Long Story Short: Chris Bosh did his best impersonation of the finale of the Vancouver 2010 opening ceremonies by failing to function according to schedule and the Blazers capitalized on his absence, holding the high-scoring Raptors under 100 points for the first time in 20 games and getting big-time contributions from a bunch of sources to pull away for a 101-87 victory. Nate McMillan even lit an Olympics victory torch by sending in Patty Mills to close out the comfortable double-digit victory.
Portland followed the blueprint for winning on the second-half of a road back-to-back. They came out from the opening tip with purpose on both ends of the court: move the ball on offense and play active team defense. The Raptors neglect defense like Americans neglect speedskating and the Blazers wasted no time in picking up on that fact. 8 different Blazers scored in the first quarter alone with much of the activity coming off the dribble and at the rim. As Rudy Fernandez closed the quarter with a sweet drive-and-dish to Jerryd Bayless and then a three pointer of his own with less than 2 seconds in the period to give the Blazers a 32-24 lead, the game shifted almost immediately from "it would be nice to win this" to "for the love of Dave, please don't throw away another lead."
Spain and Turkey squared off in the second quarter for a nice little round of ... (OK, I admit it, I haven't watched enough of the Olympics to fill three consecutive paragraphs with references to Vancouver, so I'll stop here. I will literally just give up mid-sentence) ... basketball. Rudy continued in his new role as the Marca Marksman (or maybe the Spanish Harlem Globetrotter), scoring 6 of the Blazers 15 points in the period including two nifty layups that helped push the Blazers lead all the way to 17. In response, Turkoglu the Terrible had 8 points in the quarter, keying a mini Raptors rally that saw the home team close to within six at halftime.
With LaMarcus Aldridge somewhat occupied comparing statistics, body measurements and contract extension details with Andrea Bargnani, Andre Miller extended Portland's lead again (for good this time) with 3 baskets of his own and an assist for a Nicolas Batum 3 to open the second half. Jarrett Jack briefly rose to the occasion -- torching the net with a sweet three pointer and doing some damage off the dribble -- but it became clear over the course of the third quarter that the Raptors wouldn't be able to match their opponent basket-for-basket. Much like the first quarter, the last six minutes of the third were a team effort for the Blazers: Roy okie-doked for a pull-up and Bayless and Rudy combined for 7 points in the last 2 minutes.
Down 10 entering the fourth quarter and without a consistent third scorer to complement Turkoglu and Bargnani, the Raptors looked resigned to their fate. Andre Miller and Brandon Roy simultaneously sensed that weakness -- and the lack of defensive intensity -- as they pounded away at the paint until the Raptors finally broke. Miller started to get pretty freaky on the ball, mercilessly backing down his man and scoring first on a turnaround and then again going to the basket. Roy briefly interrupted the Dre Show with the ultimate showstopper: a full lefty crush on Andrea Bargnani that made Blazersedge Salary Cap Guru Storyteller so excited that he randomly started deleting spreadsheets in glee (I was sitting right next to him. It was crazy). From there, it was cruise control to a solid double-digit victory, the Blazers' 11th in 14 tries on the second half of a back-to-back.
Brandon Roy looked better than he has since... I'm addicted to twitter so I no longer have a long term memory... well, since I can remember. His numbers -- 20, 5 and 5 in 37 minutes -- closely approximate his season averages. He did get blocked 3 times at the rim and while his top-side athleticism seems to be coming back, it's not completely there play-to-play. He has been regularly catching breathers on defense and tonight was no exception but the Raptors weren't able to really exploit that advantage. Miller helped take some of the late-game load off of Roy tonight too. It was a good balance: not too much Brandon, not too little Brandon. He did flash a nasty grimace while shooting a late-game free throw. Let's just pretend that didn't happen.
LaMarcus Aldridge was quiet tonight but he picked a good night to lay an egg with everyone else clicking so well. 9 points on 4-12 shooting and just 2 boards against no Bosh? Not ideal. I did like his night defensively, though, as he had a fierce block from behind on a driving lay-up attempt and also handled the perimeter pick-and-rolls solidly. Perhaps his shooting stroke didn't clear customs?
Andre Miller played like he knew he was the best point guard on the floor and he didn't have to worry about looking over his shoulder anymore. Tonight was cool, calm and collected Dre: 18: 10, 7 and 3 steals and a solid control over the game's pace. His early game drive right past Turkoglu for the and one was a tone-setter. "That elbow was for your wife. Kevin Pritchard says hello. Jay Jensen says you can have your Turkish CD back."
Nicolas Batum saw a good chunk of his minutes go to Rudy Fernandez tonight but he knocked down his shots and played with his usual cool rhythm. As mentioned on the Wingcast this week, one benefit of starting Batum is that you don't need to give him 25 minutes for him to make an impact. He's ready to go from play 1. Indeed, he scored the Blazers opening basket tonight on a nice pass from Juwan Howard.
Speaking of Howard, the starting unit looked kind of great with him back in there in Marcus Camby's absence. Funny how that works out. From start to finish, a "we're all having a good time here" game from Howard, who threw down a phenomenal one-handed dunk on a run out. His shooting stroke got going too. It's funny how he's not nearly the defensive liability when playing against a team that doesn't have a true interior threat at the 5 spot and is missing its starting 4.
Rudy Fernandez: shake, shake, shake what your mother gave you. 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting including 3 of 5 from distance. He was pulling the trigger and hitting the target. He was moving the ball well and even was active on the glass. Nate McMillan rewarded him for all of those things tonight. The challenge, as always, is to do it again (and again and again).
McMillan has talked for awhile about how Jerryd Bayless and Rudy are a potential combination coming off the bench. He believes the two should be able to set each other up offensively and handle most back-up guard rotations defensively. To be honest, we haven't seen a ton of success with the Bayless/Rudy combo until tonight, when the two combined for 28 points off the bench and changed the tempo of the game on both runs through the rotation.
Dante Cunningham had a solid DC night: 7 points, 4 boards, 1 block, 1 steal. I just wish there were 21 minutes for him every night.
Martell Webster: Zero points. 8 minutes. I can barely remember a second that he stepped on the court. What a league this is. Anyone know the Seattle version of Eurosport?
Patty Mills and Jeff Pendergraph played 51 seconds each. They're both on the team so they'll each get gold medals.
Tonight felt like a game from last season, one of those "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" games with 5 guys in double figures, 2 more with 9 points and another with 7. The ball was moving (25 team assists) and the game looked easy. Some of that is Toronto without Bosh but a good chunk of that was a solid mental game from start to finish. One of the more aesthetically pleasing victories in awhile.
Boxscore and NBA.com recap from Holly MacKenzie.
For north of the border musings, check out Raptors HQ.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter