In Wheels' Words
By BRIAN WHEELER
And so with tonight’s loss, we come to the end of the Blazers’ 2013-2014 season. At the very start of training camp, this group believed they could accomplish something special this season, even if most so-called NBA experts predicted they’d be lucky to finish .500. A winning pre-season was followed up by a win over the Spurs at the Moda Center in the 2nd game of the regular season, giving the Blazers their 13th consecutive home opening win. November would also include a sweep of the club’s first 4-game east coast trip, the first time the Blazers swept a 4-game road swing since 2003. The Blazers would finish November with 13 victories, tying their highest win total ever for that month. That success would produce NBA Western Conference Coach-of-the-Month honors for Terry Stotts.
In early December, LaMarcus Aldridge would capture Western Conference Player-of-the-Week honors for a second time. Shortly thereafter in a win over Houston at the Moda Center, LaMarcus would score 31 points and grab 25 rebounds in a Blazers’ win, the first 30-point, 25-rebound game in franchise history. A couple of days later, the Blazers would hit a franchise-record 21 3-pt. fg’s in a rout of the Sixers in Philadelphia. A few days later, Aldridge would win Western Conference Player-of-the-Week honors for a third time, becoming the first Blazer to accomplish that in a season since Clyde Drexler in 1991. The Blazers would cap off another terrific month by beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Eve.
In early January, the Blazers would again hit 21 3-pt. fg’s in a Moda Center romp over Charlotte. In the process, they became the first NBA team ever to record at least two games of 21 made 3-pt. fg’s in the same season. Later in the month, Nicolas Batum would record his 4th career triple-double and second of the season. Robin Lopez would record his 16th double-double, more than the rest of his career before this season combined. And on January 30th, both LaMarcus and Damian Lillard would be named as reserves to the Western Conference All-Star team.
At All-Star weekend in February, Damian becomes the first NBA player ever to participate in every event, including his first All-Star Game. He scores 9 points, while LaMarcus, in his 3rd All-Star Game, scores 4 points and grabs 5 rebounds.
The Blazers go 53 games into the regular season before using a 2nd different starting lineup. An injury to Aldridge slows the Blazers down a bit after the All-Star Break, and they suffer their first 3-game losing streak of the season.
For the first time ever, the Blazers would have to deal with (2) 5-game road trips in the same month as they rolled into March. With Aldridge ailing, they struggled to win away from home against quality competition. But LaMarcus returns near the end of the second 5-game trip and the Blazers post impressive wins at Atlanta and Chicago.
A late surge of success returned them to their earlier winning ways as they captured their final 5 games of the regular season, and 9 of their last 10. Wesley Matthews capped off a career season with the 5th most 3-point fg’s ever made by a Blazer in one campaign. And Damian broke his own record from last season of the most 3-pointers ever made by a Blazer in a single season.
On April 6th, the Blazers secure their 50th win, and at the same time, clinch a playoff spot for the first time in 3 seasons. A few days later, Terry Stotts earns his 200th career coaching victory as the Blazers completed a 4-game season series sweep of the Jazz for the first time ever. And on the regular season’s final night on April 16th, the Blazers won their 54th game, tying for the 6th most in one season in franchise history. They also showed a 21-win improvement over last season, the single biggest increase in victories from one season to the next in team history.
As the 5th seed, they were ready for the playoffs, and proved it by becoming the first Blazers’ team ever to win 2 road games in succession to begin a post-season series as they took games 1 and 2 in Houston. And while the Rockets took game 3, the Blazers rebounded to win game 4 at the Moda Center. Houston came back to win game 5 at home, setting the stage for a critical game 6 back in Portland. The Rockets were trying to become the 9th team in NBA history to rebound from a 3-1 deficit in a best of 7 to come back to win the series. And with .9 seconds left in regulation, they were up by 2 in game 6, and looked for all the world like they were going to force the Blazers into a decisive game 7 back in Houston. That is until Damian Lillard took an inbounds pass on the move from Nicolas Batum, and tossed in a 3-pointer for the ages that gave the Blazers a 1-point win and their first playoff series victory in 14 seasons. It may have been the biggest clutch shot in Blazers’ history considering all that was at stake when he launched it.
And so even though this series with the Spurs didn’t go as planned for the Blazers, they provided much excitement all season long. 29 games decided by 5 points or less, many coming down to the final minute, some to the final shot. The Moda Center became a nightly source of tremendous drama, with the Blazers in a starring role. And win or lose, they played with passion and pride that made every Blazers’ fan in Rip City smile.
And that’s what we should take with us to the off-season. Great memories of a marvelously fun and successful 2013-2014 year, with so much promise of even greater times ahead next season.
We thank you for being along for this fun ride, and for supporting us all season long here on the Blazers’ Radio Network. We don’t take that support lightly, for without you, what we try to do on our broadcasts just wouldn’t have as much meaning or purpose. But knowing you care more about your team more than any group of fans in the NBA could, inspires us to do all we can to make these broadcasts special, and hopefully on more nights than not, we succeeded.
And so for the last time this season, we say….'IT'S A GREAT DAY TO BE A TRAIL BLAZER!'