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

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington 4 Bottom 6th Inning
Philadelphia 3
Tampa Bay 3 Top 9th Inning
Baltimore 1
Boston 2 Bottom 8th Inning
Toronto 5
NY Yankees 8 Top 7th Inning
Detroit 2
Atlanta 3 Top 9th Inning
NY Mets 2
Chicago Cubs 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Cincinnati 6
Cleveland 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Chicago WSox 2
Minnesota 0 Top 7th Inning
Kansas City 0
Oakland 0 Top 5th Inning
Houston 0
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw 8:40 PM
Arizona - W. Miley
Miami - H. Alvarez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
Colorado - F. Morales 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
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: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close