The “Rip City Rewind” will be a weekly feature on the Blazers and their highlights from the week that was. Coming into the 2013-14 season all the buzz in the Western Conference revolved around the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and Thunder — however the Blazers are ahead of ALL of them at this point in time. Yes we’re only nine games into the season, but even so, not too many people thought Portland would have a hot start like this. (I did: here)
This past week the Blazers went 3-0 and pushed their overall record to 7-2 — good enough for third-best in the NBA right now. Here’s how the week played out:
Monday, Nov. 11th: Pistons 103 vs Blazers 109
Game Changer: Damian Lillard rebounded from the worst shooting performance in his career — 1-for-15 from the floor vs the Kings — to score 25 points in this game shooting 7-for-16 overall and 5-for-8 from distance. Lillard and Aldridge are usually good for 20-plus points on a nightly basis, so nights like this have come to be expected; however we have to remember this is only Lillard’s second year in the NBA and he will still have growing pains from time to time.
Bench Mob: 34 points from the bench in this one and Mo Williams was especially hot shooting 7-for-9 (he started the game 7-for-7) and finished with 17 points to lead the way. Dorell Wright chipped in with a season-high 11 points as well. Bench production has been key to the Blazers’ early success so far.
Wednesday, Nov. 13th: Suns 89 vs Blazers 90
Game Changer: Thomas Robinson was the difference in this game; his energy off the bench was something to behold and simply put, he won this game for the Blazers. He only played 17 minutes off the bench but was ultra productive with 15 points and eight rebounds and his tip dunk in the second half sparked a Blazers’ run that ended up being the difference. I have been critical of how coach Terry Stotts is not utilizing the bench to the best of its abilities (namely Robinson) and this performance showed why Robinson needs to be playing at least 20 minutes a night. Get with it, Stotts. In other news — the red seas parted ways for Damian Lillard’s game winning drive to the basket and Nicolas Batum may have gotten away with a goaltend to preserve the win.
Bench Mob: 34 huge points from the bench. Last year we never could have imagined seeing over one-third of the Blazers’ points coming from the bench and the depth has paid off early. Robinson led the way with 15 points but Mo chimed in with 12 points as well. Mo is basically a starter-caliber player coming off the bench so his production around 11 to 15 points a night is expected.
Friday, Nov. 15th: Blazers 109 at Celtics 96
Game Changer: LaMarcus Aldridge could be listed in this spot nightly and Friday in Boston was no different as he notched his first win ever in Boston (the Blazers’ first win in Boston since 2004) and was dominant with 27 points and 12 rebounds. All LA has done during the first nine games of the season is average 21.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per night — proving that he belongs on the short list of top power forwards in the NBA right now.
Bench Mob: 31 points for the bench mob and once again they were led by Mo Williams with 18 points and eight assists. Again the Blazers’ bench eclipsed the 30-point mark; a welcome sight when you consider the bench averaged an NBA worst 18 points a game last season! If the bench continues to produce at this level then the Blazers will continue to win games, because the starters are very reliable on a nightly basis.
What’s Coming Up?
The Blazers are sitting pretty at 7-2; atop the Northwest Division ahead of highly touted teams like the Thunder and Wolves. Proving early in the season that they belong in those “contender” conversations is important, but I don’t think they mind flying under the radar a little longer either.
Sunday, Nov. 17th @ Toronto Raptors (4-6)
Monday, Nov. 18th @ Brooklyn Nets (3-5)
Wednesday, Nov. 20th @ Milwaukee Bucks (2-6)
Friday, Nov. 22nd vs Chicago Bulls (4-3)
Saturday, Nov. 23rd @ Golden State Warriors (6-3)
Those first three games are all games that Portland should win, meaning they will head back to the Moda Center at a healthy record of 10-2 ready to face a tough test with the Bulls. The Bulls and Warriors will both be good measuring sticks to see where the Blazers stand in the hierarchy of NBA contenders.
Agree or disagree – let me know what you think on twitter anytime: @Chris_Reichert