Blazers Notebook: Wright helps team pick up tempo

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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PORTLAND — The main story surrounding the Trail Blazers amidst their recent stretch of play has been that they will be without LaMarcus Aldridge for the foreseeable future.

As Aldridge continues to be held out of basketball activities, the Blazers are continuing to find out more about who they are when Aldridge isn't playing.

As it turns out, it appears as if Dorell Wright's play as the starting power forward in games without Aldridge has earned him a spot moving forward.

"When LaMarcus comes back, that's going to be 36 minutes," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts before Portland's game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. "We have to look at him (Wright) as the backup four especially with Joel Freeland being out. Because we are able to change the pace of play."

At the power forward spot, where he was not playing for much of the year because of the Blazers playing younger players such as Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson, the spacing he provides by the threat of his shooting is something that's useful even if he misses.

"Because of the circumstances, not only like a lot of times when you put a lot of shooters on the court, his presence on the court whether he makes a shot or not allows other opportunities for the guys on the court offensively," said Stotts.

During the Blazers' first stretch without Aldridge, they enjoyed an improvement in their defense -- but the offensive production with small lineups was not what the Blazers had expected.

In their two games going into Tuesday, they managed to score more than 110 points. Lineups with Wright at power forward with the other four starters do play at a higher pace, meaning they average more possessions per 48 minutes, according to NBA.com.

Only six lineups have played more than 80 minutes for the Blazers this season, and the new starting five with Wright has the Blazers best adjusted point differential and Stotts feels that Wright is playing the best he has all season.

Mo thrives in small style

Although Dorell Wright's small-ball power forward play has made the Blazers move a little faster, nobody gets the Blazers going fast like Mo Williams.

Without Aldridge, Williams has been been key to the Blazers' scoring success.

"Especially with LaMarcus being out and playing the style of ball that we're playing, Mo thrives in those situations," Stotts said. "Uptempo and driving and I think it helps us with our offense."

In the six games that Williams has played without Aldridge, he's averaging 15.5 points a game and he's doing so more efficiently than he has most of the season.

In addition to a six-point bump in his per game scoring, Williams is shooting 50 percent from the field, up from 40 percent and he's shooting 47 percent from the 3-point line.