The Trail Blazers made history Wednesday night and it had nothing to do with the statistical symmetry of their starting center.
Portland (4) and Cleveland (3) combined for the fewest turnovers in NBA history. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the previous NBA record for fewest turnovers between two teams was set in 2005 when the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs combined for just 10 total turnovers.
This was a special kind of magic that leads to both teams barely giving the ball away. The Cavaliers are quite literally the worst defensive team in the NBA, and they force the fewest turnovers in the league. The Blazers are a middle of the road defensive team, but they are still near the bottom of the league in opponent turnovers, forcing the third fewest per game.
Portland scored at will against Cleveland, shooting 53 percent from the floor on a night where they didn't even appear to be that crisp. Cleveland didn't find a ton of resistance from the Blazers defense either as they racked up 66 points in the paint, despite only getting four fast-break points. That's the beauty of neither defense snatching away possessions: There were plenty of opportunities to get buckets.
"Obviously, you need to score to win sometimes" Blazers forward Evan Turner said with his unique brand of succinct, sarcastic brilliance. "The worst thing about turnovers is that stops you from doing that. And the next worst thing about turnovers is turnovers can be a live turnover and now you're giving up transition points."
Blazers coach Terry Stotts has been emphasizing ball security to his team all season. Portland surrenders the fourth most points off turnovers in the NBA, allowing 14.6 points off giveaways a night according to NBA.com.
"Just the impact of how good we are when don't turn the ball over," Blazers guard CJ McCollum said when asked about the repeated messages from Stotts about valuing possessions. "How hard it is for teams to guard us and (that) you bail them out by having a turnover where basically you don't have to play defense. And now you're in transition again so that puts pressure on your defense."
Portland is one of the best offensive teams in the league, and that firepower is only enhanced on nights like Wednesday when it maximizes offensive opportunities. The Blazers improved to 7-2 this season when they commit ten or fewer turnovers.
The Blazers came one turnover shy of matching their franchise record for fewest turnovers in the game. It's safe to say a repeat performance is unlikely, but limiting turnovers even without making history will remain key to their success.
"It's huge," Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said. "I think any time you have that few turnovers that's more possessions. That's more opportunities to score that you're getting. I think our offensive has been pretty smooth. Usually when we turn the ball over it's not only taking possessions away from our team, but teams take advantage of us when we turn the ball over. So it's good when we can keep that number down."