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PLAYER GRADES: It Was Ugly, but Blazers Outlast Pacers

Friday, December 05, 2014



It was a scrappy, physical, trying game at the Moda Center, Thursday. Downright ugly. It was a chore to watch and, presumably, to play.

Which is to say, the Pacers were right at home. 

Both teams shot a hair below 40% from the field. Portland were especially errant from the three-point line, where they made just four-of-21 attempts (19%). The Pacers, who made just five-of-18 tries from deep, weren't much better.

Free throws became the difference maker, as Portland netted 18 freebies to Indiana's five.

All in all though, another quality win--especially before the Blazers embark on a five-game road trip.

Improbably, the Blazers could match last season's incredible 18-4 start by winning their next three games against a trio of bottom-feeders, the Knicks, Pistons and Timberwolves, who have a combined record of 11 wins and 45 losses.

Indeed, what seemed a pipe dream--matching last year's scorching start--is not only within Portland's grasp; is seems downright likely.


While his shooting slump continues--Batum made one of five attempts from behind the three-point line--he was active and confident in the game's other aspects. He finished with 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. One particular pass stands out--he threaded the needle to a streaking Allen Crabbe who dunked heartily.

With 13 boards, Aldridge moved into third place on the Blazers' all-time rebound leaders list, ahead of Mychal Thompson, behind Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey. Adding 18 points, Aldridge put together his seventh straight double-double, the third time he's done so in his career. He also took and hit two three's, making more than any other Blazer on Thursday. Aldridge is now 10-of-19 from distance on the year. 

In dust-ups with David West and Roy Hibbert, Lopez got straight up angry on Thursday. It was about as much boiling frustration as he's shown in a Blazers uniform. That anger didn't particularly translate onto the court. At times, coach Terry Stotts had to sit Lopez to cool him out. He finished with four points, seven rebounds and five fouls.

Wesley Matthews' shooting has been up and down like roller coaster in recent days. After drilling 19-of-31 in three games last week, Matthews has made just one-of-15 in his last two games. Thursday he missed all five tries from distance and 6-of-14 en route to 12 points, zero rebounds and zero assists.

Lillard, who also struggled from behind the arc, made up for it at the free throw line, where he made 8-of-11 attempts (still below his usual accuracy, however). He snagged eight rebounds to go with three assists and two steals. 

In the game's waining minutes Lillard hit the deck and appeared to tweak a finger. He stayed in the game, fiddling with it, clearly bothered. Afterward team doctors checked it out and he was pronounced "fine," which is hard to believe, as it looked nasty. As always, the Oregonian's Bruce Ely captured the moment:



Like most everyone else, Kaman's shot wasn't falling. But he got plenty of other work done in just 18 minutes. Kaman grabbed seven boards and four assists to go with four points.

Crabbe has filled in admirably in place of the injured CJ McCollum. While playing disruptive defense Crabbe had two highlight-worthy dunks, in particular on the backdoor where he was fed from Nicolas Batum. Crabbe, whose confidence and court awareness are readily apparent, may present coach Terry Stotts with a bit of a conundrum when McCollum returns--he deserves to stay on the court.




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