This week’s Blazer Beef is a little weird because it doesn’t exactly have to do with the Blazers at all.
The finish to Saturday’s Blazers loss to the Timberwolves was fantastic and memorable.
But I can’t shake the feeling that one of the key moments was the product of an officiating error.
Ricky Rubio was reaching in on Damian Lillard, trying to foul when the Wolves were up by three points.
Lillard got fouled but then had enough time to take one full step-back before shooting.
It was a fantastic shot and one on which he did absorb some contact, but the continuation of the call was suspect.
It’s unfortunate that we’re left to question an amazing play for Lillard.
If they had called it appropriately, the Blazers would have had to make both free throws and foul again, before getting one last shot to go full court and tie or win the game depending on the result of the Minnesota free throws.
It was an exciting finish, no doubt.
But it could have been that way if the officials had called the final minutes correctly.
The Blazers had two five second violations in the second half, including one out of a timeout with 41 seconds left.
Defensively you could point to a lot of things, but those two five-second calls were an example that they were perhaps not as locked in as they needed to be to win.
There’s been a lot of concern over Damian Lillard. In almost every other radio interview I do, I’m asked about Lillard’s stamina and whether it’s a good idea to rest him.
It’s a legitimate concern for a lot of fans and rest has become a more important topic every year.
The NBA game today is more demanding than it’s ever been. If you don’t believe me, watch teams playing “defense” in the 80’s on YouTube.
Just because players fouled more violently doesn’t mean they defended well.
But I think we need to take Lillard at his word that he feels better when he plays and doesn’t rest.
Lillard has also done a good job of pacing himself, something he’s gotten better at over his career.
Except for Saturday against Minnesota and last Sunday at Golden State, Lillard has been content to take a back seat, run the offense and get other guys involved.
Not only is that smart to lighten his workload, but it also breeds the team-first sprint that’s been such a dominant narrative for this improbable season.
By The Numbers
7 — The Blazers outscore their opponents by seven points per 100 possessions when Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless share the court together, according to NBA.com.
4 — With one game to play, the Blazers are the only team in the NBA to have four players (Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe) make 110 3-pointers or more this season.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday vs. Denver Nuggets (7:30 p.m., KGW): CJ McCollum’s is the leading candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player, but former teammate Will Barton has a compelling case for the Nuggets. Regardless of what happens with other games, thanks to Dallas’ loss Sunday to the Clippers, the Blazers will clinch the fifth seed with a win over Denver.
Saturday or Sunday Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs at ??? (time TBD, KGW): The Blazers will face either the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers in the first round. They’ll secure the fifth seed and a trip to Los Angeles if the Mavericks and Grizzlies each lose one more game.