It’s rare to see a locker room in silence and sadness after a win, but the Portland Trail Blazers weren’t in the celebratory mood despite beating the Dallas Mavericks 94-75. The reason? Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles tendon, and is out for the season.
Matthews made a cut early in the third quarter, the kind of cut he has made countless times according to him, but then heard something pop behind him. He was hoping that it was someone who kicked him or tangled up. But no. No one was behind him when he looked back, and it seemed that he knew right away that was no pulled muscle or strain. This was a serious injury and getting carried off the floor meant the end of his season.
The Blazers did well without him, with their defense holding the Mavericks to their worst offensive performance of the season. They were held to season lows in points, 3-pointers (just two) and effective field goal percentage with a poor 38.6%. The trio of Matthews, Damian Lillard and Arron Afflalo, who’ll obviously be getting a lot more minutes now that Matthews is out, held the players they were guarding to just 24% from the field. Monta Ellis suffered more than anyone else, hitting just 5-of-20 shots to score only 12 points. It might be an injured hip (something Ellis is denying), but there’s no doubt this is a worrying slump.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 17 points, but the ability of Nicolas Batum to deliver a second consecutive efficient game might be the most important thing to take from this win, especially because of Matthews no longer available. Batum scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added 6 assists. Damian Lillard didn’t force things too much this time (4-of-10 from the field) to score 14 points and Robin Lopez added 13.
Statistically, the Blazers are quite consistent in being one of the top 5 teams on both ends of the floor this season, something that suggested this year is going to be about making a title challenge and not just reaching the playoffs and wishing for the best. Matthews, one of the best 3-pointer shooters in the NBA and a good defender, played a big part in the hopes and plans. Now it’ll be up to the midseason trade arrival of Arron Afflalo to make up for the big loss.
Besides Afflalo, Steve Blake and C.J. McCollum, not exactly the most consistent of players, are going to need to up their production if the Blazers are to stay on pace with the leading pack in the Western conference and get themselves at least one round of home court advantage in an incredibly tight and difficult situation.