Game 69 Recap: Blazers 109, Raptors 98

Long Story Short:  The Blazers survived bad defense early and bad rebounding late to stave off the Raptors with a nice finish to the game.  Toronto's defense stopped some of the Blazers some of the time but all of the Blazers none of the time.

The Game

This game started ferociously on the scoring front.  LaMarcus Aldridge was a whirlwind in the first quarter, grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring, and cleaning the glass on the other end too.  It was like he wanted to stick it in the face of everybody who said they'd do an Aldridge-for-Bosh trade.  (I would, so you got me LaMarcus.  Well done.)  The Blazers also made pretty interior passes against the timid Raptors defense, including a couple of nice big-to-big passes between Aldridge and Marcus Camby the likes of which haven't been seen since LMA and Greg Oden stepped on the same Summer League court sixteen injuries ago.  (For any non-Blazer fans checking in, that's how we mark time now.  It's kind of like using a sundial, except it involves more crackling and MRI's.)  On the other end, unfortunately, Portland's defense was as thin as a Survivor chick's booty.  And twice as ugly.  Toronto got shot after shot at the rim off of penetration.  Chris   They scored 30, Portland scored 32.

Perhaps jealous of Aldridge's performance, Chris Bosh came to play in the second period.  His offense consisted of jumpers and free throws as the Blazers tried to shut down the lane a little more.  But he still managed 7 in the period.  Jose Calderon, getting plenty of time tonight in Jarrett Jack's former stomping grounds, also managed 7.  Sadly no other Raptor hit more than one shot in the quarter.  Meanwhile Rudy Fernandez put on a clinic, teaching anyone who was watching how to pick apart a non-defending defense.  First he hit Martell Webster with a behind-the-back for a pretty three.  Then he alley-ooped it to LMA.  After another assist for an Aldridge jumper Rudy hit a three of his own.  Then he hit another trey for good measure.  He was in on every point the Blazers scored prior to the 4:40 mark in what turned out to be the best run of his Portland career.  When the Blazers hits threes the floor spreads and the offense becomes doubly dangerous.  They cruised to a 28-19 quarter, up 11 at the half.

Toronto came out a little meaner in the third.  Their big advance came on the offensive glass as the Blazers, particularly the second unit, lost rebounds left and right.  Here's a tip for you, kids:  Just because Marcus Camby looks cool tipping out rebounds doesn't mean everybody should do it.  I mean, if he lofted shots like an ancient siege machine would you do it too?  Oh wait.  Nevermind.  Portland's defense resumed its first-quarter holey-ness as Calderon picked it apart with repeated passes to a charging Demar DeRozan.  Toronto got 6 shots within 1 inch of the rim in the period.  Add in a few free throws and a couple Turkoglu threes and you have a 29-25 Toronto advantage and a 7-point Blazer lead heading into the final stanza.

That's when Portland brought out its secret weapon.  Just when the Raptors thought they had some momentum going and started charging towards the come-from-behind victory Nicolas Batum snuck up from behind and whacked them upside the head.  He had 3 three-point plays in the period, one conventional and two via the bomb, plus 2 more free throws and a mid-range jumper for 13 total.  Toronto did manage to close within 2 with 6:00 remaining but then Brandon Roy stepped in with 6 quick points of his own.  Chris Bosh tried to make the save at the last minute but Marcus Camby had a couple of nice stops against him and the Raptors couldn't muster a serious threat.  Blazers win by 11, holding Toronto under 100 for the second time this season.

The Raptors shot 55% in this game, so you know Portland wasn't exactly manning up against them.  But Portland was saved by a 12-5 advantage in three-pointers made, a 21-15 advantage in free throws made, a huge 19-9 advantage on the offensive glass, and keeping everything else close to even.   All of the extra points belonged to the Blazers tonight and Toronto just couldn't generate enough shots to compensate.

Individual Observations

Despite going 9-21 overall for the game LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone with his energy burst early...one of the few Blazers to come out with life at the outset of the game.  He ended up with 8 offensive rebounds, 12 overall, and 22 points.  The Blazers used different people on Chris Bosh tonight (and frankly the bigs often got caught in untenable switches and couldn't recover back to whoever they were guarding) but I wouldn't say this was one of LaMarcus' best defensive nights in any case.

Brandon Roy shot 6-16 for 20 points plus 5 assists in a night where he didn't go to the rim much and struggled to hit his jumper.  It wasn't Roy's best outing either, defensively or otherwise, but he did provide those critical late points.

Nicolas Batum, on the other hand, had a fantastic night.  He shot 7-9 from the field, an amazing 5-6 from the arc, and scored 22.  Everything he does on offense nowadays looks so surgical.  He doesn't monkey around.  He just slices you.

Rudy Fernandez didn't have sustained success tonight but that second-quarter run was a thing of beauty, especially when he passed the ball.  More than any other Blazer Fernandez prospers from loose defense.  Give him some daylight to see the floor and he will make the scoreboard cha-ching like a pinball machine.  3-8 overall, 3-5 from distance, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 12 points.

Andre Miller had trouble keeping containment like the rest of the Portland guards but he also fought hard for his 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.  Miller was one of the few Blazers to rebound at the defensive end as well as the offensive. He's just a bully out there sometimes.  I knew he was smart and cagy.  I didn't fully realize before watching him this year just how physical Miller can be.  That's a decent recipe for success against the likes of Jose Calderon even though the latter darted around Miller and company repeatedly tonight.

Marcus Camby had a nice all-around game with 6-11 shooting (no jumpers hit that I saw), 12 points, 6 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 steals, 2 assists, and a block.  Camby might be getting a little frustrated with the Blazers' pick and roll schemes, as they result with him being away from the bucket, unable to make the block, unable to grab a rebound, and in prime position for a foul.  He appeared to bail out of a couple of switches tonight, leaving the defense to its fate.

Juwan Howard got 19 minutes and was the only other Blazer besides Miller to grab defensive rebounds, netting 6, 7 total rebounds, in 19 minutes.  He had 2 assists but also had 3 turnovers.  Get some rest, Hoss.

Martell Webster hit a triple off of that Rudy assist for his 3 points in 5 minutes.  Welcome to the new rotation.

Jerryd Bayless had a rough night at the office.  He looked out of synch, passes weren't connecting, shots weren't falling, and his defense wasn't any better than anyone else's.  1-4 for 3 points, an assist, a steal, and 2 turnovers in 16 minutes.

In a refrain we seem to be repeating a lot lately, flaws aside the Blazers did what they had to do tonight.  Now only the Washington Wizards remain between them and a perfect four-game stretch against sub-par teams.  Winning these games was crucial and they responded.  In the end that's the only story that matters.  Bravo.

Boxscore

See the latest over at RaptorsHQ.

See your Jersey Contest scores here and enter Friday's form here  Norsktroll has slipped out of the lead which makes me feel bad.  I'm now offering two bacon-chocolate VooDoo doughnuts to him in addition to the jersey if he wins it this month. Go Norsk! 

Oh, and in case you were wondering Hedo Turkoglu had a statistically nice 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 4-5 from distance, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists.  That was the good news anyway.  The bad news was 4 turnovers and 5 personal fouls playing "defense".  He didn't really impact the game as much as the line indicates.  Well, except for being booed every time he touched the ball.  But I do think as Blazer fans we're safe making this a one-time thing.  It's not like the guy's an über-villain.  He and his family made a decision, it's done...we all move on.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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