Game 22 Recap: Blazers 98, Raptors 97

Boxscore

 

Apologies about the long delay before the recap.  Sundays are a bad day for me to find Blazer-watching time and a 10:00 a.m. game couldn’t be worse.  Just one of the quirks of this particular blog.

 

In any case, this was another game where one shot going in changed everybody’s perception, eh?

 

General Observations

 

The Blazers started out the game ragged and tired, almost as if they were anticipating the end of the road trip one game early.  (Better not do that…yet AGAIN thanks to the obscene kindness of the schedule makers Portland lands home for one game and then heads RIGHT BACK OUT on the road.  That barely counts as a home game.  Anyway…)  Portland’s transition defense was lousy again, we got no offensive rebounds to speak of, we bricked our outside shots (whether open or forced), our interior defense was softer than Nicolas Batum’s downy cheek, and we committed enough turnovers to fill a medium-sized barge.   As predicted, Toronto also came out fired up.  They put us down 31-20 after the first quarter and it looked like another long, woeful journey lay ahead.

 

Then the Blazers woke up.

 

It started with an offensive spark from Rudy Fernandez.  He converted an and-one layup and started forcing the Raptors to concentrate on somebody else besides Brandon Roy.  This opened up the lane for Roy and soon both of them were going off with a little side action from Steve Blake adding seasoning.  The Raptors didn’t have the perimeter defense to cope and they couldn’t leave our big men alone to help.  The turnovers calmed down a little bit and the offensive rebounds picked up.  Portland was playing its game and won the quarter handily, 28-19.

 

The third quarter belonged to the Blazers as well behind a barrage of three-pointers and a heroic effort from Lamarcus Aldridge.  The transition defense was back up to snuff by now so Toronto had to work harder for their points.  Their big men were scoring but their buckets weren’t coming as frequently as when they were able to run out.  At this point it looked like Portland might run away with it.

 

The Raptors refused to surrender, though.  Everybody except, surprisingly, Chris Bosh got into the scoring act for them.  The Blazers also started missing some of those jumpers as tired legs began to rule.  It was nip and tuck until Portland found themselves down by 2 with 27 seconds remaining.  After a 20-second timeout the play went to Roy.  He drove but missed the tough layup.  Greg Oden grabbed another offensive rebound but couldn’t put the ball in either.  Rudy Fernandez then grabbed the rebound and, realizing there were still 13 seconds left on the clock, dribbled it back out to the left side to reset.  He got the ball to Steve Blake who took it hard up to the top of the three-point arc.  Either his move stymied the defender and he slipped or Blake pushed off a little, depending on who you ask.  It was probably a combination thereof.  All of a sudden Blake found himself with daylight and boldly fired.  Bam!  Three-pointer.  Portland leads by 1.  Chris Bosh tried to get up the last shot but Lamarcus shut him down with a wee bit of help and the Blazers tipped the ball out as the clock expired.  1 point win.  Heck of an effort late.

 

You can see where the Blazers struggled in this game pretty clearly.  They allowed the Raptors to shoot 49% from the floor and 47% from the three-point line.  They also allowed 26 assists on 38 made baskets.  They turned the ball over 14 times to the Raptors’ 8.  You can also see how Portland pulled it out.  As is typical of Raptor opponents they put up 5 more shots.  This made up for a defensive effort that Toronto can be proud of compared to some of their recent outings.  The Blazers shot 12-24 from three-point land.  They only allowed the Raptors 4 offensive rebounds and ended up winning the rebounding battle 48-31 on a night when the Raptors missed far fewer shots than did Portland.  That’s domination.

 

Individual Observations

 

Toronto was focusing most of its defensive pressure on Brandon Roy tonight and frankly Roy looked a little bit tired.  He’s still adjusting to this level of attention and I imagine after a grueling month and a half it’s starting to wear.  It’s not going to let up, though.  Roy still made them pay with 7 assists to 2 turnovers and managed 5 rebounds as well.  He scored 15.

 

Lamarcus Aldridge really dominated that third period.  He also did a credible job on Chris Bosh.  Bosh ended up scoring 19 but it was on 7-16 shooting and he never dominated the game.  (Only 5 boards for Bosh too!)   Lamarcus scored 20 himself on 50% shooting with 8 rebounds, 6 offensive.  He had 2 blocks as well.

 

Greg Oden continues to get stripped or fouled every time he gets the ball right at the cup.  He shot 6 free throws tonight, hitting 4.  He was only 3-10 from the field and finished with 10 points.  That said, there’s a big difference between the Greg Oden who’s drawing fouls on other players and the Greg Oden who is fouling them incessantly.  I like the former Greg much better.  Oden had 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, and 10 rebounds.  5 of those were offensive, including the one that kept the ball alive for that game-winning possession.  Also you just cannot discount how much attention Greg draws by his mere presence.  Watch sometime how many players have their eyes on him or have to drop down a step or two to shadow his movement in case they need to help.  Those extra steps free up our distance shooters.

 

Speaking of…Steve Blake, game hero.  7-14 shooting, 5-8 from distance, 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists.  Somebody didn’t want to lose this game.  It’s truly scary how much this team has come to depend on Blake.  When he is not hitting that three point shot we are not the same offensive unit.  That last three was the signature shot of his season, though.  The circumstances and set-up were a little different, but it’s not far off to say he played the last-second John Paxson role to the hilt.

 

Nic Batum had 3 rebounds and 2 assists but missed both of his shots in 14 minutes.  He did help keep Andrea Bagnani quiet though.  The Toronto 7-footer ended up with 5 points on 1-6 shooting.

 

Rudy Fernandez turned this game around when it threatened to spill over into Boston Redux territory.  One of the problems with Toronto’s defense is that once you get past their initial defender they don’t have an effective second layer between you and the rim.  Rudy did a great job of recognizing this and used his quick first step better than he has all season to create a couple opportunities deep.  Not only did this break the defense, it freed up all kinds of shooting opportunities.  Without Rudy breaking the ice we probably don’t win this game.  If he can fill that igniter role consistently this will become an extremely dangerous team.  16 points, 5-8 shooting, 3-4 deep, 3-3 from the line, and 8 rebounds.

 

Joel Przybilla only played 18 minutes tonight.  He hit a couple shots and grabbed 5 boards but he was having real trouble containing Jermaine O’Neal and the attention he had to pay to JO kept him too preoccupied to help his teammates.

 

Travis Outlaw played 22 minutes and hit 3-7, including 2-4 from distance, for 8 points with 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  He wasn’t as far out there with his offense as he has been the past couple games but he’s still random on far too many of his self-made shots for my taste.

 

Sergio Rodriguez played 15 minutes with 4 assists and hit a three.  He’s looking more confident on his shot.  He traded off 2 steals for 2 turnovers.

 

Martell Webster saw his first action of the season.  It was good to see him out there.  He missed his only shot, a quick-trigger three.

 

We don’t normally mention DNP-CDs but Channing got one tonight.  It’s been a rough week for him.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The Blazers finished an amazing 4-1 on this road trip.  Now the question for Blazer fans:  Will we remember the 80% of the games that they won or the 20% that they lost?  My take is that if you expect them to be World Champions or even Western Conference Finalists this year you might need to hold on to that Boston game.  Otherwise feel free to let it go and party like crazy because your team just kicked butt through yet another long Eastern swing.

 

Check the Jersey Contest scores and enter Tuesday’s game here.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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