Game 10 Recap--Blazers 88, ‘Wolves 83

Boxscore

It’s great we got the win tonight because there would have been no excuses for this game.  OK, there would have been excuses, legitimate ones too--fatigue, playing a slightly less prominent opponent than has been the norm lately--but they wouldn’t have washed.  Fool’s Gold teams say, “When we’re on we have a great team that can beat anyone!”  The real question is how you play when you’re tired, unenthused, when things aren’t clicking.  Portland had a substandard energy night but still came away with the victory.  Good enough…as long as you won.

 

Team Observations

 

The cardinal sin tonight was only managing 88 points against a team that has allowed 105 per game so far this season.  Part of the credit goes to Minnesota, who obviously came out to win tonight.  They played with the energy we lacked.  That includes the defensive end.  But we also made it easy for the ‘Wolves by living outside for massive stretches of the game.  The offense worked fine in the first quarter but when the jumper deserted us everything went south.  We spent two-and-a-half quarters in offensive purgatory, barely avoiding descending into the netherworld depths thanks to the last-ditch efforts of our role players, but never able to put shots together and escape into sunlight either.  We hit barely enough jumpers to keep in contact and that was about it.  Were it not for Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez hitting some timely deep balls and Brandon Roy and Greg Oden getting fouled we might have scored in the sixties in this game.

 

For all that, the ‘Wolves were never able to pull away either.  Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden did a good job on Al Jefferson in the middle quarters and Minnesota couldn’t find enough scoring elsewhere to seal the deal.  They moved the ball well and got decent shots.  There just wasn’t enough ammo in the chamber.  Portland’s rebounding and (now typical) care for the ball helped keep the game within reason.

 

In the critical moments of the fourth quarter it boiled down to Jefferson versus Roy.  Jefferson started lighting it up but he also had to contend with those huge defenders.  Roy managed all kinds of penetration and either finished, was fouled, or set somebody up for a good shot.  The extra talent of Roy’s supporting cast helped tip the balance in the otherwise treacherous battle.  Greg Oden and Jefferson started warring on both ends of the court which was something to see.  Nobody stepped up similarly to deal with (or distract) Brandon.  When the smoke cleared we got an extra breakaway and an extra jumper, and that was about the final margin.

 

Also critical:  Blazers 9 made threes, ‘Wolves only 2.  Blazers 41 rebounds, ‘Wolves 33.  Basics go a long way.

 

Summation:  One quarter of decent offense and poor defense.  Two-and-a-half-quarters of anti-inspiration.  Six minutes of energy and the ballgame.  It won’t work every night, but it did on this one.

 

Individual Notes

 

Brandon Roy was a genius on a night when most of his teammates were not.  He pretty much decided we weren’t losing this game in the fourth and then went out and made it happen.  9-18 shooting, 6-7 free throws, 24 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers.  He scored when he needed to, passed when he needed to…good game.

 

Greg Oden made it easier on Brandon not only with his defense and rebounding, but by providing a big target for passes in the middle and either finishing or getting fouled.  He finally figured out that spinning towards the hoop on his moves is far preferable for a guy of his size than spinning away.  Finesse bad.  Murder by steamrolling, good.  Also, did you notice what hands this guy has?  Not only on catches, but on steals.  The job he did patrolling the lanes on both ends was impressive for what, his third NBA game?  Raw as the cookie dough you stole from your momma and already making game-winning contributions.  28 minutes, 4-8 shots, 5-8 free throws, 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals.

 

Lamarcus Aldridge seldom got deep into the lane and never really got his offense going tonight.  It was his worst game of the season by far.  He only took 7 shots, hitting 3.  He had 6 rebounds and 3 assists as well.  6 points total.

 

Joel Przybilla isn’t giving up his minutes without a fight, as he had one of his best games of the season.  Once again he converted his dunks when he got them (and the ‘Wolves let him have plenty).  He had 10 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and a block.  You felt comfortable with him coming in even during the fourth because of his energy level and execution.  You can’t always say that about Joel.  Plus with two centers available Nate had the luxury of not worrying so much about fouls.

 

Steve Blake hit a couple nice three-pointers and ended up with 10 points and 4 assists.  It was a fairly typical game from him with the addition that none of the Minnesota guards really got off and that was partially due to Steve.

 

Sergio Rodriguez yanked on the stick and brought us out of the offensive stall we had been free-falling through all game by hitting one three-pointer at the end of the third and another to start the fourth.  High fives all around for that.  He also got 3 rebounds and was fighting out there.  The Blazers weren’t converting any shots tonight.  It’s amazing how that cuts down on your assist numbers.  That was also why we couldn’t afford to doink around leaving Sergio out there for extra minutes tonight.  He was tossing people bullets but nobody had a gun.  6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist in 16 minutes.

 

Rudy Fernandez had a marginally difficult night.  It was his second straight struggling offensive outing.  He’s going to have to go through an evolution now.  Opponents are starting to read the scouting report, closing down on him early.  Shots that were wide open last week are now run at.  Shots that were run at last week are now closed down by one, or sometimes two, people.  This is normal.  It’s also normal for Rudy to take a while adjusting.  Some teams are going to forget and he’ll have spectacular nights again to boost his confidence.  Those should help him ride through and emerge on the other side able to score against the increased pressure.  25 minutes tonight, 1-5 shots made, 3 points.  He did have 6 rebounds, which are always appreciated.  Also while closing down Rudy defenders are having to leave Roy and the interior guys a little more open.  In essence Rudy is returning the favor Brandon did for him early.

 

Travis Outlaw had two moments in this game that saved his bacon.  When he first checked in he brought defensive energy.  He also hit the final jumper of the game which pushed the lead from a tie-able 3 to a winning margin of 5.  Other than that this was a rough 31 minute outing for him.  He shot 3-10, looking like he forgot everything he ever knew about how to get a decent shot off.  When Mike Barrett can look straight at your belly button as you’re releasing a shot you did it wrong.  8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 each of everything else.

 

Channing Frye killed not only his own mojo but Sergio’s as well by bricking all four jumpers he attempted tonight.  Short minutes plus long shots do not equal success for a power forward.  Then again he’s struggling with his inside game as well.  This is not a happy time for Channing.  11 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, and a block.

 

Nic Batum got 8 points in 10 minutes and looked good in that way but he also had trouble watching Minnesota’s shooters, especially Mike Miller.  I think Nate saw him go underneath a pick set for Miller once too often and left him down despite the 3-4 shooting.  Also in a game we were trailing he probably wanted Rudy and Travis out there.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Winning road trip!  Excellent.

 

Check out the Minnesota recap at CanisHoopus

 

You can find the Jersey Contest results and enter for the next game here.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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