The Portland Trail Blazers clocked another sub-par team at home on Tuesday night, downing the Detroit Pistons 100-78 in the Rose Garden, thanks to a monster night from LaMarcus Aldridge against an undersized opposing front line.
This will be an abbreviated report because, for the second home game in a row, Brandon Roy stole the headlines with news/non-news about his health and playing time. Roy played just 21 minutes tonight: partially because of tweaks to the substitution patterns, partially because of the strong play of Rudy Fernandez in his return and partially because of the blowout nature of the victory.
Roy finished with a modest 11 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assist line, but Fernandez stepped up in his place, hitting 3 three-pointers and nabbing two steals, to finish with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 26 quality minutes. Fernandez was a key part of a fun-to-watch second unit that got solid contributions from Dante Cunningham and Armon Johnson as well. Cunningham was particularly effective in transition, running the floor effortlessly, filling lanes smartly and throwing down a superb dunk on the run that had a much higher degree of difficulty than he made it look. Johnson continues to make some head-scratching turnovers, and forced some shots when the game was out of reach, but otherwise set up his teammates very effectively and he harassed Will Bynum to no end.
The outcome of tonight's game was really decided before the second unit got its licks in, however, because LaMarcus Aldridge made Detroit pay early and often for going with an undersized starting lineup that featured promising sophomore Austin Daye in the post on defense. Daye, a skinny, natural born 3, has a beautiful shooting stroke and had flashes of really intelligent basketball. But he had no chance against the bigger, longer, stronger Aldridge, who finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. The 17 boards are his most since he had 18 in a win over Oklahoma City on April 3rd, 2009.
The combination of Aldridge's post dominance, a nice and efficient chip-in effort from Nicolas Batum (17 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block) and the bench playing well together provided a formula for team success should Roy's minutes continue to be limited or if he should succumb to injury.
While Portland cannot hang against elite combination over the long haul without a major contribution from Roy, the Blazers continue to dispatch teams that lack depth or size thanks to their overall talent level and length at the rim. In the NBA, taking care of business against bad teams is a huge percentage of the overall battle to reach the playoffs, which is the first immediate goal in front of this team. The Blazers continued to do that tonight. Concern about Roy rightfully continues to increase by the day, but in his absence this Blazers team, like last year's, is stacking wins.
That probably feels like small comfort given the fear of the unknown, but it's something.
Random Game Notes
- Brother Wendell Maxey was back in the building tonight. Great to see him. Here's Beyond The Beat's game take by Nick Poust. Always a must read.
- Tonight I got my first look at the BlazerMania book that's linked up on our left-hand sidebar and, while Dave and I will be posting longer reviews in the near future, let me give you my two-word review: Buy it.
- When it comes to coffee-table books, and I love coffee-table books, the question is always: Does it create immediate excitement? This one does in a big way. The pictures are amazing. There are reprinted box scores from big games, lineup cards, you name it. Just a bunch of authentic touches that get the Amateur Blazer Historian blood pumping. If you're under 30, this book is all about making up for memories you didn't experience first hand. If you're over 30, it's about appreciating the good old days.
- Disclosure: I am obligated by federal law to tell you that I received a free review copy of the book.
- The book's author, Wayne Thompson, was honored at center court by Blazers President Larry Miller. Thompson is the original beat writer for the Blazers, arguably the world's No. 1 Rudy Fernandez fan, and a man who has seen thousands of Blazers games first hand with 10,000s of stories to go along with logging all that game watching. Thompson told me a few weeks ago he wrote 50,000 words for this book. Incredible. Every time I talk to him I learn something.
- Here's a great find by Casey Jarman of the Willamette Week: Maurice Lucas is in NBA 2K11.
- A fan made four consecutive shots during one of the timeout entertainment segments, earning himself a few hundred dollars in the process. Larry Miller is in his office right now working up a fully guaranteed, front-loaded mid-level contract offer for next summer as we speak.
- Patty Mills is slowly driving me insane with his play in limited minutes.
- Look for a longer piece about the Pistons over at CBS tomorrow. Update: here's the link.
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
What did you like most about that win?
I liked the energy. I like, defensively we did some good things to start the game. Offensively, attacking and 27 fast break points is great. That shows that we are aggressive going to the basket. We had, what, 26 assists, we're moving the ball, it didn't get stagnant out there tonight. The second unit was really good. Attacking on the offensive end of the floor.
Brandon playing less minutes, you'll need other guys to step up.
They can. Rudy can do this. We can cut into these guys' minutes. We just have to trust them and give them an opportunity. Rudy was good tonight, stepping in and shooting the ball, making plays. Wesley, the ball went down for him and rolled out a couple of times. The bench has gotta come through. This is where we're at. They can do it. They can do it.
Anything particular going on with Brandon Roy tonight?
Well, the game, we felt like we had the game under control. So we didn't bring him back the second half. Rudy was playing good basketball. Just decided to keep him on the bench for the remainder of the game. So, no, he could have come back.
Lead slipped back to 8 at one point. Did you ever feel threatened?
We had a 13 point lead in the first half. Situations like that I think we start to get loose with the ball, normally it's on the offensive end of the floor, we start to turn the ball over, we start to play the scoreboard. Armon has a wide open lay-up. Lay the ball in. Just play the game, don't mess with the game. Play the game. Because if you don't, if you start messing with the game and get loose, it can come back and it can haunt you. We've done that a few times this season. When we have a team down that is when you want to tighten up even more, and execute even sharper, in what you do defensively, give them nothing easy, and just take them out.
I thought that's what we need from him. 17 boards tonight. Offensively, establishing that low post for us. But I love his aggressiveness on the board.
Does Rudy know about Brandon Roy seeing less minute and did that make him play with an extra pep in his step?
I think everybody knows, it's out there. He played well. He got the opportunity tonight and I thought he took advantage of that, which is what you want to see. Now, with that game, we build towards the next game. He feels good about himself, the team will feel good about that rotation and we just build off of this. He did a really nice job tonight.
Nicolas Batum as a third scoring option
The thing is to run our offense and to score off of our offensive sets. There are opportunities for all of our guys to score if we play together and we execute, and make our reads. I thought tonight we did that, 26 assists, showed that we were sharing the ball tonight.
Are you concerned about Brandon asking for less minutes and how do you respond?
I think what I'm doing is adjusting. We've always tried to manage our players, especially guys coming off of injuries or surgeries. Brandon is coming off of a surgery from last season. What we want to try to do is manage his minutes. That is a daily deal that we do. Concerned? He can play. We just want to see if we can not play him 38, 39, 40, minutes, try and get his minutes around 35. Have some of our other guys step in and play.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter