Nice game! What else is there to say?
The Timberwolves came out with energy as expected. They gave everybody a preview of what better teams are going to try to do to the three-guard lineup, posting Ryan Gomes against Brandon Roy and running their offense through him. They also ran hard, rebounded hard, and shared the ball. But one of the blessings about playing young teams, as the Blazers have taught us in reverse over the years, is that they have trouble sustaining their otherwise-solid game plans. A little lineup changing, a little pressure, a little more rebounding, a little better care by the Blazers on offense and the ‘Wolves were back to their familiar selves. After falling behind 23-18 in the first quarter the Blazers pasted 32 on Minnesota in the second and 35 in the third. You knew they wouldn't be able to keep up with that kind of scoring but they overachieved in the not-keeping-up department, scoring only 19 in each stanza. By then it was a blowout and the fourth didn't matter, even for pride.
Much of the credit for the steamrolling goes to Greg Oden who is slowly coming to the realization that nobody without a huge, athletic, active center can stop him. He looked like the high schooler playing with 6th graders out there on the boards. He also dunked multiple times again, sometimes off of alley-oops and sometimes after great spins from well-established positions. The major caveat is that Minnesota doesn't have a strong defensive middle, but it wasn't too long ago that Greg looked tentative against any kind of opposition. Oden smashed his way to a double-double in the first half which made the ‘Wolves pay extra attention to him which opened up the offense for Portland's shooters. With the synergy going and the whole offense flowing Minny was grass and the Blazers were mowing. We saw great passing, good shooting, energetic defense, and a loose, relaxed team cruising to a win.
Portland shot over 55% for the game. At first they couldn't buy a three-pointer with a coupon and a platinum card but once Minnesota started chasing their own tails on defense the long shots came free and easy, leaving the Blazers at 40% for the game. The refs called almost no fouls so neither team prospered from the line. Portland only got 6 offensive rebounds but they held Minnesota to 3, further compounding their scoring difficulty. The Blazers also denied the ‘Wolves any inside looks. Much of the credit there goes to Joel Przybilla who swatted away shots like they were paper wads coming at a trash can. Portland fielded too much talent and depth at every position and they were better able to utilize it. And that was that.
No Blazer played more than 27 minutes tonight which is nice for a road trip game.
All hail Greg Oden. 18 points, 11 rebounds, and a lot of in-your-face play was what most Blazer fans had in mind when he was drafted. We're seeing the beginnings of him fulfilling that promise. For the first time ever (probably) he had 0 fouls and 0 turnovers, though part of that came from playing Zach Randolph-like defense on Al Jefferson. Good though! He needs to realize that he can't stop every shot, especially from a smaller and offensively potent player. Get your hands up, make him shoot it over you, but let him shoot every once in a while. They score a little but you stay in the game a lot. And when you stay in the game...smashy smashy!
Brandon Roy scored 14 on 7-11 shooting. He had 5 assists as well. It wasn't Brandon's best defensive effort early or late. But early he was outsized and late the game was all but decided. He kept his friends and neighbors in the flow of the game offensively, only taking over at the outset of the third period to make sure the Blazers got off on the right foot. At some point his teammates are going to have to keep Brandon involved as much as he tries to keep them involved. It's all well and good to have balanced scoring but that's not likely to do against the great teams. I hope somebody is reminding him that it's OK for him to take a bunch of shots.
LaMarcus Aldridge was fairly quiet until a back-breaking stretch at the end of the third when he pretty much destroyed the ‘Wolves all by himself. He did the things you want though: shot smart, ran the floor, put in effort. 5-9 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists.
Andre Miller dished ten dimes against the (lack of) defense and added 9 points on 4-7 shooting. His jumper is still uglier than the love child of Ernest Borgnine and Ethyl Merman, but so be it. The offense has been working better since he's helmed it.
Steve Blake had an off night despite a couple of beautiful assists. He couldn't hit a three, shot 2-7, and finished with 5 points. It didn't matter too much.
As mentioned above, tonight the part of the angry old man with the off-limits lawn was played by Joel Przybilla while the ‘Wolves played the kids with the errant Frisbee. All he was missing was a cane to shake as he yelled, "Get outta here you no-good kids!" 4 blocks, 11 rebounds, just go away and leave him alone.
Travis Outlaw went up and down offensively and finished with 9 points but he was part of the crew that ended the size advantage that Minnesota was trying to exploit early. Decent defense for Trav.
Apart from a couple steals Martell Webster struggled early but came on strong late to amass 16 points.
Perhaps the ‘Wolves will get credit for waking up Rudy Fernandez. The first half saw him hesitant on offense and over-pursuing on defense. But then he started hitting some shots and he fell into the Rudy Groove. He ended up 5-7 for 15 points. He had 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 personal fouls but he missed the factorial line by committing 4 turnovers instead of 1. Mathematicians everywhere cringed.
Jerryd Bayless played 12 solid minutes, ran, penetrated, recorded a couple assists, scored 7 on 3-6 shooting, and remained the only Blazer guard to consistently stay in front of his man on defense.
Final Thoughts and Links
Play time is over. The tough part of this trip commences Friday in New Orleans. I don't think we'll see the same Blazer team. But that's not the goal, really. We want to see a more cohesive Blazer team than we saw last week. In that way these last three games have been valuable (hopefully) regardless of the quality of opponent.
Check out the reaction at CanisHoopus.
You can see your Jersey Contest scores for the month and for the night right here.
Enter the form for Friday's game over here.