Stats & Info: Portland Trail Blazers

Keys to victory: Spurs 114, Trail Blazers 97

May, 9, 2014
May 9
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Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsTim Duncan and Tiago Splitter carried the defense against LaMarcus Aldridge in Game 2.

The Spurs held off a fourth-quarter rally to take a 2-0 series lead against the Trail Blazers. San Antonio's lead grew as high as 20 points as the Spurs shut down LaMarcus Aldridge and rode another strong bench performance to a dominant win.

Riding the pine
The Spurs' bench outscored the Trail Blazers' reserves by 31 in Game 2 as the bench made half of San Antonio's 12 three-pointers Thursday. San Antonio's bench has averaged 50 points per game this series, nearly three times as many as the Trail Blazers' reserves.

During the regular season, the Spurs led the NBA in bench scoring. The Trail Blazers averaged the fewest bench points in the league.

Splitter, Duncan lock down Aldridge
Aldridge was held in check and struggled against the Spurs' post defenders in a 6-of-23 shooting night. Aldridge was 2-of-14 with Tiago Splitter as his primary defender and 0-of-5 when guarded by Tim Duncan. Aldridge shot 54 percent (7-of-13) when defended by Splitter in Game 1.

Aldridge particularly struggled in the paint Thursday, shooting 2-of-14. His 14 percent shooting in the paint was Aldridge's second-lowest in his career (minimum 10 attempts).

Duncan, Spurs approach history
Duncan netted 10 points in Game 2 to give him 4,757 points in his playoff career, sixth-most all-time. Duncan is five points shy of passing Karl Malone for fifth on the all-time list.

Along with the scoring mark, Duncan is chasing a different record with teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The Spurs' trio earned their 107th playoff win together Thursday. They are three shy of tying Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper for the most playoff wins all-time by a trio.

Keys to victory: Spurs 116, Trail Blazers 92

May, 7, 2014
May 7
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Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs looked a lot like Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals between the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.

Both were Spurs routs.

The Spurs won Game 1 by 24 points. They’ve won eight straight Game 1s played on their home floor and seven straight playoff games against the Trail Blazers. They’ve also won 20 of their past 24 home playoff games.

Spurs had the jump
The difference in the game was how each team fared on its jump shots.

The Spurs made 24-of-47, the first time in the playoffs that they shot better than 50 percent on their jumpers. The Trail Blazers made only 12-of-40.

San Antonio also had a decisive edge in bench points, outscoring the Trail Blazers in that regard 50-18. The Spurs led the NBA with 45.1 bench points per game during the regular season.

Marco Belinelli shot 6-for-8 for 15 points on jump shots. He had 13 total points on 5-for-16 shooting in the previous series.

Parker delivers again
Tony Parker had 33 points (one more point than he had in Game 7 against the Mavericks) and nine assists to pace the Spurs. The nine assists led to 21 Spurs points.

This marked the second time in Parker’s career that he scored 30 or more points in consecutive playoff games. The other instance was in 2008.

The excitement factor of NBA playoff series

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
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The two tables below show an alternative way to look at the excitement levels of a couple NBA playoff series, which better captures the excitement of the series over traditional stats.

What is the Excitement Factor?

Excitement: Amount of change in win probability during the game.

Winner Chance: Average in-game win probability that the eventual winner had during the game.






Overall, the average game in the Portland-Houston series has had a total change of in-game win probability of 981 percent. This is higher than the 804 percent in the Memphis-OKC series.

Beyond this, the Portland-Houston series also had two games where the team that was losing much of the game came back to win (Games 1 and 4), whereas the winners of every game in the Memphis-OKC series generally controlled their games.

Despite having four overtime games to “just three” for Portland-Houston, the Memphis-OKC series hasn’t been quite as close or “exciting” as the Portland-Houston series.

The top 6 most exciting games of the playoffs thus far have been from these two series. (No. 7 was the Vince Carter buzzer-beater.)

The average excitement of 981 percent for the Portland-Houston series is higher than any single game of any series outside of these two.

Who can stop LaMarcus Aldridge?

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
11:18
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Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsNo matter whom the Rockets have thrown at LaMarcus Aldridge, he has dominated in this series.
LaMarcus Aldridge became the third player in NBA postseason history with at least 40 points in Games 1 and 2 of a series on the road (Tracy McGrady in 2003 and Michael Jordan in 1986 are the others), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Though he certainly had success in both games, his success came in much different ways.

Game 1
Aldridge took advantage of the Houston Rockets' smaller defenders in Game 1. The 6-foot-9 Terrence Jones drew the Aldridge assignment more than any other Rocket in Game 1, guarding him on 16 of 40 possessions.

Against the smaller Jones, Aldridge went inside, posting up on 10 of those 16 possessions. Aldridge's average field goal attempt distance was 6.5 feet and he went 7-for-13 (18 points) from the floor when guarded by Jones.

Aldridge scored a total of 16 points on post-up plays in the game, doubling his season average (8.3) on such plays.

Game 2
The Rockets came out with a different defensive scheme against Aldridge for Game 2. Houston used 7-footer Omer Asik the majority of the time, as he guarded Aldridge on 17 of 33 plays, while Jones drew the assignment on only five possessions.

But Aldridge still had his way on the offensive end. Against Asik, Aldridge went 7-for-14 (19 points) from the floor. He didn’t miss the paint a bit, instead turning to his midrange game, with an average field goal attempt distance of 13.6 feet when guarded by Asik.

Aldridge has basically had his way this entire series, no matter the defender. Dwight Howard has logged time against Aldridge as well in both games, but he has done the worst at limiting him. Aldridge is averaging 14.5 points per game against Howard, and went 6-for-7 against him in Game 2.

What should the Rockets do now?
Houston may have to start doubling Aldridge when he touches the ball. Through the first two games, the Rockets left defenders on an island when guarding Aldridge, hardly ever sending any help.

For example, in the first two games of the series, the Rockets sent a hard double-team at Aldridge in the post on only six of 25 plays. On those six plays, Aldridge went 3-for-5 (six points), but was blocked twice and forced to kick the ball out once.

Obviously there is a very small sample size of when Aldridge was double-teamed in the post. However, the Rockets have tried going small and tried going big against him, to no avail. Aldridge has had success against virtually every defender the Rockets have thrown at him and he's done it from all over the court.

Houston must make life more difficult for him on the catch and send help in Game 3.

"Wow Stats" for every NBA Playoff series

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant has the fourth-highest postseason scoring average in NBA history.
The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday. Before they do, here’s a stat you should know on each of the eight first-round series.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks

• 29: The Spurs and Mavericks have played 29 playoff games dating back to the 2000-01 season, one behind the Spurs and Lakers for the most playoff games between two teams in that time. Dallas and San Antonio are separated by just 33 points over those 29 meetings, just over one point per game.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies
• 28.6: Kevin Durant is averaging 28.6 points per game in his playoff career. In NBA history, the only players with a higher playoff scoring average are Michael Jordan (33.4), Allen Iverson (29.7) and Jerry West (29.1).

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors
• 484: The “Splash Brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, have combined for 484 3-pointers this season, the most by a pair of teammates in a single NBA season. Whose record did they break? Their own (483 last season).

(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trail Blazers
• 45.6: The Blazers allowed 45.6 points in the paint per game this season, the worst of any playoff team. Houston’s Dwight Howard averaged 13.1 paint points per game this season, fifth-most in the league.

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (8) Atlanta Hawks
• .480: Both teams went 12-13 in their final 25 games for a .480 winning percentage. Only two teams in NBA history were under .500 in their final 25 games and went on to win the NBA championship: the 1957-58 Hawks and 1994-95 Rockets.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats
• 15: The Heat and Bobcats have met 15 times since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces before the 2010-11 season. Miami has won all 15. In that same time, Miami is 14-0 against the Raptors, a possible opponent in the next round.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Brooklyn Nets
• 2 and 3: On the morning of January 1st, the Raptors and Nets both had a losing record. Since then, however, they’ve been two of the Eastern Conference’s best. The Nets have the second-best win percentage since January 1 (.667), the Raptors are third (.642).

(4) Chicago Bulls vs (5) Washington Wizards
• 7.8: Nobody dominated the ball like John Wall this season. He averaged 7.8 minutes of possession per game, most in the league. That’s roughly 16 percent of a regulation game.

Picking the most clutch in NBA playoffs

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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With the NBA playoffs starting Saturday, we’re bound to see tight games and pressure-packed situations. The question then becomes, whose hands do you want the ball in?

The top chart above shows each playoff team’s leader in clutch-time usage percentage this season, along with his true shooting percentage (which weighs three-point field goals greater and accounts for free throw shooting). Clutch-time is defined as situations in which the game is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

The bottom chart shows each of those 16 players’ overall Player Efficiency Rating along with his PER in clutch-time situations.

Kevin Durant less efficient
Kevin Durant
Durant
First, no playoff team leans more on a player in clutch time than the Oklahoma City Thunder do with Kevin Durant. He’s the only one of the 16 who has a clutch-time usage percentage over 40 percent, and Durant’s is nearing 46 percent. However, his efficiency numbers drop off in crunch-time, as his PER drops from nearly 30 in all situations to just over 25 in crunch-time. That's still above league average, but it's below average among these 16 "go-to" guys.

His main opponent for league MVP, LeBron James, increases his already-high efficiency numbers in crunch-time, despite the Miami Heat leaning on him heavily.

Harden: Mister Clutch?
James Harden
Harden
Watch out for the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Harden has the highest clutch-time efficiency rating of the 16 players, with the second-highest usage rate. Mike Conley also ups his performance in crunch-time, which could put the Thunder on upset alert if the Memphis Grizzlies point guard gets hot late in their series.

Sticking with the Western Conference, Stephen Curry has hit all 31 of his crunch-time free throws this year, but has shot just 28 percent from 3-point range for the Golden State Warriors in those situations.

Who could struggle
Despite the Brooklyn Nets second-half surge, their clutch-time leader, Joe Johnson, is the worst of the 16 team leaders in terms of PER. LaMarcus Aldridge has also struggled in crunch-time for the Portland Trail Blazers, with an effective field goal percentage of 33 percent.

One of the main takeaways is that the crunch-time leader for the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks is not former NBA season and Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, but instead Monta Ellis, who has taken possessions at a slightly-higher rate than Nowitzki.

Big questions for the NBA's second half

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
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With the NBA at the All-Star break, big questions loom for the second half of the season.

We dive into some of those topics and provide possible answers:

Is the Heat defense strong enough to win another title?
Heat opponents have an effective field goal percentage (which takes into account the added value of a 3-pointer) of 51.6% this season, tied for the 2nd-worst in the league.

Since the three-point line was adopted (1979-80), no team that has allowed an effective field goal percentage of 50% or higher and gone on to win the title that season (267 teams).

The Heat are allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions, tied for 14th in the NBA. Although results from last season suggest they could turn it around.

Their defensive efficiency ranked 11th in the NBA at the All-Star break last season, but 4th after the All-Star Break.

Are the Blazers serious contenders in the West?
Portland has lost seven of its last eight games against teams at or above .500 after starting the season 12-5 against such teams.

Their play down the stretch has been a complete turnaround from earlier in the season.

Each of their last three losses were decided by five or fewer points. They are 3-5 in such games in the new year after starting 8-3.

Damian Lillard had three game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime in the first three months of the season, most in the NBA. Since then he and the Blazers have tailed off in clutch moments (defined as the final five minutes, score within five points of 4th Qtr/OT).

Will Carmelo have enough in the tank to get the Knicks into the postseason?
Carmelo Anthony is averaging a career-high 38.8 minutes per game this season.
Carmelo Anthony
Anthony
That is perhaps one reason why he is shooting a career-low 35.7 percent in the 4th quarter or overtime this season.

He is 0-of-8 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempts in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime this season, and 0-of-12 over the last two seasons. He was 5-of-10 on such shots in his first two seasons with the Knicks.

New York has suffered as a result. They are 1-6 in games decided by one possession (final score within three points) this season.

Is Durant really the NBA’s best closer and the MVP favorite?
LeBron James is shooting 52.2 percent in clutch time this season, compared with Durant’s 34.2 percent in those situations.

James has the best field goal percentage among 20 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in clutch time, and the next-closest player is shooting 42.9 percent (Lillard).

Will Dwight Howard be dominant enough for a Rockets title run?
The Rockets are on a seven-game win streak, the longest active streak in the NBA,
Dwight Howard
Howard
including wins against the Spurs, Suns and Mavericks. Dwight Howard is averaging 24.5 points per game on 60.0 percent shooting during the streak.

The Rockets are outscoring opponents by 15.3 points per 100 possessions with Dwight Howard on the court in those 7 games, and have been outscored by 4.5 points per 100 possessions with him off.

However, Dwight’s season has been far from eye popping. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.7 ranks 10th among current starting power forwards and centers this season.

His PER was fourth in the NBA (25.4), and best among power forwards and centers when the Magic made the NBA Finals in 2008-09.

Dwight Howard may have been given a slight pass last season given the drama in L.A. and coming off back surgery, but his overall performance has not improved much in Houston. He is averaging 1.7 more points per game, but with roughly the same field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks per game as last season.

--Contributions from John Parolin, Will Cohen, Sunny Saini, Steve Martinez & Doug Clawson

All-Star Cast: Case for first-timers

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
5:59
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David Richard/USA TODAY SportsDamian Lillard's clutch shots could help him earn his first All-Star selection.
The NBA will announce its full All-Star Game rosters on Thursday, and a number of players have made a case to make their first appearance in the game. ESPN Stats & Information is taking a five-part look at these players.

1. The Future, Part I (John Wall and Anthony Davis)
2. The Future, Part II (DeMarcus Cousins, Lance Stephenson, Damian Lillard)
3. Emerging Talent, Part I (DeMar DeRozan, Ty Lawson)
4. Emerging Talent, Part II (Serge Ibaka, DeAndre Jordan)
5. The Veterans (Mike Conley, Arron Afflalo, Kyle Lowry)

Here is the second part, looking at a trio of players who could be going to their first All-Star Game: DeMarcus Cousins, Lance Stephenson and Damian Lillard. All statistics are entering Monday’s games.

DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins is having the most productive season of his career, averaging 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game through 40 games for the Sacramento Kings. Cousins is one of three players who ranks in the top 10 in both points and rebounds per game this season (10th and fifth, respectively), joining Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins
Among the top-ten scorers in the NBA, Cousins has been the most efficient, averaging the fewest frontcourt touches per game (40.3). He makes the most of those touches however, as his 0.56 points per half-court touch are the second-most among those top-10 scorers, according to player-tracking data on NBA.com (Kevin Durant, 0.57).

The Kings also lean heavily on Cousins. He has a usage percentage of nearly 33 percent, tied with Russell Westbrook for the highest in the league this season. Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.

He has also developed into one of the NBA’s best post scorers. Of 57 players with at least 75 post-up plays, Cousins ranks sixth with 7.1 post-up points per game.

Lance Stephenson
Stephenson has put together a well-rounded season, joining Kevin Durant as the only players in the NBA averaging at least 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game this season.

Those seven rebounds per game are the most among guards this season, a full board ahead of second-place Russell Westbrook.

Stephenson has been at his best from the paint this season, ranking among the top-10 guards in points in the paint per game (8.0).

The Indiana Pacers have been better with Stephenson on the floor as well, averaging nearly eight more points per game with him on the floor than without him.

Damian Lillard
In just his second NBA season, Lillard has emerged as one of the top crunch-time players in the NBA, entering Monday’s game tied for fifth in the NBA in clutch-time points (last five minutes of fourth quarter/overtime with score within five), and second in field goal percentage.

Lillard is averaging 20.7 points and 5.6 assists per game this season. He could become the fourth player in Portland Trail Blazers history to average 20-5 for a season, joining Brandon Roy, Clyde Drexler and Sidney Wicks.

Portland is averaging nearly 112 points and outscoring its opponents by six points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor this season. Last year in Lillard’s rookie year, the team averaged 105 points and was outscored by 2.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

Fans missed not voting in Aldridge

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesLaMarcus Aldridge ranks in the NBA's top five in scoring and rebounding.
Thursday night, LaMarcus Aldridge led the Portland Trail Blazers over the Denver Nuggets with a dominating effort, prompting teammate Wesley Matthews to say,

"What can you say? He's an MVP candidate. Best power forward in the game. I've been saying that for two years now. He put it on display again tonight."

Aldridge finished with a career-high 44 points on 15-of-29 shooting with 13 rebounds in the five-point win.

Aldridge’s outburst happened to come the same night the All-Star starters were announced – his name was not included. Though Aldridge said his performance had nothing to do with the omission, he provided further evidence as to why the fans got it wrong.

Here is why Matthews was right and Aldridge should be an All-Star starter:

Versatility
Aldridge is enjoying his best season, averaging career highs in points (24.2), rebounds (11.6) and player efficiency rating (23.9).

He has reached those marks by doing a bit of everything. Aldridge is one of the best post-up players in the NBA. He is second in the league in points on post-up plays with 351 (8.4 per game).

But what has made Aldridge such a tough cover for big men is his mid-range game. According to NBA.com, he has taken 582 mid-range shots this season, by far the most in the league, forcing defenders to venture outside the paint to contest his jumper. He is shooting 43.6 percent from the floor from that range, ranking 18th this season among players who have taken at least 150 shots from that range.

Often, Aldridge creates those mid-range looks by being the pick-and-pop man. He is averaging 5.1 points per game as the pick-and-roll man, most in the league.

Team success
Aldridge has helped lead the Blazers to a 32-11 record, good for third in the Western Conference and just one game behind the conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

The team’s success, both offensively and defensively, has much to do with Aldridge. The Blazers are scoring nearly 11 more points per 100 possessions offensively with Aldridge on the court and giving up about 6 more points per 100 possessions defensively with him off the court.

Clutch
Aldridge has also been his team’s go-to-guy when it has mattered most, and Thursday's game was a perfect example.

The Blazers trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter, but pulled off the come-from-behind win. Aldridge scored his team’s final 15 points and outscored the Nuggets entire team 15-8 over the final 6:33.

Aldridge has become one of the most relied on clutch players in the NBA this season. In clutch time (the last five minutes of a game with the score within five points), Aldridge has attempted 61 shots, making 21 for 77 points.

Aldridge became the third Blazer in the past 25 seasons with a 40-10-5 game on Thursday. Whether his performance was in response to his omission as an All-Star starter or not, it was just another example of why he deserves to be in the starting lineup on February 16.

New Year's Resolutions in the NBA

December, 31, 2013
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With December 31 upon us, here are some examples of stat-based New Year’s resolutions that might be on the minds of players and teams around the NBA:

Heat: Defend corner 3-pt FG
Opponents are shooting 47.1 percent on corner three-pointers against the Miami Heat, the highest percentage in the NBA this season.

Last season the Heat allowed opposing players to shoot 34.1 percent on such shots, the second-lowest percentage in the league.

LeBron James: Post up more
James is shooting 61 percent on post up plays this season, compared with 48 percent last season.

That is more than five percentage points higher than the next closest player on such plays this season (minimum 50 plays) (Brook Lopez – 56 percent). James has been in the post on 16 percent of his plays this season.

Trail Blazers: Defend the paint
The Portland Trail Blazers have allowed the most paint points per game in the NBA this season (49.2). They were outscored 68-32 in the paint in Monday’s loss to the Pelicans.

Knicks: Get healthy at point guard
The New York Knicks starting point guards are averaging a league-low 7.4 points per game this season, and 3.8 assists per game, tied for the second-fewest in the NBA. Raymond Felton has missed nine of the Knicks last 10 games and Pablo Prigioni has missed six straight.

Nets: Play better D and make a 4th-quarter comeback
The Brooklyn Nets have the fourth-worst defensive efficiency in the NBA this season (106.2 points per 100 possessions). They are 0-19 when tied or trailing entering the fourth quarter this season.

Pistons: Finish games
The Detroit Pistons have been outscored by 105 points in the fourth quarter this season, the worst score differential in the NBA. They have lost three games this season after entering the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead, and that doesn’t include a loss when leading by nine entering the fourth against the Wizards Monday.

Ricky Rubio: Improve his shot
Rubio is shooting 34.4 percent from the field, on pace to be the worst field goal percentage in the three-point era (since 1979-80) (Kemba Walker, 36.6 in 2011-12).

Russell Westbrook: Get healthy and regain explosiveness
Westbrook is shooting 30.9 percent on drives to the basket in the half court this season, the worst percentage in the league (minimum 100 drives) according to player tracking on NBA.com.

What stat are you looking for your team to improve in 2014 (besides wins!). Share your thoughts in the comments.

Why Trail Blazers are title contenders

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesLaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers are tied for the best record in the NBA.
The 20-10 Los Angeles Clippers visit the 23-5 Portland Trail Blazers tonight at 10:30 ET in a meeting of Western Conference division leaders.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this will be the first meeting between the teams in which each entered with at least 10 more wins than losses.

Thanks to a deep, balanced and efficient offense, as well as emerging star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers are legitimate title contenders.

Improved Efficiency

Last season, Portland ranked 15th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency. So far this season, the Blazers have improved both numbers dramatically while also playing at a quicker pace.

If they continue their offensive consistency, the Blazers could become the first team since the three-point line was introduced in 1979 to shoot at least 45 percent from the field, 40 percent on three-pointers and 80 percent from the free throw line.

Balanced Attack

Portland’s starting lineup of Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews outscore their opponents by 13.7 points per 100 possessions. That’s third best in the league among lineups that have played at least 150 minutes together.

Portland's starters average 84.4 points per game, the most in the NBA. The Blazers are one of five teams to have two players average 20 points this season and one of seven to have four with at least 14 points per game.

Aldridge’s Emergence

Aldridge is enjoying the best season of his career, averaging highs in points (23.1) and rebounds (11.0) per game as well as usage percentage (28.5 – the percentage of team plays used by a player while he is on the floor).

Aldridge gives the Blazers a force down low. He is averaging 8.3 post-up points per game, fourth among players with at least 50 post-up plays this season (Zach Randolph is first with 9.2).

What has made Aldridge such a tough cover for big men is his midrange game. According to player-tracking data on NBA.com, he has taken 353 midrange shots this season. That easily leads the league from that range, forcing defenders to venture outside the paint to contest his jumper.

He is shooting 43.9 percent from the floor from midrange, eighth among players who have taken at least 150 shots from that range this season.

Aldridge often creates those midrange looks by being the pick-and-pop man. He is averaging 4.9 points per game as the pick-and-roll screener, first in the league among players with at least 50 such plays this season.

Not to be overlooked is his impact on defense as well. The Blazers are scoring nearly 10 more points per 100 possessions with Aldridge on the court while giving up around nine more points per 100 possessions with him off the court this season.

Trail Blazers dominate long distance, East

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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The Portland Trail Blazers had the most prolific scoring night of the season.
The Portland Trail Blazers got what could be a tough road trip off to a very good start.

Portland improved to 20-4, its best start since it was 22-2 in the first 24 games of the 1990-91 season, with a 139-105 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

This marked the first of four road games in a five-game stretch for Portland. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that the Trail Blazers actually have three stretches of four road games in five days. The only other team with more than one such stretch is the Phoenix Suns.

The Trail Blazers’ 139 points are the most by any team in a game this season. They are the most the Trail Blazers have scored in regulation since they had 143 against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 26, 1993.

How they won
Portland finished with more baskets from beyond the 3-point line (21) than in the paint (20). Their 21 3-pointers are a franchise record.

Even Dorell Wright, whose 3-point shot has been well off the mark of late, chimed in, making five straight 3-pointers in his 11 minutes off the bench. Wright was 13-for-48 (27 percent) from long distance in his past 15 games entering Saturday.

Of the Blazers' 3-pointers, only three of them came from the easiest spot on the floor to make them -- the corners.

Sixteen of the 3-pointers came from the wings. Portland made five from the left wing in the first quarter, and that set it up for success on the opposite side later. The Trail Blazers were 6-for-7 on 3-pointers taking from the right wing.

The Trail Blazers’ 41 assists are their most in a game since Nov. 17, 1990, when they had 45 against the Denver Nuggets.

Lest we forget, LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. It was his second career 20-15-5 game.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Night
The Trail Blazers are 9-0 against the Eastern Conference. That’s their second-best start against the Eastern Conference, surpassed only by their 10-0 start during the 1990-91 season.

Hot start powers Pacers, Blazers

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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ESPN Stats & InformationPaul George has been efficient all over the court this season.
The top team in the West meets the top in the East as the Trail Blazers host the Pacers at 10 Eastern.

The two teams have combined to win 88.2 percent of their games so far this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest combined winning percentage for two teams at least 15 games into a season since the 16-1 SuperSonics took on the 18-1 Rockets on Dec. 11, 1993.

Indiana Pacers
So far this season, the Western Conference is 57-23 against the East. However, the Pacers have won all four games they have played outside the East, including a win at the Clippers to start their current five-game Western swing.

The Pacers are the 13th team in NBA history to start the season with a 16-1 record, and first since the Mavericks in 2002-03. Seven of the previous 12 made it to the Finals, with five winning the championship.

Thanks to the Pacers defense, most of their games haven’t been close. Indiana allows only 86.5 points per game, five fewer points than any other team in the league. And their average margin of +11.0 points also leads the NBA.

On the offensive side, Paul George is fourth in the league in scoring at 23.8 points per game. As you can see from the shot chart at the top, he is hard to contain since he is an above average shooter from several areas on the court.

Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers lost two of their first four games, but have won 12 of their last 13 games to match the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference.

Portland is one of four teams in the NBA to have two players averaging at least 20 points per game. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the hotter hand over the last week, averaging 24.8 points and 12 rebounds per game in the last four games.

Damian Lillard has been just as good in his sophomore campaign as he was as a rookie last season. But so far this season he has struggled inside the three-point line. He has a better shooting percentage on three-pointers (40.0 percent) than inside the arc (39.1 percent).

In fact, Portland as a team is better relatively from long range. The Blazers are third in the league in three-point shooting, making 41.4 percent of their shots. Their overall field goal percentage of 45.2 percent is 15th in the league.

ESPN Stats & InformationDamian Lillard has shot better on three-pointers than inside the arc this season.

Keys to victory: Streak-snappers

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
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The Spurs had a rough shooting night in their loss to the Thunder
The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Wednesday marked the first time in NBA history that a pair of winning streaks of 11 or more games ended on the same day.

What were the keys to victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns in stopping the 11-game winning streaks of the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers?

For starters, Thunder in control
The Spurs starting five (Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker and Danny Green) was outscored by eight points in its time on the floor.

The Thunder’s starting lineup (Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook) outscored the Spurs by seven when on the floor together.

Jackson delivers
On a day in which Durant and Westbrook were a combined 12-for-39, Reggie Jackson came off the bench to match his career high in scoring with 23 points in 26 minutes, on 10 of 14 shooting from the field.

Jackson is 19 for 29 from the field in his last three games, including 15 of 21 on his shots in the paint.

Dragic at his best
Goran Dragic had 31 points and 10 assists for the Suns. It is the second 30-10 game of his NBA career. Dragic was one point shy of tying his career high. He’s averaging 22.6 points in his last five games.

Dragic is 8-for-16 in this five-game stretch on 3-pointers taken between the wings (in other words, straight-on, or close-to-straight-on shots. He opened the year by making only 1 of his first 8.

The Suns have gotten the most out of Dragic all season, averaging 109 points per 100 possessions with him on the count, compared to 96 points per 100 possessions with him off the court.

Frye high
Channing Frye was 10 for 12 from the field, including a perfect 7 for 7 from 2-point range. That marks the best perfect shooting day from 2-point range in his career.

He’s also now 14-for-29 from 3-point range in his last four games.


20-point streak ends for James in Heat loss

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
3:00
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Following a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws, the Miami Heat led the Portland Trail Blazers by 12 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Thursday. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Blazers took control in those final eight minutes and hung on for a two-point win at the Rose Garden. The loss was the second straight and third in the last four games for Miami.

Miguel Cabrera
James
During that stretch to end the game, Portland outscored the Heat 24-10 despite almost identical shooting from the floor by hitting free throws and three-point shots. The Blazers went 11-for-15 on free throws and 3-for-4 on three-pointers during the run while Miami went 1-for-2 and 1-for-5 on those same shots, respectively. Among them was the potential game-winning three by Mario Chalmers that rimmed out as time expired.

But perhaps even more notable than the loss, LeBron James scored a season-low 15 points on just six field goals. The six made shots were the fewest he’s had in a game since March of last season.

Entering the night, James had reached the 20-point plateau in each of the 33 games he played this season, the longest streak by any player to start a season since George Gervin went 45-straight games in 1981-82 and the second-longest by any player since the 1976 merger.

What caused the run of 20-point performances to come to an end? Struggles in the half court. James scored just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting in half-court sets on Thursday (18.1 percent), both of which were season lows. James entered the night having scored over 20 points per game and was shooting 51.0 percent in the half court this season.

On the other end of the floor, the Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and his 20 points and game-high 15 rebounds. It marked his fifth double-double over the last six games and his second “20-and-15" of the season.

Also chipping in for Portland was Nicolas Batum who scored a team-high 28 points. It was his sixth game of the year with least 25 points and with the win, the Blazers improved to 5-1 when he reaches the 25-point plateau this season.

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