Game 7 Recap: Blazers 106, Magic 99

Boxscore

 

Woohoo!

 

This, my friends, was a professional win…the first one of the season really.  That is not to say this was a perfect game.  That’s precisely the point.  The Blazers had serious trouble out there for long stretches of the first half and again at the end of the third quarter.  When they fell short in some areas they made up for it in others, the net result being they stayed close throughout and then pulled away when it mattered against a very good opponent.  This was the kind of continuity, trust, and teamwork we’ve been hoping to see.

 

Team Observations

 

Ohhhh…the defense in the first quarter was stench-ridden.  Just about everything that could go wrong, short of letting the Magic run loose in transition, did.  The basic problem early was our inability to defend the perimeter which left drivers loose in the lane, causing Joel Przybilla to have to come and help.  I can’t think of a worse outcome when playing the Magic than that.  On a couple plays it actually left Dwight Howard unguarded.  Mostly it left Joel out of position, leading either to an easy pass to Howard (now guarded by someone who had no chance against him) or an easy Howard offensive rebound and putback.  Joel picked up his second foul at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter, less than three minutes in, and it wasn’t even on Howard but on a driving Hedo Turkoglu.  After Joel went out Orlando was just having their way with us.  Howard was visibly chuckling during that stretch.  The Magic were also getting any drive they wanted…sometimes multiple drives on the same possession.

 

However (and here comes that “professional” part), as bad as the Blazers were on defense they made up for it by staying even with the Magic on offense.  Steve Blake actually generated a ton of points in that first quarter.  I’m sure the Magic would have taken that had he continued all game long but contained to this context his shots looked opportune instead of risky.  The smaller Blazer lineup also moved and shared the ball.  The scoring pace was frantic and the Blazers were up to the challenge.  Both teams ended up shooting over 50% for the quarter but Portland led 36-28…prospering in a period that in other games would have seen them dead.

 

The party ended in the second period as we started picking up fouls inside, outside, and all around the town.  The pace slowed to accommodate the Orlando big men and they took advantage.  Nevertheless the first quarter lead we had built gave us a cushion and we went into the locker room up by 1.

 

Had the pattern repeated in the second half we likely would have lost the game.  Instead we started committing to defense and rebounding even as our offense continued to sputter.  We had decent ball movement but were still getting mostly jumpers.  That diet won’t feed you for an entire game and it showed.  However we cut down on Orlando’s easy buckets and took away most of their offensive rebounds.  We bricked jumper after jumper in the final minutes of the third but the scoring drought didn’t kill us as we held the Magic to 19 points in the period, entering the fourth down 1.

 

In the final period the Blazers put all of the pieces together, pairing ball movement, unselfishness, and penetration on offense with active defense and jealous rebounding.  Our defense was so active in the middle minutes of the fourth that we started forcing turnovers like we were the Warriors or something.  We pushed the tempo and built a lead.  At that point, much like a football team that gets behind and has to pass instead of run, the Magic had to go away from Dwight Howard and trust to streaking guards and jump-shooting forwards.  When that happened we were way better than even money to win the game and we did.

 

A couple things in this game went against us.  We got beaten soundly on the boards and the Magic shot more free throws than we did.  Normally those would indicate trouble.  But we never turned the ball over (5 total for the game) while forcing them to do so for a net gain of +13 on points off of turnovers.  They shot 1.3% higher for the game than we did but we attempted 9 more shots.  The three-pointer is one of their main avenues of attack and we held them under 30%, plus we made more than they did (9-7).  Especially considering the foul trouble for several of our key players (Frye, Outlaw, and Batum with 5 and Joel with 4, the latter in 10 minutes of play) you could not have scripted a better plan to take on the Magic.

 

Of course you have to credit part of the small, up-tempo lineup to foul trouble and Greg Oden’s injury but you also need to give credit to the coaching staff for this game.

 

Individual Notes

 

--Brandon Roy again spearheaded this game, shooting 10-22 en route to 27 points plus 4 assists and 3 rebounds.  You’ll remember in our pre-game notes we said the Blazer smalls should prosecute their advantage to the utmost.  Roy tried tonight.  The shots he got were a lot clearer and smoother than he’s taken in the last couple games as well.

 

--Forget Lamarcus Aldridge’s 16 points.  The man grabbed 11 rebounds tonight, 8 defensive.  For Lamarcus that’s a lot.  He was one of the guys who manned up and kept Dwight Howard from having his way with us on the glass.  Seriously…I loved this game from him more than I loved some where he scores 25.

 

--Hey…I think it might be a good idea for the Blazer smalls to be aggressive tonight.  What?  Steve Blake scored 20?!?  OK, some of that was off of late-game free-throw catch-up but still he was 4-8 with 2-3 three-pointers made and kept us alive in that first period when Orlando all but dared him to score.  He even hit a couple shots off of the dribble.  Wowzers.

 

--Maybe it might go well if the Blazer smalls got aggressive tonight.  Huh?  A Mr. Outlaw to see me?  Hey Travis, what’s up?  20 points for you too?  50% shooting from the field, 3-5 from distance, 5-6 from the line and 5 rebounds?  Oh Travis, you do care.

 

--It’s funny, I was just thinking that it might be nice if the Blazer smalls got agg…hey Rudy, you can’t just barge in here like that.  16 points, 4-6 three-pointers, 3 assists, and 3 steals?  Barge in whenever you want.

 

--Sergio got aggressive tonight also in his 16 minutes.  He was 2-4 for 4 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds.  I loved, loved, LOVED a couple of his drives early.  He made the Magic commentators go, “Whaaaaa?”  However his minutes at the start of the fourth betrayed him.  Even enthused with his effort, I was calling for Nate to please pull him out after a couple of eye-gouging jumpers and an egregious turnover.  It wasn’t so much the offenses themselves as the timing.  I loved Sergio in the second quarter, I didn’t want him to lose the game for us in the fourth.  This spells out as clearly as anything the nature of his game right now:  brilliant in proper context, insufficient outside of it.  That about sums up why he should get some minutes but why he probably shouldn’t get more yet.

 

--Joel Przybilla:  10 minutes, 4 fouls, 1 dunk.  You got a chance to see why, in some situations, the offense works much better without him on the floor.  We can’t possibly replace his rebounds or height though.  I loved his effort in the time he did get to play.

 

--Nic Batum played a controlled game tonight and was neither bad nor great.  He didn’t have a ton of impact but made a couple nice defensive plays.  Fluctuations are to be expected.

 

--Channing Frye missed all four of his outside shots tonight and gathered 5 fouls.  In this case I think he was supposed to get those fouls, as he was stuck down in the middle on defense.  He was responsible for one of the funnier sequences of the season.  Near the end of the second quarter Hedo Turkoglu again got released to drive inside and Channing rotated to force the miss.  This left Dwight Howard an easy offensive rebound but Channing recovered and swatted down at the ball hard, committing a foul.  Howard and Frye started to have a staredown.  Channing turned toward Dwight to jaw some more but then he saw Hedo Turkoglu coming back in from the left side.  Channing puts on his toughest face and immediately turns towards Turkoglu and starts after him even though his original beef was with Howard.  It was like somebody getting ready to square off with the Jolly Green Giant and all of a sudden saying, “What did you say, Sprout?  That’s it!  You and me, shorty!”

 

Final Thoughts

 

1.  Does anyone else think that if Stan Van Gundy got a perm he’d be Ron Jeremy?

 

2.  Fantastic win.

 

Don’t forget the Magic news at ThirdQuarterCollapse.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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