Blazers' Matthews stays in rhythm

Guard more than just a shooter, and keeps getting better

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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Wesley Matthews loves to say that basketball is a beautiful game when it's played the right way.

Throughout their 10-game winning streak, the Portland Trail Blazers have managed to win games in nearly every way a team can.

The key has been unselfishness and understanding of roles. However, the play of Matthews, particularly on the offensive end, has been the best stretch of his career as he is not only continuing to be a spot-up threat but is also scoring in a variety of ways.

As analytics have taken over the league, one term that has caught on is the term "3-and-D player," referring to a player who gives teams defense on one end and valuable floor spacing with three-point shooting on the other.

Matthews has been considered this type of player for years as he never stops going on defense and was Portland's best three-point shooter last year.

But when it comes to labeling players, Matthews won't play that game.

"I hate it," he said when asked about when people label him as just a three-point shooter and defensive player.

Matthews says he works on his post game every day just like he works on his shooting and is quick to remind those that say he's "just a shooter" that he wasn't a shooter when he came into the league, either.

He learned how to shoot out of necessity when teams left him open his rookie year.

For Damian Lillard, Matthews isn't forcing the issue.

"He's just playing the game," he said after Friday's win against Chicago. "He's not forcing it, shots are coming to him. He's shooting the ball really well. He's defending really well. He's just being Wes."

Everything Matthews is doing isn't by design.

"He doesn't get a lot of plays run for him," head coach Terry Stotts said. "He gets it in the flow of the game. He's a smart player, he reads the game well. I think the fact we pass the ball well helps everybody including him."

"He just works for everything he gets. He's done that ever since he got into the NBA and probably even before that."

Matthews has been fantastic from almost every spot on the floor as he is shooting over 50 percent on his 3s.

When looking at effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the value of 3-pointers, it puts Matthews efficiency in better context.

Excluding New Orleans' Ryan Anderson, who has played in only three games, Matthews has the best eFG percentage in the NBA, six percentage points ahead of second-place LeBron James.

It's not just from far away that Matthews is doing his damage.

So far this season he has been his finishing at the rim as he is shooting 75 percent inside the restricted area, which is LeBron-levels of efficiency at the basket.

But Matthews insists he isn't worried about scoring.

"My success is the team's success. We're rolling and I'm a rhythm player. I don't get many sets called for me, that's fine. Coach knows that, I know that. My thing has got to be my energy."

Matthews' energy has been in seemingly unlimited supplies and maybe even he's had too much energy as he was thrown out of Saturday's game. He went into a scrum and received his second technical of the game. It was something Aldridge called a sacrifice after the win.

On the boards, however, the energy has been evident. Matthews is averaging nearly five rebounds per 36 minutes and he had just under three per 36 minutes last season.

The Blazers struggled protecting the defensive glass early in the season, but Matthews has been one of the ring leaders trying to correct that early flaw.

There's a saying coined by current Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni that Matthews mentioned which is, "the ball finds the energy."

So far this season the ball has been finding Matthews and Matthews has been finding the net more efficiently than anyone else in the NBA.