Blazers Notebook: Bench playing bigger role for Portland

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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PORTLAND -- The last two games have seen the Trail Blazers reserves of Mo Williams, CJ McCollum, Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland help swing games in Portland's favor.

Against both Minnesota and Golden State, the Portland bench not only played effectively but come in and even take leads when the starters haven't been their dynamic selves from earlier in the season.

"Our bench has been terrific," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts about the performance of his reserves the last few games. We need that from the four guys who are generally getting the minutes off the bench."

Wesley Matthews has been starting the second and fourth quarters with the four bench guys and he feels that they've been able to thrive because of their energy.

"We're out there playing really hard," he said. "We're not calling many sets. We expect Joel, T-Rob to get in the game that they're going to turn the energy around for the better. We know Mo plays at a high speed level and CJ is fitting in well."

In 51 minutes, the bench unit of Matthews featuring the four reserves has outscored their opponents by 18 points.

Monitoring Batum

Nicolas Batum left in the fourth quarter of Portland's loss on Sunday against Golden State. He then received an MRI on his right ankle on Monday.

Batum did suit up and Terry Stotts did not indicate that they will lower his minutes.

"We're monitoring it. If it's bothering him then he won't play," Stotts said. "If he says he'll play, we'll play him. We'll stay on top of it."

On The (Defensive) Rebound

The Blazers were in the bottom third of the NBA in Defensive Rebounding for the first two months of the season.

Entering their final game of January, the Blazers have gotten back into the middle of the pack and rank sixth in the month in defensive rebounding percentage.

"It's us being more active," said Matthews. "Forcing tougher shots that we know are more likely going to come off and pursuing the ball. The ball's got to bounce your way a little bit in this game."

When asked about the rebounding Stotts said that they need a team effort to be successful on the boards, especially against a solid defensive team in the Grizzlies.

Difference With Gasol

The Memphis Grizzlies have gone 6-1 in the last seven games since getting Marc Gasol back in the lineup.

Terry Stotts said that the Grizzlies are back to playing the style that took them to the Western Conference Finals and according to NBA.com, the Grizzlies have had the best defense since he's come back.