It was better for the Trail Blazers Tuesday night. And it was partly because of addition by subtraction.
But the result wasn't quite enough, as Portland dropped a 116-115 decision to the Boston Celtics in Moda Center.
The Blazers played better than they have been at both ends of the court. The offense seemed to look better because the Trail Blazers used fewer pick-and-rolls and spread the ball around more – as evidenced by 31 assists on 43 made field goals.
As far as the pick and roll was concerned, less was more.
And it kept Damian Lillard from getting double-teamed as frequently as usual. And got other players involved.
“We had some discussion about how we could help each other more,” Lillard said. “How we could try to work on a style that was less predictable, that people can't take us out of as easy.”
“It's a way that we played in the past. We just haven't played it as consistently. Tonight, I didn't think it was forced. I didn’t think we were overly trying to do it. It was like, we just let the ball hop around, and we cut and we screened for each other.
“I think that's a style that we'll be able to play against any team so, obviously, getting jammed up the way we have been against some of the better teams on pick-and-rolls, it was good to see that we can execute that way.
“We can make reads, pass and stuff like that. I liked how we looked moving the ball.”
The Celtics had to defend five players instead of one or two.
“It's harder to double-team when you're scoring through passing and not as much pick-and-rolls,” Lillard said.
Coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t put a number on how many times his team used its pick-and-roll, which has been a staple this season. But it wasn’t as often as usual.
“I don't know about the number,” he said. “I mean, obviously, we still have some pick-and-rolls, but I think the fact we had 31 assists was very encouraging. I thought our guys did a nice job of moving and passing and screening. I really liked the way we moved -- with and without the ball.”
In the end, the Trail Blazers came up a timeout short and it really hurt.
Norman Powell hit a bomb from 31 feet that drew the Blazers within a point with 5 seconds to go.
Portland fouled Marcus Smart with 3.5 to go and he missed the first throw accidentally and then the second one on purpose – making it almost impossible for the Trail Blazers to get a shot off before the final horn.
Stotts had used his two final timeouts earlier in the quarter and without one, Portland couldn’t advance the ball into front court.
Lillard scored 28 to lead the Blazers, Carmelo Anthony had 25 and Powell finished with 20. CJ McCollum added 16 on a balanced night.
Jayson Tatum, who hit the dagger to put Portland behind by 4 with 8.5 seconds left, led Boston with 32.