Portland vs. Charlotte: How the Blazers Pulled off an Improbable Road Win
The Blazers (8-10) were down by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter before an unlikely hero sparked an improbable comeback down the stretch.
Portland received its usual contributions from rookie Damian Lillard (24 points) and franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points), but it was little-used reserve Luke Babbitt who came up big when it counted.
The Blazers won their second straight road game—both in overtime—and improved to 2-4 on their seven-game road trip with the final game against Indiana on Wednesday.
Here are the grades, analysis and breakdown of the Blazers' victory.
Player of the Game
Luke Babbitt: 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3-5 FG, 3-4 3FG
With the Blazers' bench having been criticized all season, coach Terry Stotts turned to Babbitt in the fourth quarter, and the third-year pro proved to be the difference.
Babbitt nailed a game-tying three-pointer with 22 seconds left to send the game into overtime. He also hit a three-pointer in the OT for a 110-106 lead with 1:45 to go.
Does Luke Babbitt deserve more playing time after his performance?
It was the unlikeliest of heroes for Portland.
With bench scoring having been a weakness, this may be Babbitt's breakout game to earn more playing time. He also had the team's best plus/minus with a plus-19.
Key Moment of the Game
With the Blazers facing a 97-79 deficit with 5:16 to go, the game was all but lost.
But Portland finished regulation on a 23-5 run as Lillard scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Aldridge was sensational with 25 points off 12-of-17 shooting with 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Charlotte started missing shots, and Portland was near-perfect over the final five minutes to turn the game completely around.
Lillard's aggressiveness in the fourth quarter fueled the Blazers' run as he finished with 24 points, nine assists and three rebounds.
The confidence level that he continues to play with is impressive.
His veteran teammates are deferring to him in clutch situations, and Lillard has certainly responded despite a small hiccup over the beginning of the road trip.
Tweets of the Night
— Wesley Matthews (@wessywes2) December 3, 2012
And BTW thank you Luke #Babbit
— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) December 3, 2012
“@pdxtrailblazers: Final: 41% answered with #Babbitt for Who was the player of the game in tonight's win http://twt.pl/1aQ ” Why? lol
— Batum (@nicolas88batum) December 3, 2012
What They Said
"Luke was big," Aldridge said. "He played solid on defense and he was big for us. They were doubling the block so coach wanted to put a shooter out there. You can't leave Luke out there open. He opened up the floor for us." (via ESPN.com)
“Oh, my God, Luke was big time,” said Wesley Matthews. “He’s was the Terminator. He was huge. Came up, hit big shots ... and (showed) a lot of confidence and a lot of maturing. Because he was reluctant to shoot it in the first half. But we stayed on him and he delivered.” (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian)
"I know we were getting excited'' up 92-74, Ben Gordon said. "We kept making plays at the (offensive) end. NBA games are long and I've seen crazy things happen. You've got to keep your foot on their neck.'' (via Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer)
Final Grade: B+
What a game.
Right when the Blazers seemed ready to pack it up, they made NBA history by becoming the first team since Nov. 4, 2000 to rally from at least 15 points down with less than five minutes to go to win (via The Oregonian).
Portland got 31 points off the bench, which will be a big key to look at this season.
The Blazers were horrific defensively for the first three and a half quarters but somehow pulled out the win behind an unlikely hero in Babbitt.
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