The Blazers won this game just like they were supposed to. Milwaukee came into the contest short of frontcourt players and Portland got plenty of attempts up through their big men. This is the first game I can remember where both Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge took as many shots as Brandon Roy. The Bucks couldn't do anything to handle Oden inside and really their power forwards couldn't harass Aldridge on the perimeter either. Between those two the Blazers picked up 17 foul shots, ending up with a 34-18 free throw attempt advantage. This from a pair that averages 7 total free throws per game.
Portland also dominated the glass. Actually they more than dominated, earning an incredible 58-30 advantage on a night when the disparity between shots missed was only 3. Oden was a huge factor here too, but the Blazers also got into their Milwaukee counterparts across the board. 6 out of the 9 Blazers who played tonight had 6 or more rebounds and none of those 6 was Joel Przybilla. Had the Blazers achieved those kinds of team-wide rebounding results every game they would be 4-5 games farther ahead in the standings. Milwaukee just got outworked tonight and didn't seem inclined to do much about it.
Early on turnovers were a problem for the Blazers...unsurprising as this is a Bucks specialty. But Portland really corralled themselves in the second half and ended up executing efficiently and with relatively few costly mistakes. This was about the only prayer the Bucks had of getting back through the back door. The screen was locked though.
The point guard play was less spectacular tonight but the team didn't necessarily depend on a given individual to share the ball or set the offense. We saw a lot of guys looking for each other. Because of the multi-pronged offensive threat Milwaukee couldn't keep their rotations straight which left a lot of guys open after the initial attack. Every non-center who played had at least 1 assist. Lamarcus Aldridge had 5 and each of the starting guards 7.
While the Milwaukee starting forwards pounded us in return (Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva each had 23) Michael Redd had an uncharacteristically off night despite being left open several times. The Olympian finished 6-14 but only 1-5 from three-point range for 13 points. The rest of the Bucks only scored 26 points combined.
In short, this was a night when Milwaukee was stretched too thin in their roster, in their coverage, and in their ability to produce points. Despite them giving it a decent try Portland just overwhelmed them and walked away happy.
Brandon Roy never got it rolling offensively tonight but the big man production meant he didn't really need to. Still he looks like a shadow of the Brandon we're used to seeing and I wouldn't be horribly surprised to hear a report that he's dealing with some kind of nagging injury. He shot 4-13, joined the assist and rebound party with 7 and 6 respectively, and scored 9. Considering Redd's 13 it just wasn't the night for star off-guards apparently. Or maybe they both defended each other extremely well. (It just wasn't the night for star off-guards.)
Lamarcus Aldridge played as controlled of a game as I've seen him play in a while. He never really took a bad shot, he drew 6 free throws to go along with his 13 attempts, he shot over 61% from the floor and was perfect from the line, plus he notched 9 rebounds and 5 assists. (I'm telling you, everybody filled up the stat line like they were Brandon Roy tonight.) Lamarcus is one of those guys who plays very well when he's not under pressure. You'd love to see him transfer some of this calm competence to games when the heat is on him and he needs to perform.
Speaking of those guys...Greg Oden had an eye-popping statistical game. 9-14 shooting, 6-11 from the foul line, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, only 2 personal fouls, and a game-high 24 points. The formula wasn't that difficult. He just hulked over everyone who came against him. He either posted or cut down into the lane and made himself available and once he caught the ball nobody could stop him. His best play of the night was a one-handed grab of a difficult pass in traffic with about 5:00 left in the third quarter. He snagged the ball out of the air with a huge mitt and wheeled for the hook shot finish. Rewind to that play if you want to see why he's going to be really special. However also keep in mind that this game was against no serious opposition, either defending him or for him to defend. He could afford to relax and when he relaxes he's lighter on his feet, more comfortable, and his production goes through the roof. We need to see these games more consistently. We also need to see them against quality big men. Greg is capable of doing that and will in time. But his time isn't here yet until he can bring it every night...not necessarily 24 and 15, but a high energy, effective game like he had tonight.
One of the huge things about Oden's game tonight was the lack of fouls. Frankly he was in position to commit a few. He got out on the perimeter plenty of times on defense and you know nothing good comes of that. But it looked like he made a conscious effort to give up a bucket or two when he was beat instead of trying for the block and hacking the guy. He got his 2 blocks anyway. The Bucks did score a few points but Greg got those points back with interest. You'll seldom hear me encouraging any player to be selfish on the court but in Greg's case I'll make an exception for now. He needs to stay home on defense, realize that he's not doing any good trying to pick up shooting guards 20 feet from the basket, and when he's stuck against a smaller guy driving he just needs to let it go even if the result is two points. In fact I wouldn't mind him calling out the smaller defenders a little more, making a point that this is YOUR man and you just let him loose. Eventually Greg will be a stopper in that situation but right now it's killing his game trying to protect theirs. The flip side is that when he does go out to help with screens and such he has to get there quicker and defend more actively before the dribbler is past the play. But as long as he's making that effort I have no problem with him refusing to help out so much until his game is more established. He's a rookie. He's important to this team. The smaller men and coaches need to protect him a little better for now.
Nicolas Batum deserves mention as another guy who gave a lot of effort on the court. He kind of set the tone early by flying around on defense and rebounding. He ended the game with 8 boards and 2 steals in 22 minutes. I've said this before, but I really think the Blazers are going to have to retool their offense a little in the off-season, getting the small forwards more opportunity to put the ball on the floor. Not that Batum deserves a place in the offense equal to the Big Three, but he can be more of a threat than he's showing by standing in the corner spotting up for three. Eventually we're going to value his energy and defense so we need to accentuate his driving ability a little more to make his time on the floor more productive.
Travis Outlaw took full advantage of the Bucks' frazzled defense, making 5 of 10 field goals and exploiting their rotations to the tune of 7-9 from the free throw line. He also contributed to the rebounding with 8. (The more of these rebounding stats I type the more it becomes clear that we just destroyed the Bucks at every position.) His 18 points wasn't only a game high for bench players, it was more than the Bucks' bench scored combined. He wasn't terribly effective in stopping his counterparts.
Rudy Fernandez showed off some trick shooting tonight, proving that his best moves off of the dribble are ones that end with him leaning at no less than a 30-degree angle. His shot was on and he hit 6-9, though only 1-4 from the three-point line. It was nice to see him get an opportunity to explore more options than the three and actually convert.
Sergio Rodriguez did a good job managing the offense. This was one of those games where the ball spent a lot of time in other people's hands but Sergio put it there often enough with 7 assists. He also had 7 rebounds in the 34 minutes he played. As Mike Barrett mentioned about 700 times, we still need Blake back. The containment and offensive threat just aren't the same.
Jerryd Bayless played another pretty well-rounded game, choosing his spots to attack and even getting a sweet pass to the corner off of a drive for a three. The highlight of his game was the 6 free throws he drew. He hit a three too. As Mike Barrett mentioned about 700 times, we still need Blake back. The offensive set-ups just aren't the same.
Joel Przybilla got 13 minutes on Oden's Big Night and had trouble catching and finishing the ball like pre-2008-09 Joel. He grabbed 2 rebounds and blocked a shot. It wasn't a huge night for interior threats so he didn't get to affect the game as much as usual.
This game felt like a warm-up for Wednesday. Unfortunately the Cavaliers got thumped by the L*kers tonight so they'll be loaded for bear. If we can keep this kind of team effort plus get Roy back on track it should be an interesting contest. So far so good for this (mostly) homestand.
Check out the Milwaukee impressions at BrewHoop.
Check out the scores from tonight's game (including one spectacular one) and enter Wednesday's form here.