If you missed the first seven minutes of Thursday's contest between the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats, you missed the competitive portion of Thursday's contest between the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats. Terry Stotts' team entered its matchup with Charlotte's top-flight defense (No. 6 in the league in points allowed per possession) riding high after a stirring come-from-behind road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on New Year's Eve, and promptly buried Steve Clifford's squad beneath a barrage of baskets that rendered matters all over but the shoutin' pretty darn quick.
Portland made 11 of its first 13 shots, including six straight 3-pointers, to take a 28-13 lead with 4:53 remaining in the opening period. The Bobcats were down 20 before the game was 10 minutes old and never got closer than 12 for the entire rest of the game, as the Blazers shot a scorching 58.1 percent from the floor en route to a 134-104 win that saw Portland make 21 of 33 3-point shots ... and you can watch each and every one of them right here:
The long-distance barrage marked the second time this season that Portland has made more than 20 3-pointers in a game, with the first coming in a blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers back on Dec. 14. And that earns Stotts' Blazers a place in the history books, because no other team has ever had more than one 20-plus performance in a single season. (According to Basketball-Reference.com, there have only been 14 such performances since the 1985-86 season, with five coming in the last calendar year ... and two coming by the Blazers.)
After the game, Stotts let the Blazers' clicking-on-all-cylinders offense — No. 1 in the NBA in offensive efficiency (110.4 points per 100 possessions) and in 3-point field goal percentage (40.5 percent) — speak for itself, according to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
"Not a lot to say," Stotts said. "We looked fresh. We played well at both ends of the court. We caught a team on the [the second night of] back-to-back [games]. We passed the ball really well, got good shots, and guys were feeling it."
Especially Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, who combined to make 17 of 23 shots from the field and 11 of 12 from 3-point range. Add in Mo Williams — who was 6 for 9 from the field and 3 for 5 on 3-pointers — and the backcourt trio was 23 for 32 overall and 14 for 17 from beyond the arc.
"I'm not going to lie to you," said Matthews, who scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 5 of 6 from downtown. "I felt 'on' when I woke up from my nap today." [...]
"I like being part of history," Stotts said. "I think that's pretty cool. It's good to do something that's never been done before."
And yet, there's an argument to be made that the Blazers' sweet string music wasn't the coolest thing to come out of the Blazers' league-leading 26th win, because we also learned that this is something that happens now:
I believe @Trobinson0 is yelling "lunch meat" every time Aldridge touches the ball against Josh McRoberts.
— Bruce Ely (@bruceely) January 3, 2014
That Twitter handle belongs to Blazers reserve big man Thomas Robinson, who confirmed that he was, indeed, yelling "lunchmeat" every time All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge got the ball against the Bobcats' overmatched McRoberts. Thankfully, intrepid reporter Ben Golliver of Blazersedge followed up after the game to confirm and expand:
"Lunch meat," Robinson explained to Blazersedge, smiling. "Whatchu do when you got some lunch meat? You eat it. Exactly! Whenever someone [is guarding Aldridge], he's always eating. He's L.A. Whenever somebody on him, he eat him. Lunch meat. That's how it is."
Post defenders are being reduced to nothing more than lifeless strips of bologna, waiting to be consumed.
"There's no one that can really stop him one-on-one on the block, let alone anywhere on the court," [Blazers center Meyers] Leonard told Blazersedge. "L.A. is so skilled. It basically just means that L.A. is about to get a bucket. He's eating."
Even better, the "lunch meat" cry — which almost amounts to celebratory pity, if such a thing exists — is being heard loud and clear on the court.
"It means the guy can't guard me," Aldridge sheepishly told Blazersedge. "That I'm going to score at will. It's not that simple when I'm doing it. They say it looks that easy sometimes. It's fine, but I'm not going to get into it, I'm not going to say it myself."
That's probably a good idea, LaMarcus. Unless, of course, you say it like this:
If you do it like that, even the defender will probably think it's pretty chill. Just an idea.
Aldridge was actually one just four Blazers (along with reserve big man Joel Freeland, wing Dorell Wright and rookie guard Allen Crabbe) to make less than half his field goals on Thursday, finishing with 10 points on 5 for 13 shooting as Charlotte did its level best to stop Portland's dominant post presence. He did, however, finish with 15 rebounds and three assists, including two that led directly to 3-pointers.
Even when he wasn't kicking out to a shooter, though, all the extra attention Aldridge demanded on the block tilted the floor in ways that forced Charlotte into long rotations, which the Blazers picked apart with its now-signature extra-pass ball movement to find open marksmen virtually everywhere they looked. The final tally: 34 assists on 54 made field goals, with 17 of the 21 made triples set up directly by a pass. The lesson, it seems? When Aldridge has "lunch meat," everybody in Rip City can get fed.
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