-2 from downtown he finished with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and 3-9 from long range.
- Nicolas Batum was everywhere on defense: blocking shots (be afraid O.J. Mayo) stealing careless passes and nagging the Bucks guards all night. He was looking more to pass tonight (he only took six shots) but hit an angle three late to put the game for bed: eight points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
- Call it a Block Party: Featuring Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland. Those two ate up rebounds, blocked shots and made life easier for everyone: Lopez with eight points, eight rebounds, Freeland with five boards.
- The second half wasn’t the greatest in terms of the three-point shot but Portland overall went 11-31 (6-12 in the first half) but it didn’t matter. Milwaukee ended up 5-14.
- Check out the assist comparison: Portland 26 – Milwaukee 18. Sharing is caring!
- Steals: Portland 10 – Milwaukee 6
- Blazers have three less turnovers tonight 16 to 19 by the Bucks. They had a nice reminder from coach Stotts after the first quarter and kept the orange.
Who was Cold
- Tonight was the return of the bad Mo Williams. Only five points on 2-6 shot attempts and four turnovers that made him more jumpy and reckless when running the fast break. His only bright spot was six assists.
- Portland’s bench overall was less than perfect and the starters were needed more tonight to carry the load and make sure the Bucks couldn’t regain ground. Only 20 points scored total with Dorell Wright leading the way with nine points.
- So much for the hype in the pregame about how awesome O.J. Mayo is shooting so far. Playing 25 minutes he didn’t do any kind of damage whatsoever. He only attempted eight shots for nine points.
- Points in the paint: Milwaukee 42 – Portland 28
Who just became the first team in the West to reach double-digit wins? It feels good. This whole road trip was about beating teams that we needed to and got the job done. The schedule doesn’t get easier though, Derrick Rose and the Bulls visit the Moda Center on Friday with a shootout against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.