Trail Blazers are blazing along with best record in the NBA

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2013 - 11:27 AM

All of Portland’s offseason moves appear to have paid off.

 

The Portland Trail Blazers arrive at Target Center on Wednesday night as the NBA’s surprise success story so far this season, the kind of startling team Timberwolves fans hoped theirs might be.

At 22-4 following a last-second victory at Cleveland on Tuesday, the Blazers own the league’s best record, better than two-time defending champion Miami, rising Indiana or venerable San Antonio.

How have they done it?

They are built around a power forward-point guard combination completely opposite in style and game from the Wolves’ Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio.

Blazers management also has astutely surrounded their LaMarcus Aldridge-Damian Lillard tandem with shooters and role players through a combination of drafting, trades and free-agent signings that supplemented eight players leftover from last season’s 33-49 team that missed the playoffs.

What follows is a closer look inside at this Trail Blazers team, a team that has Aldridge among the front-runners for NBA MVP honors and that will have General Manager Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts in contention for postseason awards as well if Portland can keep this kind of pace up.

Different strokes

LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love share almost nothing in common, other than the fact that both have been named to the NBA All-Star Game twice each.

Love is the freakishly versatile inside-out player for the Wolves who puts up ridiculous statistics but hasn’t yet appeared in a playoff game. Portland’s Aldridge is more physically gifted, a low-post scorer who also possesses a nice mid-range game.

Their individual matchups often turn contentious, even though Love says there can be no real rivalry between the two power forwards until they create one in a playoff series or two. Wolves fans swear there are cosmic differences between the two players, but don’t be so sure about that, only mostly vast differences between the styles of game they play.

Aldridge’s 31-point, 25-rebound game last week against Houston was the NBA’s first performance to approach Love’s 31-31 game from November 2010, and Aldridge already has been named the West’s player of the week three times this season. You might say that’s just because the Blazers are winning, but is it only a coincidence?

Differing philosophies

Wolves coach Rick Adelman rode backup point guard J.J. Barea down the stretch of Monday’s loss at Boston, something he has done more than once this season when starter Ricky Rubio has struggled with his shot. Each time, it generates spirited sports talk-radio discussion around the dial the next morning.

Rubio is the pass-first point guard who makes teammates better and an anachronism in today’s NBA, but his 2-for-12 shooting night Monday is no aberration. Meanwhile, Blazers second-year star point Damian Lillard just might be the league’s next great scoring point guard, if not its next superstar.

Without question, Portland coach Terry Stotts had Lillard on the floor in the fourth quarter and overtime on the second of back-to-back games Sunday night in Detroit, even though he was in the midst of a lousy shooting night. Still, his turnaround, contested jump shot won the game 111-109 with 0.1 seconds left.

On Tuesday night, Lillard came back and did it again, hitting a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to beat the Cavaliers.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m 0-for-16, when the game is on the line, I’m raising up and shooting,” Lillard told reporters after the Pistons game. “I’m not shying away from no shots.”

  • related content

  • RandBall: Some serious Trail Blazers envy

    Wednesday December 18, 2013

    Good times

  • Gameday preview: Portland at Wolves

    Tuesday December 17, 2013

    wolves gameday7 P.M. VS. Portland • Target center • FSN (830-am)Preview: The Trail Blazers have won five consecutive games after...

  • Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, left, looks to pass against Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, from Germany, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

  • Damian Lillard, shooting over Kyrie Irving on Tuesday, later hit a last-second winner for the second game in a row.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 11 1st Qtr 8:10
New York 4
Oklahoma City 1:30 PM
San Antonio
Cleveland 4:00 PM
Miami
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 12:30 PM
Loyola Marymount
Ohio 3:00 PM
Nebraska
Colorado 5:30 PM
Hawaii
George Washington 7:30 PM
Wichita State
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close