This was one of those games I loved more for what it said about the team than for the style of play or execution. The Blazers came out of the gate with poor form again. During the first quarter we turned the ball over like we were allergic to it, allowing the normally-poor-shooting Bulls to pad their score off of run-outs. On the offensive end it was all perimeter play with nary an effective post move to be seen. At one point the Chicago broadcast tabbed us down 18-4 in points in the paint. That's not how you play the Bulls. The one redeeming aspect was that we did fight hard for rebounds and dribble penetration, drawing enormous numbers of foul shots which kept the scoring close. Still, Chicago's backcourt penetration combined with some Drew Gooden jumpers kept them solidly ahead.
The rest of the game can pretty much be summed up in one sentence: The Blazers stopped turning it over and immediately started winning. Once the Bulls' charity parade of easy buckets ended their shooting came back to earth. At that point the Blazers' rebounding percentage started to tell. Plus we remembered that we have a 7-foot tall behemoth in the paint on offense while all they had was a comparatively skinny 6'10" guy with a 7-foot beard. (Seriously, though, that thing could be an effective aid for Gooden on post defense. "No way, coach! I ain't backin' into the beard! Who knows where that thing has been?") We started pounding it in to Oden. I know I said after the Warriors game that inside play for the Blazers doesn't, and shouldn't, necessarily equate to just dumping it off to big men but against the Bulls how can you resist? Greg backed down around, over, and through everyone who got in his way. He either got up a good shot or drew the foul. Chicago's defense goes on overload from the pressure. Other players are left open or single-covered. Bam! Portland goes up.
The second half featured more of the same, with the addition of some nifty ball movement from the Blazers. The only hitch in the giddy-up was that both Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge were off. Chicago kept threatening mini-runs because the absence of our two big scorers in the points column let them hang around. Then all of a sudden... It's a bird! It's a plane! Wait...if it's a plane it's a pretty small one. Looks like one of those Ultralight things. Or maybe it's a really big bird. Condor? OH MY GOD IT'S SUPERTROUT!!! Where have you been? We've missed you!
So here comes Travis Outlaw... BAM! BANG! WHAPPA-WHAPPA-WHAPPA! Whooo-deee-yooooop...SLAM! SWISH! BAMBOOZLE! Tweet! YA FOULED ME! MY NAME AIN'T "CHARLES"! SLAMMMM!!! IT AIN'T "BO" EITHER! SPLAT! AND ONE! Oooops! Phone's ringin'! Yeah, what? THREE! Oh, sure I got time to take a survey. LEFT HAND! YA DIDN'T SEE THAT COMIN'! Usually bleach. Color-safe kind though. I made that mistake once. THREE FROM THE OTHER SIDE! Naw, I don't clip coupons much. I don't get time to read the paper. BLOCKED SHOT! DON'T BE BRINGIN' THAT IN HERE! What? Oh, no, this isn't a bad time. What else you need? BLOCKED YOU AGAIN! I TOLD YOU, DON'T BE BRINGIN' IT IN HERE! Yeah, your voice sounds cute too. Where you at? SLAAAAAAAMMMM! THEN A THREE! Carolina, huh? We're comin' through there this weekend. Oh wait...gotta go. I've got to take a bunch of free throws and coach will be mad if I miss them because I'm on the phone. NOW GIVE ME THAT BALL AND PREPARE MY POST-GAME VICTORY JACCUZZI!
As it turned out Chicago couldn't keep anybody out of the lane after that. It was layups, free throws, or threes off of the pass the whole way after that. And that was pretty much the end of the story.
There were two incredibly pleasing aspects to this win. First we overcame the temptation to play our opponent's style, and in some ways down to their level, all night. Though many teams could have come back from that first quarter start most would have gone up and down throughout the game, giving the Bulls a chance. When the Blazers turned the faucet off it was pretty much off and Chicago didn't have much of a chance after that. Second all of this happened without Roy or Aldridge ever really getting on track. You can count the number of games we've won without either of them coming through on one finger.
It still amazes me how little young-team-itis the Blazers display, all things considered. Tonight's win was another example of that.
We already gave the game ball to Travis, but in case you want specifics he had 33 points on 9-14 shooting, 4-5 from three-point range, and 11-13 from the free throw line. He added 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Aside from committing several flagrantly bad turnovers early, Greg Oden had one of his best games of the season. He managed to play in the post without collecting offensive fouls or traveling calls. He looked like he knew there was nobody in the other uniform to stop him. He converted 7 of his 9 free throws and 5 of 7 shots on his way to 17 points and 13 rebounds. He had trouble getting out to cover Drew Gooden's deep jumpers but those shots didn't hurt us any, so no harm.
Steve Blake only got credited for 1 turnover but I swear he had more than that. He looked a little shaky at first out there. He eventually got into the swing and finished with 16 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals.
B-Roy shot 3-13 for 11 points, adding 8 rebounds and 3 assists but also 3 turnovers. He just looked out of synch out there. He spent a fair amount of time jawing at the refs early on too, which is not like him.
Lamarcus seldom got into the paint, ceding the area to Oden on offense. He played pretty good defense though and grabbed 6 rebounds. His stat of the night was his 4 assists. He finished with 8 points.
Nicolas Batum got the oh-so-jolly task of guarding those perimeter players for the Bulls. He picked up 4 fouls in 14 minutes and didn't look like a happy camper.
Rudy Fernandez had an up and down game. He followed some ineffective defense early with some serious hustle later. He missed 4 of his 5 three pointers but attacked the rim on the break and finished despite getting knocked clean out of the sky by Andres Nocioni. He had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 8 points.
Joel Przybilla had 5 fouls in 9 minutes. After the game he was heard to exclaim, "OK Greg, we're switching underwear back!"
Sergio Rodriguez just didn't click out there tonight. He only got one stretch of playing time, straddling the first and second quarters. His first attempt came off of a nice drive and looked promising. It was all downhill from there. At the end of the shift he spent the entire clock dribbling, forcing Brandon to come and bail him out with an awful jumper that missed. That was it. He never came back.
Jerryd Bayless got 9 minutes and started driving almost immediately. He kept attacking and ended up hitting 3 of 4 for 7 points in those 9 minutes. After the first one went in, though, it's like the juice started flowing through his vein and he hulked up and didn't see anyone else on the floor. Still it was a nice outing.
Kirk Hinrich looked good out there for a guy coming back from injury. You can tell he's got some defensive chops. Derrick Rose looked pretty nice too.
Wallow in the Bulls' pasture over at BlogaBull.
Check out the Jersey Contest results for this game and enter the next one here.