During that 3rd quarter, I was thinking to myself: "Oh no, here goes Nate about to lose us this game." But as soon as I thought that, he started making great adjustments to counter New Jersey's 2nd half defensive adjustments. Credit NJ for playing hard and trying to attack Portland at the rim and in the paint.
New Jersey's basic defensive strategy tonight was to set up a wall whenever Roy put the ball on the floor. They did a great job of crowding him and triple teaming him. During the first half, Roy was able to use this against NJ and find Webster for 2 corner 3s. However, in the 2nd half I'm guessing that NJ's coaching staff emphasized pressing wider to deny the corner 3s. The Blazers were having a tougher time during the first 6 minutes of the 3rd quarter getting looks that they wanted because NJ was closing out fast whenever Blake or Webster got the ball out on the 3pt line. It seemed like the Blazers were totally out of rhythm. Plus Sean Williams is quite the Aldridge neutralizer. More on Aldridge later.
I was very surprised that Portland's coaching staff reacted quickly, around the 6-minute mark, to counter NJ's defensive adjustments. They brought in Miller for Webster to switch up the look. Whereas Webster is a spacer, Miller is someone that can attack the middle directly via penetration or via lob passes. And since the Jersey defenders were leaning towards closing out the corner 3s, Miller was able to use that extra space effectively while Roy played decoy. This was a great adjustment that one or two years ago I think Nate would not have recognized.
Other thoughts on the game:
The best strategy for Blake-Aldridge pick and roll on the wing: TRAP BLAKE. Blake just does not have the ability to make good passes off the dribble. I would also blame LA a little bit for not sliding to better spots for Blake to pass him to. It seems like LA is comfortable right around 17 to 19 feet, but not around 13 to 15 or 20 to 22.
Andre Miller had a couple steals to help break the game open. He also did a terrific job of breaking down NJ's disciplined defense.
I don't care if he shot 4-13, Aldridge had a great game. If you notice all the little things LA had to do tonight you have to give him credit for giving serious effort on a night when things weren't going all that well for him. In past years I would see LA get frustrated and let himself get out of sync, but tonight I saw him fighting hard to do the little things that Nate asked of him. There were times when he had to guard Brook because Oden was in foul trouble. I'm not trying to say that Aldridge did a good defensive job, but he fought hard and stayed physical against the big front line of Boone and Lopez. At some point later in the 3rd quarter I think Aldridge realized that he would have trouble against a freakishly athletic Sean Williams and started to look for easier baskets. I wished they ran the play where Roy has the ball up top, Blake and Aldridge are in the corner where usually Aldridge comes up top to set the screen while Blake waits in the corner, but instead, to change things up, Blake sets a screen for an Aldridge corner 3 which usually confuses the opposing defense. I've seen them run that play at the end of quarters, but sometimes when Aldridge is having trouble against a defender like Williams it would be nice to try and stretch the defense more.
It's too early to say but Dante might have more value for Portland than Outlaw does. Outlaw can create his own shot, while Cunningham is more of a mid-range catch and shoot type of guy. But since Cunningham dwell's in the mid-range he's better positioned for offensive rebounds while Travis is usually drifting right around the 3pt line. Cunningham is CERTAINLY a more attentive defender than Outlaw already.
Nobody could stop Brook Lopez. He is a very very wide body. Pryzbilla couldn't do anything. Aldridge tried his best. Oden wasn't really stopping him, just making him work a little harder. The thing that worked best against Brook Lopez was aggressively double teaming. Lopez doesn't seem to be much of an accomplished post passer yet and it seems like we had the most success crowding him when he got the ball.
Oden is Oden. Roy is Roy and Rudy is apparently the next Reggie Miller. Same height, same weight, same magic haha.
Great coaching job because I feel like we could have easily ground ourselves to a loss. I would not put anything on Roy for his lack of numbers because I think NJ did a great job forcing him out of the game. There were 2 or 3 instances where Roy posted up for a sweet fadeaway around 12 to 15 feet from the hoop. I thought those were two of his better looks during the game.