Even with a rare road win for the Portland Trail Blazers, their chances of making the NBA playoffs are lower than 2%, if statistics are to be believed. Still, it isn’t stopping Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, with very little help from other players, from playing fantastic basketball and keeping the team in the postseason race.
The next shocker? Well, not exactly a shocker considering the Chicago Bulls look worn out, but still the Blazers have won less than a third of their road games this season. Beating the Chicago Bulls 99-89 after leading by 27 points when entering the final quarter. The Blazers held the awfully on offense Bulls to only 32 total points in the second and third quarter combined. As it usually is with Chicago, it was a combination of their terrible offense and surprisingly good defense from Portland.
Aldridge led with 28 points and 8 rebounds, not having too much trouble against the usually more fearsome Bulls front line, making 14 of his 23 shots, staying away from the paint and showing that he might be the big man with the softest touch when it comes to mid-range jumpers. Aldridge is certainly giving his all while the Blazers are struggling to find decent replacements for quality minutes off the bench and hoping that Nicolas Batum lasts through the injury that’s limiting him; he’s averaging 26.8 points per game over the last five games, keeping Portland within 3.5 games from the final postseason spot, hoping the Lakers, Mavs and Jazz take a turn for the worse.
This is one of my top three cities to play in, all the tradition. They traded me on draft night, so this is always fun. That was probably, if not the best, one of our better defensive performances of the season. Our pick-and-roll defense was very good. We helped. Our weak side was active. We covered the paint pretty well. The points came, but they didn’t come without the defense.
Damian Lillard, almost as always (although he did have a bad game in the loss to the Bucks), was the second half of the Northwest version for the Dynamic duo. Lillard, the clear favorite (at least in our opinion) to win the rookie of the year award, finished with 24 points and 7 assists on an impressive shooting night from beyond the arc (4-7) while finally enjoying to get some rest thanks to the big lead and having Eric Maynor playing a bit more like expected from him, giving the Blazers, hopefully, at least one decent player off the bench.
Nicolas Batum, who’ll need surgery once the season is over, finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, but his defense on Luol Deng was great as always, keeping the struggling Chicago forward on only 5 points and the Bulls in general on only 43.8% from the field.
The Blazers had a chance to give their top guys a little bit of rest, which is something they need to cherish heading into the final push, with the ending not really up to them at this point. Just hoping to see someone pick up the slack when Aldridge and Lillard aren’t at 100%, while keeping their fingers crossed their opponents for the final ticket drop as many games as possible.