Wesley Matthews’ injury will test Trail Blazers’ spacing


Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are unquestionably the Trail Blazers’ biggest stars.

But we’re going to see just how pivotal Wesley Mathews is to Portland, especially its impressive offensive spacing.

The shooting guard ruptured his Achilles tendon last night, ending his season.

Matthews might not belong in the elite class of 3-point shooters with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver. But Matthews is the best outside shooter outside that top tier. Only he, Curry and Korver have shot above 38 percent 3-pointers while making at least one per game each of the last five seasons.

Matthews is nearly as reliable as it gets from beyond the arc.

And for Portland, he’s the only player who comes close to fitting that description.

There are 81 players in the NBA who’ve played at least 20 games, made at least one 3-pointer per game and are shooting at least league average (34.7 percent) from downtown. Matthews is the only Trail Blazer.


Despite this, Portland ranks 10th in points per possession.

The Trail Blazers don’t offensively rebound particularly well, and they’re even worse at getting to the free-throw line. They just spread the floor so they can pass cleanly and make open shots.

To do that, they needed Matthews to draw defenders to the perimeter.

The only other other teams with only one player on the above list – Nuggets (24th in points per possession), Timberwolves (26th), Knicks (29th) and Jazz (15th) – have struggled to form quality offenses with so few traditional floor spacers. Even teams with two players on the list – Celtics (21st), Nets (22nd), Hornets (28th), Pacers (25th) and Grizzlies (11th) – have mostly struggled offensively.

And now Portland proceeds with no healthy qualifying players.

Terry Stotts has his work cut out to overcome that disadvantage, but his task is not impossible.

Matthews was just one piece of the floor-spacing puzzle.

Aldridge is an elite mid-range shooter. What Lillard lacks in efficiency on 3-pointers (a very reasonable 33.9 percent) he more than makes up for in volume (2.4 makes per game). Nicolas Batum is a skilled playmaker. Robin Lopez sets excellent screens, springing others free.

And Mathews’ certain replacement in the starting lineup, Arron Afflalo (1.5 3-pointers made per game, 34.0 3-point percentage this season), can play a similar role to his predecessor. Afflalo’s outside shooting has disturbingly fluctuated the last few years, but he has more good seasons than bad under his belt.

Solid 3-point shooters Steve Blake (0.9, 34.6) and Dorell Wright (0.8, 37.8) could also play more. Lineups featuring Blake and Lillard have fared particularly well offensively, as the point guards provide 3-point shooting and ball movement.

Several factors have contributed to Portland’s floor spacing. Matthews’ 3-point shooting is only one, but a big one. Unfortunately, we’ll find out just how big.

Adrian Wojnarowski: Knicks firing David Fizdale ‘inevitable’

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Knicks president Steve Mills is reportedly laying the groundwork to fire coach David Fizdale.

One step: Mills and general manager Scott Perry addressing the media after Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers while Fizdale was still in the locker room. Mills and Perry stressed that the team wasn’t meeting expectations, seemingly a veiled shot at the coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

The dismissal of David Fizdale is inevitable, and there was, I think, a bond broken between management and their head coach with how they handled things after that loss Sunday night.

Coaches are hired to be fired, but this sounds far more urgent than that.

As long as Fizdale has his job, he has a chance to save it. If the Knicks start playing better, they could keep him.

But that seems unlikely with this underwhelming roster.

Which is why New York is reportedly also considering a front-office change.

Austin Rivers calls for Doc Rivers to get technical foul (video)

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When Doc Rivers coached Austin Rivers on the Clippers, accusations of favoritism ran rampant. Playing with the Rockets against the Clippers tonight, Austin showed where his loyalties lie.

Not with his father.

The Clippers were letting the game (an eventual 102-93 Houston win) get away from them when Doc argued a call. Austin stood nearby and urged the referee to call a technical foul. The official eventually obliged and ejected Doc.

That’s when Austin really hammed it up – waving off Doc then making the call-me gesture. The disrespect!

Ja Morant hits game-winner in Grizzlies-Hornets (video)

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Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant has had a game-saving block and game-winning assist.

Now, he has the glory of a game-winning shot.

Morant sealed the Memphis’ 119-117 win over the Hornets with a driving scoop in the final second tonight. He led Memphis with 23 points and 11 assists.

P.J. Tucker misses open fastbreak layup, trips on stanchion (video)

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I want to give P.J. Tucker a break. He’s the Rockets’ most (only?) reliable defender. He has such a heavy burden covering for James Harden, Russell Westbrook and just generally undersized lineups.

But this missed layup was so bad. And that stumble over the stanchion really seals the goof.