PORTLAND — It was the first time the Trail Blazers had seen their opponent all year, and yet, in a way, they were playing against themselves.
Portland, after all, owns the Nets’ first-round selection in next June’s draft as long as New Jersey doesn’t get one of the top three picks, so really — the two teams’ fates are intertwined.
So how do you handle that?
Try to win and push New Jersey down in the standings so that you get a better draft position? “Get the younger guys minutes” so that the Nets win and help ensure that they don’t get one of the top three picks?
Well, New Jersey actually made the decision for Portland by benching Deron Williams due to a stomach virus. The result: Blazers 101, Nets 88.
Hip hip hooray?
“It feels good to win, said Blazers point guard Raymond Felton, whose team now trails the Rockets and Nuggets by 3 games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. “Everyone’s excited.”
But Felton may find that excitement fading soon.
Yes, the point guard had a solid game by tallying 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. But when the subject of his critics came up in the locker room post-game, things turned bizarre.
Blazersedge.com reported that Felton told reporters where he lived and invited his detractors to pay him a visit if they had a problem.
“I’m going to keep it 100 with them,” he said. “You feel me?”
It has been a year of tumult for the 27-year-old, who replaced Andre Miller as the Blazers’ starting point guard and has become a constant source of blame for disappointed fans.
Felton ranks as the 45th most efficient point guard in the 30-team NBA, and two nights ago he committed two ghastly turnovers in the final 90 seconds that likely cost Portland the game.
But teammates have supported him vocally — and on Wednesday, supported him on the court, as well.
LaMarcus Aldridge led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field while grabbing 10 rebounds. Nicolas Batum added 20 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
Batum also punctuated the win by knocking down what has become the moderately prestigious “Chalupa” shot, in which the Blazers reach 100 points and in turn get the fans the Taco Bell item for free.
“That’s my first one. Four years and finally I got it. It was nice,” said Batum, whose shot came after a J.J. Hickson field goal was waved off. “After the J.J. shot, a fan got excited and I was like, ‘No basket. Calm down.’ But then I was like, ‘I got you.’ ”
The Blazers (26-29) led by just two at halftime but outscored New Jersey by 10 in the third quarter. Williams’ replacement at point guard — Sundiata Gaines — was not exactly All-Star-like, as he was held to zero points on 0-for-5 shooting.
Kris Humphries led the Nets (19-37) with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Gerald Green and Anthony Morrow each had 20 points off the bench.
The Blazers will take on the Mavericks on Friday in Dallas, where they will look to win two consecutive games for the first time since late January.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org