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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Blazers finish regular season strong with 54th win

Portland learns playoff schedule vs. Rockets

By , Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

PORTLAND — Behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from Will Barton as well as 15 points and nine rebounds from Robin Lopez in 14 minutes, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 at the Moda Center.

The win was Portland’s 54th of the season, 21 wins more than last season’s total, which is the biggest turnaround in franchise history.

“I was glad to get a win to set that record,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I like records. RoLo got a record (most offensive rebounds in a season in Blazers history). I love it. To establish a 21 game turnaround is really something to be proud of. I told the team we have a regular season that we should all be really proud of.”

Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews were all given the honor of starting their 82nd game of the season on Wednesday.

They became first group of four teammates to start in all 82 games in franchise history.

The four players who had played in all 82 games played the entire first quarter along with Dorell Wright, who started in place of LaMarcus Aldridge who was inactive for the game as well as back-up point guard Mo Williams.

However, a few things of consequence came during Wednesday’s game with the first being that the NBA released the complete schedule for the first round of the playoffs.

The other was that Joel Freeland returned to the basketball court.

The Blazers now know they will be in Houston until at least Wednesday. Portland will play games 1 and 2 against the Houston Rockets on Sunday and Wednesday.

Games 3 and 4 will be played next Friday and Sunday in Portland, and other games will be announced if necessary.

Freeland played 18 minutes on Wednesday, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds. Stotts said he had planned to keep Freeland under 20 minutes.

Freeland continued to do what he did prior to his injury with smart defensive positioning, attacking the offensive rebounds and good energy.

“I thought the game was invaluable for him,” Stotts said. “To get him out there and play him the last three minutes of a game we were trying to win. I was pleased with the way he played.”

Stotts added he has no hesitation using Freeland in the postseason but did say he’s still not sure how it will fit in, which goes along with his answers about playoff rotations the past few days.

Moments before tip-off, the game became of no consequence to the Clippers with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s comeback win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Clippers also didn’t bring Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or JJ Redick with them on the trip to Portland after having played the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

The Blazers starters built an eight-point lead for their reserves and it was their show from that point on.

Barton and CJ McCollum ran the point for much of the game as McCollum finished with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Victor Claver also had a nice game with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench but it wasn’t all easy as the Clippers made a run behind Jamal Crawford who finished with 32 points.

“I was proud of the young guys,” Stotts said. “It was a good experience for them to play in a fourth quarter that mattered. Going up against vets like Jamal Crawford and Willie Green.

“Now the fun starts.”

Playoff schedule vs. Rockets

Game 1 – Sun April 20 Portland at Houston 6:30PM TNT

Game 2 – Wed April 23 Portland at Houston 6:30PM TNT

Game 3 – Fri April 25 Houston at Portland 7:30PM ESPN

Game 4 – Sun April 27 Houston at Portland 6:30PM TNT

Game 5 * Wed April 30 Portland at Houston TBD TBD

Game 6 * Fri May 2 Houston at Portland TBD TBD

Game 7 * Sun May 4 Portland at Houston TBD TBD

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer