Portland Trail Blazers: Rolling Opponents With The Three Ball


The Portland Trail Blazers often like to get three-point happy, and it’s resulting in wins

Right up there with the greatest strategies for scoring in the NBA, including giving the ball to Michael Jordan and getting the bleep out of the way, and having Magic Johnson play all five positions, is the Portland Trail Blazers love affair with the three-point shot. 

The Blazers don’t shoot the best 3-ball of all NBA teams (just 37 percent according to ESPN.com) but they throw up a lot of them, around 27 per game, which is more than most teams in the top-10 of three-point percentage.

Portland must really like three-pointers, or perhaps they’ve attended one too many analytics conferences. The numbers people like them, too, and often talk about the risk-reward ratio of 3’s, but don’t ask me to explain that equation. (It’s something to do with the tide rising at the same that Matthew McConaughey takes his shirt off).

Either way, the Portland Trail Blazers’ are good at shooting 3’s, which is why they launch from deep in such high volume. I suppose this is the Krispy Kreme Doughnut approach: They work, so regardless of the supply or demand, just keep rolling them out. 

For example, in a recent game against the Denver Nuggets, the Blazers rolled out 31 three’s and made 52 percent of them. This is all the evidence advocates of dominant three-pointing shooting need, really.

Here was a strong deep-ball team making 16 three-pointers for 48 points, and easily handling a poor three-point shooting team that made just five of 13 from beyond the arc, for a mere 15 points. 

Portland’s shooting guard Wesley Matthews dropped 5-of-13 three’s alone, and the Blazers bench piled on six more (from seven attempts!). That’s the sort of voodoo that’d give Terry Porter hair.

Speaking of voodoo, there’s a little doughnut store in Portland that goes by that name, where the product is said to be as eclectic as the city itself. I bring this up because when we talk about the Portland Trail Blazers in 2014-15, we’re really observing an organized flow, not wild creativity.

In this way, Portland’s basketball is a sort of antithesis to the city’s alternative, independent style.  

Not that this is stunning, but it’s interesting. Using one of the oldest plays in the book especially, the pick and pop, the Blazers send defenders spinning. Which area of the court do you close down, after all, when you have speedy and versatile point guard like Damian Lillard?

Which space do you step into when facing All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who can pop out to make mid-range shots with the best of them?

And which player do you close down when the ball moves so rapidly from Lillard, to Aldridge, and then to a corner, where Wesley Matthews, or Nicholas Batum, or anyone else on the roster – even Blaze the Trail Cat – have an eternity to knock it down.

They just keep them rolling, even when they’re down.

Like against the Charlotte Hornets this week, who at one stage had built a 23-point lead on the Northwest Division leaders. But the Portland Trail Blazers were undeterred. They clawed their way back after shooting the ball woefully (especially behind the arc), and nailed two threes in crunch-time to help overcome Charlotte.

High volume production can yield these results, I suppose. So, too, can the confidence needed to take risks. And let’s face it, the Portland Trail Blazers are simply good enough to play this way.

Next: Kobe Bryant, a New York Knick?

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