Game 20 Recap: Blazers 98, Wizards 92

 

Boxscore

 

This was another game the Blazers pulled out in the final minutes.  It’s a fine pattern for road wins, somewhat normal for the NBA.  It does come with a caveat, however.  Play with fire too many times and you’re going to get burned.  The thing about the Blazers’ success is that it’s new…at least at this level.  Part of it is talent and execution, but confidence also factors in.  One wonders what a blown game against an inferior team would do to the Blazers’ confidence.  Let’s hope it’s a while before we find out.

 

General Observations

 

It’s hard to fault the Blazers’ execution tonight but it’s hard to praise it as well.  Portland started out the game loosey-goosey.  They committed a couple of turnovers trying to force the ball into Oden.  Their spacing was poor…a theme which would continue throughout the night.  Their movement wasn’t crisp either.  Guys who were hustling stood out.  We saw some basic mistakes:  Rudy getting burned defensively, Oden getting stripped repeatedly when bringing the ball down below his waist, guards coughing up the ball or making bad passes.

 

Yet for every mistake there was a corresponding redemptive play.  Guys hustled for steals…dove on the floor even.  Lamarcus took his time and got quality shots.  Oden gobbled up rebounds.  Rudy hit deep.  Sergio hit a nifty pass.  The quality was sporadic but it was there. 

 

The defense was no great shakes tonight.  It’s not like we let the Wizards waltz down the lane, but we had to commit so many extra players to stopping them that we left shooters wide open.  Antawn Jamison hit a couple of tough shots.  Nick Young hit a couple of threes.  Here again, though, we succeeded in certain aspects.  Caron Butler, so crucial to the Wizards’ scoring, never got off of the launching pad tonight and finished with 16 points.

 

Portland’s rebounding was good…adequate anyway.  It wasn’t one of those dominant nights but it wasn’t an effort that made you scream at the TV either.

 

The Wizards led after one.  The Blazers made it all back plus two more in the second quarter.  The game was close through the third.  Unlike last night the Blazers came out flat to start the fourth. 

 

Then Brandon Roy came in the game.

 

Brandon rattled off 7 points in 4 minutes.  He drew enough attention that all of a sudden everybody else was open.  Oden dunks.  Fernandez hits.  The Wizards start looking discombobulated.  Washington did manage to cut it to two with 29 seconds remaining but Steve Blake hit his free throws and we walk out with another road victory.

 

In a night that was basically even and imperfect for both teams Portland had enough talent and execution down the stretch to take it home.

 

Individual Observations

 

Brandon Roy:  22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, drives us to a win.  I don’t have to say anything else.  You already know the story.  The way he gets to the hoop is poetry.  How he gets that open is a mystery.  He’s the leader and heart of this team and it’s translating into wins right now.  That’s all there is to say.

 

I though Lamarcus Aldridge looked more confident on offense tonight than I’ve seen him in a while.  It’s nice to see he has his stroke back.  I still wish he’d attack the rim more but he did run out for a couple of dunks and his turn-around was on.  7-16, 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists.

 

Greg Oden did alright tonight.  The Wizards obviously knew to deny him the ball down low with their undersized lineup.  JaVale McGee’s athleticism made life a little hard for Greg.  Oden also got stripped at least twice near the bucket, which is something you don’t want to see (but frequently do with him).  A little more hand strength plus a little less bringing the ball down will do wonders for Greg.  Nevertheless Oden shot 4-6 (is “shot” the right word to describe what he does?), had a couple monster dunks, and finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and only 2 fouls in 31 minutes.

 

Steve Blake got 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in his 34 minutes.  Those are important numbers because his shot wasn’t falling tonight.  When he misses it allows defenses to sag something fierce.  The winning you’re seeing the Blazers accomplish does depend on multiple players…generally five on the floor at any given time, though you can mix and match which five sometimes.  Blake is an important cog in the machinery right now.  That three-point shot is indispensible.

 

You barely noticed Nicolas Batum tonight.  He was OK defensively.  It was one of those “Where’d the rookie go?” evenings.

 

Rudy Fernandez was the clear star off of the bench.  He hit 5-6 including 2-3 from distance and a wicked, looping, over-the-shoulder lay-in.  That was disgusting really.  He had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block too.  Good night for him.

 

Joel Przybilla only played 15 minutes tonight but he hit both of his attempts and played some nice defense.

 

Travis Outlaw shot 3-7 tonight.  The good part was that he hit both of his three-point attempts.  The bad part was his shot selection otherwise.  To be charitable, it was bad.  This was one of those nights where you loved him taking 7 shots because it wasn’t 8.  9 points and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes.

 

I thought Sergio Rodriguez was over-dribbling when he first checked in but he settled in nicely, ending the game with 7 assists in 13 minutes.  (a.k.a. the “Sergio Special”)

 

Channing Frye played 11 minutes, shot 4 times, hit 2 shots, and dished 2 assists.

 

Final Thoughts

 

One of the neat things about this year’s team is that they’re deep and diverse enough that Nate is seldom stuck putting up with sub-par play.  Unless it’s Brandon or Lamarcus, when one guy isn’t producing Nate simply inserts another to stir the pot.  It’s to the Blazers’ credit that you don’t hear a lot of fussing about that.  Well, at least not now when we’re winning.

 

Check out the Wizards’ post-game wrap at BulletsForever.

 

You can see the Jersey Contest results and enter Friday’s game here.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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