The Portland Trail Blazers received a much-needed lift off the bench before embarking on a four-game road trip with a come-from-behind 90-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at the Moda Center.
The Blazers (6-2) won their fourth straight game, improved to 4-1 at home and surprisingly moved into second place in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs (8-1). While the schedule has been light in the early going, the Blazers will see huge tests upcoming with seven of the next nine games on the road.
But Portland has certainly exceeded expectations and beat a scrappy Suns team that many experts discounted before the season.
Player of the Game
Thomas Robinson: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 6-9 FGs
Robinson recorded his best game in a Blazer uniform with season-highs in points and rebounds.
More impressively, it came after T-Rob had arguably his worst game of the year when he played just five minutes and was held scoreless in a win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
Robinson scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, and slowly showing his potential that made him the No. 5 pick in last year's draft.
Key Moment of the Game
As both teams exchanged leads nine teams over the final six minutes, Damian Lillard ended it with a wide-open, uncontested layup as he broke through the Suns' defense with 6.5 seconds left.
Phoenix had three opportunities to grab the lead on the final possession but couldn't convert.
Lillard (B): The second-year guard struggled with his shot, going 4-of-13 but came up with the biggest hoop of the contest. Lillard also came away with a season-high eight assists.
Wesley Matthews (B): Matthews nailed a huge stepback 3-pointer with 2:03 remaining that cut the Suns' lead to one as part of the Blazers' late-game run.
Nicolas Batum (C): An off-night for Batum standards, totaling just nine points, three rebounds and zero assists, but he played solid defense in the fourth quarter when the Blazers needed.
LaMarcus Aldridge (B-): Aldridge ran into early foul trouble before notching his third straight double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. He's averaging 12.7 rebounds per game over the past three games, which is a good sign.
Robin Lopez (B): Lopez also had his third-straight double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. After a slow start, Lopez has picked up his game and has become a presence on both ends of the floor.
Bench (B): Robinson and Mo Williams led the bench unit, as Williams scored 12 points on 5-10 shooting. A total of 34 points off the bench was vital with most of Portland's starters struggling with their shot.
Game ball goes to @Trobinson0! He just saved the day!— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) November 14, 2013
"As soon as I came off [the LaMarcus Aldridge pick] it was wide open. It was an easy read." -- Damian Lillard on his winner— Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) November 14, 2013
Ugly game but good team win!— Lamarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) November 14, 2013
With the win in an ugly game, LaMarcus Aldridge said of the Blazers "we grew a little bit tonight."— Erik Gundersen (@blazerbanter) November 14, 2013
Last season, the Blazers may not have won this game as their starters shooting just 21-of-62 from the field (33.9 percent). With a bench unit starting to develop and define their roles, it's made a huge difference so far.
Portland is fourth in the league in 3-point shooting at 42.2 percent. Defensively is an area that continues to need improvement as the Blazers are tied for 18th in the NBA in opponent's field-goal percentage (46 percent).
Lillard proved once again, despite his struggles offensively, his worth as a go-to player in the clutch. Even without their best, the Blazers pulled off another victory—a good sign early on.