The Portland Trail Blazers are an amazing team. It’s easy to forget, though, that Portland was near the top of the Western Conference for a good portion of the season.
The Trail Blazers showed just how amazing they are in Sunday’s 123-120 overtime win over Dwight Howard‘s Houston Rockets. Portland isn’t simply made up of a juggernaught threesome of scoring in LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum. What stands out most in what might be the most exhilarating series in the most exhilarating first round of the NBA playoffs since 2011 are the defensive efforts of Aldridge and Wesley Matthews.
Both guys put up 20-plus points, but Aldridge’s four blocks, which came in the biggest moments for the most part, were even bigger than his 29 points. Matthews, on the other hand, has emerged as the hands-down heart and soul of this young Trail Blazers squad. The starting shooting guard plays with a tenacity that is sort of immeasurable.
His 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting were gigantic, but when you’re playing all these tight games against James Harden and the Rockets, which come down to the last second, you need to make stops. Aldridge made blocks and Matthews made steals. Matthews had four steals in all, the biggest of which came at the end of overtime, sealing the epic contest for the Trail Blazers.
Like Michael Jordan said almost two decades ago, “Defense wins championships.” With the way the Trail Blazers are out-bullying the bully Rockets, the Trail Blazers are showing that they are as scary as any team that might come out of the West.