Mason Plumlee’s Top 5 Games With The Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers dealt away center Mason Plumlee after a season-and-a-half with the franchise. Here’s a look at his five best performances while playing for Rip City.
ESPN writer Zach Lowe adds that the Blazers also paid $2.85 million cash to Denver as part of the deal.
In exchange, Portland received rising Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick. Denver received that pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it originally belonged to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Prevailing sentiment is that the trade is good for both sides. The Nuggets ship out a young player that was being crowded out by Nikola Jokic (another rising European center), was aware of it, and was outwardly bothered by it.
In return, they get an all-around center that can score, rebound, and even pass well.
Those draft picks will allow them to either pick up three prospects in June or send away a pick or two for another established player that can help the team improve.
Despite the trade’s practicality, Mason Plumlee’s departure was still a surprise to his former Trail Blazers teammates.
“We had a lot of talks and a lot of it was long term, about us just continuing to grow and staying together. I vented to (Plumlee) a lot about what I thought we could do better and what I thought he could do more and he did the same with me.
“We had a lot of those conversations and a lot of it went past this year. I’m sure it was sad for him to have to leave. You think you’re going to be a part of something special and then it’s cut short. It’s a tough one.”
Mason Plumlee very well could have been a solid part of the Blazers’ future. However, it was that all-around talent that made him such a valuable trade piece.
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He played and started in all 147 regular season and playoff games in which he sported a Trail Blazers uniform. Plumlee averaged 9.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game in the regular season.
He averaged 7.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.0 steals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
Some of his best work was pivotal to the team’s success. But we’ll see in this article that it was often overshadowed by gaudier numbers or crazier storylines.
Nearly 20 months later, he is on his way to the Mile High City.
Today, we observe some of Mason Plumlee’s top performances as a Portland Trail Blazer.
5. Big Night in the Playoffs
Mason Plumlee really got up for games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Plumlee played 13 games against L.A. as a Blazer, including one six-game playoff series. He averaged 11.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game in those matchups. Five of his top-20 scoring performances in Portland came against the Clippers.
The Blazers went 5-8 in those 13 games against the Clippers. This was one of those losses.
After falling 115-95 in Game 1 of the First Round series, the Blazers were looking to even things up in Game 2 in Los Angeles.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blazers trailed by a manageable 67-61 margin. However, a 35-20 Clippers outburst in the final frame put Portland away for good and put LA up 2-0 in the series.
Both Plumlee and Lillard put up a team-high 17 points, with Plumlee adding a team-high 10 rebounds and game-high 7 assists. C.J. McCollum added 16 points.
But the Blazers struggled collectively against the Clippers that night. The team shot 34.1 percent from the field and the bench was outscored 43-8 by the Clippers’ second unit.
Mason Plumlee had a number of big games against the Clippers, win or lose. This is the first of three Clippers games on the list, including one other game from this series.
4. Answering The Call In Dallas
Mason Plumlee can do a lot of things well like rebound, pass, and score. However, he was rarely called upon to regularly put in big scoring nights. He didn’t have to with guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum handling most of the point production.
Plumlee scored 15 or more points in only 23 of his 145 games with the team. He only scored 20+ points once with the Blazers. We’ll cover that game later in this article.
An early season game in Dallas was one of the few times Plumlee was called upon to get buckets.
McCollum was suffering from foul trouble for much of the game, and most of the team struggled to get the ball in the hoop. With the team is disarray, Lillard took the reins and reeled off a season-high 42 points on 12-18 shooting (7-12 from three-point range).
But the Trail Blazers could not win the game on Lillard’s impressive performance alone. Plumlee chipped in 19 points to alleviate some of the pressure.
Plumlee got his points by relentlessly attacking the basket. He made all seven of his shots at the rim and all five of his free throws. His only misses were on two mid-range shot attempts.
His four rebounds were below his normal output. But he still managed to dish out four assists and swipe a career-high four steals to aid in the winning effort.
This victory helped the Blazers improve to 3-3 on the season and set off a three-game winning streak.
3. Block Party in LA
Game: Dec. 12, 2016 at the Clippers
Result: A 121-120 Loss
Stat Line: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds (19.7 Game Score)
It’s another big game against the Clippers. This time, it comes in the regular season.
This game was unique because it was one of Plumlee’s best performances as a shot-blocker.
Normally, Mason Plumlee was good for a block or two per game. He averages 0.9 blocks per game for his career, 1.1 per game during his tenure in Portland, and 1.2 per game this season. Despite his ability to get vertical, he has never been an elite rejector.
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But this action-packed, uptempo scoring fest featured Plumlee’s second-highest block total of his career.
However, his five blocks in this game were the most he’s had in a double-digit scoring effort.
Unlike our last entry, all of the key players came out in this game. C.J. McCollum paced the Blazers with 25 points. Damian Lillard pitched in 24 points and 8 assists. Evan Turner even contributed 15 points and six assists off of the bench.
The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin‘s 26 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Chris Paul also had a double-double with 21 points and 14 assists. J.J. Redick had 19 points, including three game-sealing free throws late in the fourth quarter.
Plumlee would score 18 points again the next game and 19 the game after. His highest-scoring game as a Blazer was merely eight days later.
2. Chairman Of The Boards Sets Upset In Motion
Game: Apr. 23, 2016 vs. the Clippers, Game 3, Western Conference First Round
Result: A 96-88 Win
Stat Line: 6 points, 21 rebounds, and 9 assists (13.7 Game Score)
This game makes the list for the numbers outside of the point total as well as it’s place in arc of the Blazers’ miracle 2015-16 season.
Mason Plumlee was brought in to help a team that lost four of its five starters from the 2014-15 season (LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez) over the course of that following summer.
People felt that the Trail Blazers would be on their way to the lottery due to the massive loss of production.
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But the Trail Blazers surprised NBA fans, going 44-38 in 2015-16 and earning the 5th seed in the playoffs. Plumlee was a key part of that run, being an ironman at the center position (playing and starting all 82 games) and leading the team in rebounds per game.
Their first challenge in the 2016 postseason was the Los Angeles Clippers. As we saw in entry No. 5, the first two games of this series didn’t go Portland’s way. Game 3 was pivotal to keeping the Blazers’ playoff hopes alive.
Portland understood the gravity of the game, grinding out an ugly victory where they shot 42.5 percent from the field. In the process, they were able to hold the Clippers to 40.9 percent shooting.
Damian Lillard led the charge for Portland with 32 points while C.J. McCollum added 27 points. But it was Plumlee’s 9 assists and career-high 21 rebounds that served as the glue in Portland’s winning effort.
It was also the catalyst for another improbable run. With injuries befalling Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Game 4, Portland would win the next three games and take the series 4-2. This set up their five-game semifinal series against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
1. Career Game Overshadowed
This is probably the most “ridiculous” game on the list.
As stated in entry No. 4, Plumlee was never relied upon for big scoring outputs. He scored 15 or more points only 23 times in 145 games, and only scored 20 or more once. This was that 20+ point game.
Plumlee was a force that night in California’s capital. His career-high 27 points included seven made free throws and eight dunks, including three lob receptions. His five assists included several crafty dimes from under the basket or as he was falling out of bounds.
Four of his 13 rebounds were offensive boards, all of which led to points on their respective possessions.
This was his best game not only as a Trail Blazer, but in his career. This game was even bigger than the six games with the Brooklyn Nets where he scored 20 or more. Plumlee contributed the most value he ever has in a game on this night.
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He was responsible for 37 points via scoring and assisting and checked off each box score category at least once.
Unfortunately for Plumlee, his performance wasn’t even the biggest story of the game.
C.J. McCollum had the team-high in points with 36. Damian Lillard dished out the most assists with 16 to go along with his 24 points.
Meanwhile, Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins — Plumlee’s defensive assignment — went off in more ways than one. On the court, he reeled off 55 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Late in the game he was temporarily ejected before the technical foul was rescinded and he was allowed to finish the game.
Off the court, Cousins gave a post-game interview with the Kings TV crew stating how he felt the technical foul and general referee treatment towards him was “ridiculous.”
So like many of Mason Plumlee’s top performances as a Portland Trail Blazer, his best game was overshadowed by bigger numbers and crazier headlines.