Such a great start from the Portland Trail Blazers at some point was bound to be about more than just setting franchise milestones but actually breaking some NBA records. Much has been said about their three-point shooting ability, which reached a new level of execution in the 130-98 win over the Utah Jazz, setting an NBA record for a team with at least 20 attempts.
The Blazers finished with 17-of-29, making 73.9% of their shots. Damian Lillard (21 points) hit 5-of-6, Wesley Matthews (24 points) hit 4-of-6 while Nicolas Batum was perfect with 3-of-3. Things went so swimmingly and easy against the terrible Jazz (back to usual, even with Trey Burke), that non of the starters played more than 29 minutes.
With such an incredible performance from beyond the arc, LaMarcus Aldridge had one of his quietest games this season. He scored 20 points, adding 15 rebounds, but didn’t take a single shot from three-point range, staying away from the spotlight planted on the “real” heroes of this game.
Aldridge seems happier than he did last season as the Blazers kept losing, falling out of playoff contention. The reason? He feels like teams respect his teammates a lot more, and he’s seeing a lot less double teams than before. The ball movement, in any case, is much better and quicker, leading to so many open shots and three pointers. The Blazers are hitting 42.6% of their three point shots this season, and are third in the league with 9.8 three pointers made per game.
It was a chance for Thomas Robinson, maybe the most disappointing of high picks from the 2012 draft, to improve his numbers. In the very long stretch of garbage time he scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 19 minutes of basketball. It seemed each player coming off the bench got a chance to shine a little bit, but most of the attention deservedly goes to Matthews, Lillard and Batum.
The Blazers (17-3) are going to hit a rough stretch at some point. Any team that relies so heavily on three-point shooting and doesn’t offer too much depth off the bench is going to hit a brick wall sooner or later. However, there are two things for the Blazers to feel quite pleased about, regardless of the win.
This team isn’t hitting three pointers just because of some crazy shooting and taking tough shots. This isn’t luck. This is possibly the most entertaining to watch offense in the NBA, with a lot of intelligent passing and ball movement, that always seems to find someone open, even with Robin Lopez being someone that doesn’t get too much attention from opposing defenses.
The other is that they’re going to become deeper at some point when C.J. McCollum comes back, supposedly before New Year’s. It’s hard to see how he fits into the rotation at this point, but it’ll probably come at the expense of both Lillard and Mo Williams, with the Blazers hoping he will be a seamless introduction into a system that seems to be working almost too perfectly at this point.