Boost From Barton And Blazers Bench Helps Propel Portland Past San Antonio, Forcing A Game 5
By KEVIN HUDSON
Sometimes a coach will pull aside a player before a game and let them know what he expects from them that night, what their role will be, and what he needs them to focus on.
But this is decidedly not the case for Will Barton, who said he is never sure how much or when he will play, just that he needs to be ready.
“Coach just always tells me stay ready and he likes what I’ve been doing the whole year,” Barton said. “He tells me ‘I never know how much I’m going to play you or when you’re going to play but just be ready.’ … That’s what I try to do.”
Sometimes it’s a veteran player who pulls a bench player aside before a game to fill them in on their role for the evening, give them guidance, or maybe inspire them to play their best ball.
But, again, not for Barton or Thomas Robinson, who turned in career performances Monday night without a single word of advice from a veteran like Wes Matthews.
“Nope, and I’m not going to say anything to them before the next game,” Matthews said. “I got nothing to say to them. They know what they’ve got to do.”
What Barton did Monday was lead the Portland reserves with career playoff highs of 17 points, six rebounds and two assists in The Trail Blazers’ 103-92 win over San Antonio.
Barton’s performance, along with Thomas Robinson’s career playoff high nine points and five rebounds, marked the highest bench production of the series for the Blazers and helped propel Portland to its series-extending win.
“They were the boost of the game. They were the change of the game,” said Wes Matthews in praise of Barton and Robinson’s performances. “They made big time plays. It just seemed like play after play they played at a high level and they played with confidence.”
And if Stotts doesn’t try to inspire Barton with pre-game pep talks or prep him with strategy discussion, it’s because he trusts him to know what it is the team needs from him.
“I trust him now, that’s why he’s out there,” Stotts said.
Barton and Robinson were the first two reserves off the Blazers bench with 4:19 left in the first quarter and both made their presence felt immediately with Robinson emphatically blocking an Aron Baynes layup attempt in his first minute on the court and Barton’s running floater putting Portland in front 23-21 with 1:11 left in the quarter.
The two played an identical 12:39 in the first half, nabbing two boards each with eight points for Barton and five for Robinson, on their way to career highs in playoff minutes as Robinson logged 24:13 and Barton 29:30, helping keep the Blazers starters better rested for the final stretch of the game.
“(I liked) a little bit of everything but obviously his energy, his aggressiveness with the ball, he helped with the ball handling and he was relatively solid defensively, but for him to have 17 off the bench was big for us,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “Because of those two guys we were able to keep the starters’ minutes at a decent number.”
Like Barton, Robinson knows that his task is to stay ready should his number be called, without necessarily knowing exactly when it will be.
“To be honest we had no clue that tonight was going to happen like that. One thing coach has been great with all year is preaching to stay ready, so we stay ready,” Robinson said. “Will came in and played amazing man. I did a solid job, I’m just trying to help, but Will was big.”
But despite the big night and the big numbers, Barton insisted it was all about getting the win.
“I’m always just focused on making winning plays,” he said. “I’m not really too concerned about my stats, not how many points I score and things like that, just trying to make winning plays to help our team get a victory.”