PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers have had more than their fair share of close games as of late.
It appears that a young Eastern Conference team coming in a four-game losing streak was just the trick to be able to relax in the 4th quarter.
On Thursday, the Blazers became the first team in NBA history to make more than 20 three-pointers twice in a season on their way to a 134-104 blowout of the Charlotte Bobcats at the Moda Center on Thursday.
“It feels good to be part of history and do something that hasn’t been done before,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts.
The game broke a streak of five in a row decided by five points or fewer against the suddenly reeling Charlotte Bobcats, who lost their fifth consecutive game.
The Bobcats have actually improved this season by becoming good on the defensive end of the floor as they came in as the sixth ranked defense in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions.
Despite their improvement, the Blazers knew coming in they had an opportunity to win big and put a team away with a good start.
“That’s what we wanted,” said Blazers forward Nicolas Batum. “We’ve got this stretch of five games before going on the road again that we have to take care of business. That’s what we have to improve.”
Charlotte looked like the hapless Bobcats teams of old as they couldn’t stop anything Portland did, especially from the three-point line as the Blazers tied a franchise record for made threes.
While the Blazers put on a clinic from the arc and made over 21 three-pointers for the second time this season, they were more impressed with their defense in the first half.
“I think they shot 38 percent or something like that,” said guard Wesley Matthews. “I’m going to keep saying everything was our defense. We were able to get stops and when we get stops, we’re a dangerous team.”
While the Blazers were certainly the beneficiaries of playing the league’s second-worst offense, their defense allowed the Blazers get good shots offensively without having to run many set plays.
Although it’s technically a new year, the Blazers offense was in the same form they exhibited in 2013, torching the Bobcats with ball movement and efficient three-point shooting.
“That’s maybe who we are. That’s not only luck,” Batum said. “They will double team LaMarcus like tonight and that gives freedom to shoot the ball to punish them. If they keep trapping we’re going to keep shooting threes and make those.
One guy who literally didn’t miss from three was Damian Lillard, who scored 24 points on the night and went 6-for-6 from three. Combined, he and Wesley Matthews went 11-for-12 from beyond the three-point line.
The passing and shot-making was contagious.
“Our crowd gets into it and our crowd is almost willing the ball in for us before we even shoot,” said Matthews on the feeling of when the team gets hot.
Depending on who you ask, tonight’s game could have been a result of a momentum carry over from their big win in Oklahoma City but one thing is for sure, they enjoyed being able to relax at the end tonight.
“You’ve got to enjoy these because they don’t come often,” said Stotts.
With some help from losses by San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the Blazers have the best record in the Western Conference at 26-7.