Well, we've all been to this movie before. The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves for the third time this month on Monday night, 113-102, removing the drama from the game fairly early on and playing hard enough down the stretch to ensure that just about everyone on both teams could take home a pretty boxscore.
The Blazers are better than the Timberwolves in all facets of the game, that's no mystery by now, and we didn't see much new or revolutionary in tonight's victory. Minnesota's defense is atrocious and provided little resistance; Porltand's gameplan was to feed Aldridge until Minnesota stopped him, and the Timberwolves never did. Aldridge finished with a career-high 37 points on 24 shots, the second most he's taken this season. The output was made even more impressive by the fact that Portland played smallball for long stretches tonight after center Marcus Camby went down with a knee injury early in the game (see below). Aldridge dominated any and all competition.
Aside from Aldridge, it was less pretty offensively, but more than enough to get it done. Wesley Matthews re-discovered his shooting stroke, hitting three three-pointers on his way to 23 points, which left him smiling after the game, while Rudy Fernandez made up for errant, rushed shots with a number of well-timed defensive plays (career-high five steals) that helped Portland find easy baskets and build momentum. Andre Miller's 15 points and 10 assists ensured things moved smoothly and stayed comfortable. That Patty Mills (five points) and Nicolas Batum (1-11 for five points) both struggled and that Camby was a total non-factor offensively goes a long way towards explaining the overall talent disparity between these teams and the lack of quality on Minnesota's bench.
For Minnesota, Darko Milicic played by far the best game I've seen him play in person (22 points and eight rebounds) and still got absolutely torched. The rest was better left forgotten. Even Kevin Love's 22 points and 17 rebounds felt a bit empty because it took him 20 shots to get there.
All in all, this was about as easy as it gets.
Random Game Notes
- One game after remarking that center Joel Przybilla wasn't moving very well, Blazers coach Nate McMillan played Przybilla more than 17 minutes, the second longest time he's been out on the court this season. Przybilla delivered 5 points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot and worked hard, despite dragging a bit and not lifting much on rebounding attempts. McMillan had some nice praise after the game for Przybilla, clearly appreciating his overall effort level and a charge that he took in particular.
- LaMarcus All-StarDridge? LaAlmost All-StarDridge?
- It was hard to get too caught up in the Aldridge vs. Love hype. The two players don't belong in the same sentence. There's a significant gap between them in quality of play and no one should be falling in love with pace-inflated and talent-deficient-teammate-inflated statistics. The real All-Star match-up comes Thursday. In case you missed it, Blake Griffin had 47 points on Monday, the most by an NBA power forward since 2008.
- This weekend, at the downtown Embassy Suites, don't miss your opportunity to hear Rudy Fernandez guest lecture at the Dale Carnegie Foul Selling Workshop. Embarrassing stuff tonight. If you're tired of playing as Fernandez in NBA 2K11, I've heard he might be a character in Simulation City. Ricky Gervais was about to step onto the court at halftime and hand him a Golden Globe for Best Performance by a Supporting, Supporting Actor in a Blowout.
- Nice screen cap from @DigitalDaggers: Michael Beasley peaks into Portland's huddle.
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that Marcus Camby will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. Click through for brief player reaction and read below for Nate McMillan's comments.
- The Sean Marks highlight of the night was... no, it wasn't. :(
- Speaking of the end-of-the-benchers, we saw some real shakiness on the ball from Patty Mills against some of the worst point guards in the league. It was a triviality given the situation but is probably worth keeping an eye on. Incredible that Armon Johnson has played just 1 minute 27 seconds total so far in 2011.
- What's stopping Minnesota from going double-or-nothing on their misery and making Greg Oden a monster five-year contract offer when he turns down the qualifying offer this summer?
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
Oh, Camby, we don't ... he bumped his knee or twisted. He just came out of the game complaining about pain. Wasn't able to come back so we'll see where he's at tomorrow.
Is it something that's concerning?
I don't think so. He just came out of the game complaining a twisted knee. Maybe he got bumped, I don't know exactly what happened. But at halftime he was trying to move around and couldn't come back and we had to go with DC and Joel.
Hey, he's learning how to play. He is really learning how to be a No. 1 option. He's doing a great job of getting deep post position. Darko is a big guy, Darko did a nice job of trying to stay on his right hand, but LA mixed it up. His deep post position was great tonight. He's just patient. He's really calm in the post, he's doing a nice job for us, establishing the post position.
We need our bench. When we struggle shooting the ball, we struggle to win games. We need our first and second unit to play. I thought Rudy brought a lot of energy defensively, creating some havoc with some steals and just all over the place in the first half. And we need that. We need those guys to shoot the ball. We shot the ball poorly early but then we started to get our rhythm and were able to knock down some shots.
Defense on Kevin Love
He's tough. That guy throws people around, he's a wide body, he's rebounding with one arm. For the most part we tried to keep him off the three point line, keep him off the glass. There were some times we got caught with our switches, a smaller guy on him, and he just eats up the glass. Lamarcus we played him on both guys, Joel really came through with a couple of big plays, I thought that charge that he took was a big play. We could match him up with Darko and get LaMarcus back on Love and get some size.
Extra motivation for Aldridge going against Love with All-Star potentially on the line?
I thought he played great. He really did. The good thing about it is that he was calm, he was patient in the post. I think the media was building this up as two guys who deserve to be in the All-Star game and LaMarcus didn't say anything about it but he played big, played like an All-Star tonight.
Rudy 5 steals, but he takes a lot of chances
Yes he does. He came up with some steals early. I thought second half we were gambling and we were missing on some of those plays. But I liked the aggressiveness. Defensively we've been talking about getting up, being more physical. Better ball pressure, we've seen that in the last couple of games. When you're in your traps and you've got pressure on the ball, you can take more chances.
So many second quarter turnovers for Minnesota
It starts with ball pressure. I think at that time Patty was getting into the ball, DC. We extended our defense with Dante, those guys are just flying all over the place. When you've got good ball pressure you can take chances in the passing lanes and we had good ball pressure tonight.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter