COMMENTARY | It might be too soon to declare that the Portland Trail Blazers have turned the corner on their depth issues, but if you're a Blazers fan, you had to be impressed with the team's bench production on Saturday night.
With starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews sitting out after injuring his ankle a night earlier in a loss at Utah, Portland got even with the Jazz in a 105-99 victory at the Rose Garden.
And the Blazers couldn't have done it without some big help from a few reserves.
We've grown accustomed to limited -- at best -- production from Portland's bench this season, so to see a couple of guys step up off the pine was refreshing.
Nolan Smith played the biggest role among the Blazers' reserves, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 field-goal shooting in 18 minutes, but Luke Babbitt (eight points) and Will Barton (seven points) also got in on the action to help out.
If you've been following the Blazers at all this season, then you know 28 points from three reserves is a big improvement over the team's bench production on most nights.
We knew Portland was going to have to deal with injuries at some point this season, and the question has been looming all along -- how the heck will the Blazers remain competitive if they lose a key starter or two for any stretch of time?
It's a valid question, considering how many minutes the starting five are playing each game and how little the reserves have been producing all season.
But Saturday's win was at least a vote of confidence. It appears that, even without a key guy like Matthews, the Blazers can still find ways to win games they really need to win if they are going to keep contending for a playoff spot.
Of course, one game is hardly a big enough sample size to draw a conclusion on Portland's depth issues, but if you're a Blazers fan, you can take away some hope from this game. Because it wasn't just that Smith, in particular, contributed some points that helped lead to a six-point victory; he was on the court during key stretches of the game and played a key role in the win.
That's huge for a team that, before Saturday, hadn't received much more than short bursts of help from its reserves this season.
The question now is, will it continue?
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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