It’s like they couldn’t help themselves.
The Blazers let the 44th pick in last year’s draft–whose previous career-high was 15 against Sacramento–torch them for 27 points and six assists. They shot 36.5% (missing 54 of their 85 attempts) from the field and 33.3% from three. They shot just below 59% from the free throw line. They allowed Golden State to shoot 43% from the floor.
Yet, they still managed to not lose this game. The crowd at the Rose Garden tonight simply wouldn’t permit it.
Sure, Raymond Felton had 24 points (his highest total as a Blazer) while Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 17 and 18 respectively, but the Portland crowd would not accept a tank job against one of the elite tank squads in the association.
They didn’t even laugh when public address announcer proclaimed “Everybody loves Raymond!” after one of his four three-pointers.
Indeed, the crowd loved it. They cheered as if he was the heir-apparent to the vacant point guard position next season. After a fourth quarter full of unreserved emotional displays up and down the court, Felton acknowledged the fans’ involvement after the game: “It’s all about winning, that’s all that matters to me…I try to get the fans involved.”
Coach Kaleb Canales’ first question in his post-game interview was about Felton’s contribution tonight: “He had a huge second half. We want him pushing the ball and getting easy baskets to build his rhythm. Raymond was big for us tonight.”
Asked about Felton’s confidence and its impact on the team, Aldridge replied: “It’s big for us. He’s never lost confidence in himself and I think it’s big for the team to move forward.”
Since Coach McMillan’s dismissal, Felton is averaging 16 points per game, a 53.8% increase under Coach Canales. You can almost hear Aldridge finishing his sentence with “moving forward…away from Coach Nate.” After all, just hours before McMillan was fired there were rumors of a Felton-lead mutiny in the locker room. Regardless, without McMillan in the huddle, Felton has thrived, surpassing his 2011 season average of 15.5 PPG.
He’s also very close to becoming an unrestricted free agent.
I don’t mean to be cynical, not about Felton anyway. There’s nothing wrong with a guy trying to improve his numbers and image in hopes of a payoff next season, so long as it’s not hurting the team. In this case, Felton’s motivation, wherever it’s coming from, is helping the Blazers. He’s pushing the ball in transition, albeit to sometimes disastrous results–though he can’t be held completely responsible for the Blazers’ fast-break woes. Felton is leading the team on the floor, something Canales, Aldridge, and Wesley Mattews each mentioned after the game.
Matthews, who finished with 10 points (just 2 - 12 from the floor) and in a warm place in Warrior rookie Charles Jenkin’s heart, mentioned the team’s communication as a strong point tonight. Felton’s position at the center of each on-court huddle kept this team talking, not just on offense but rotating on defense.
Of course, allowing the rookie backcourt of Klay Thompson and Charles Jenkins (who?), to score 43 points was not a strong point in Felton’s game. Jenkins, to whom I apologize for calling Chris on Twitter, had scored just 86 points total in his career before flaming the Felton-Matthews back court for 27 points. The only thing he didn’t do tonight was hit the game-tying three as the clock ran out, unable to get a good look over the outstretched arms of Aldridge at the top of the key.
After a loss against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday, The Blazers improved to 3 - 3 under coach Canales and 16 - 8 at the Rose Garden on the season. Tuesday they host Oklahoma City, who beat Miami by 16 tonight (Miami’s largest loss of the season) and have won 2 - 3 against Portland this season.
If things continue to click for Canales’ Blazers, this might not be the last time they see the Thunder this season. Let the march towards the eighth seed continue.
- The Blazers won for the first time this season without hitting at least 40% from the field
- The 29-point third quarter was the highest third quarter this month for the Blazers
- Portland’s sever turnovers tied a season low
- Luke Babbitt, Nicolas Batum, Raymond Felton, and Wesley Matthews each hit their first 3-point attempt tonight
- Advanced stats should be able to tell you which players have been on the wrong side of a career high for an opposing player. Anyone have an idea for this?