In a Nutshell
The Blazers and Raptors decide to play an extended game of two-on-two with LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez trading scores with Andre Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless. Portland's duo proves superior and, with a little assist from Andre Miller's offense and Nicolas Batum's defense in the fourth quarter, Portland comes away victorious.
This game started as so many Blazer road games against sub-par opponents have, with Portland standing around on defense, not getting back on the break, and looking sloppy in an offense peppered with predictable plays and turnovers. LaMarcus Aldridge was Portland's only saving grace early as Portland fell behind 8-13 to the Raptors by the 4:30 mark of the first. At that point Coach McMillan called the seemingly mandatory regrouping timeout, inserted Joel Przybilla and Rudy Fernandez, and sent his charges out to battle. Przybilla had the intended side effect of allowing Portland to play zone, slowing down Toronto's attack some. He also improved the Blazers' heretofore-lousy rebounding for a brief while. Fernandez had the unintended (at least this year) side effect of bolstering Portland's offense by sinking a couple threes to complement Aldridge's consistent offense. When the smoke cleared Portland shot 56% for the period, salvaging the miserable start and leading 23-19.
The second period was an entire year of Rudy Fernandez highlights stuffed into 10 minutes of court time. After his first-quarter threes Rudy spent the first five minutes of the second period connecting on two more threes and a 20-footer. There was no hesitation, just a smooth arc to the hoop and swish. The Rudiculous performance turned into full-on "What The Fernandez?!?" when the Spanish Stallion hit back-to-back threes 30 seconds apart at 5:22 and 4:50. He finished of the period with a driving layup plus the foul and ended the half not having missed a shot, with 23 points under his belt. Almost nobody else scored for Portland in the period but it hardly mattered. The Blazers took a 55-47 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Blazers extended their lead as high as 11 in the third quarter behind a renewed focus on rebounding and yet more Aldridge offense. LaMarcus knew the Raptors were soft inside and he took it to them. But Andrea Bargnani was drawing blood on the other end at the same time, hitting an array of jumpers and soft hooks. As the lead ballooned the Blazers appeared to get comfortable and began settling for jumpers. The Raptors, meanwhile, drove the ball inside and collected foul shots when they didn't hit. Between that and the Andrea Factor, Toronto closed the lead back to 2 by the end of the period, 72-70. Portland had a game on its hands.
The Blazer defense started out strong in the fourth quarter by virtue of a commitment to the small lineup. Sadly that same lineup continued the perimeter-oriented offense of the third period and brought back the sad sack rebounding of the first half. The Blazers did an amazing job passing the ball for easy buckets when Toronto fell asleep (which was often) but couldn't generate enough consistent points to forge ahead. At the other end Jerryd Bayless all of a sudden went plum loco for the Raptors. It was a sad development for Portland, as Bayless' performance had been uniformly awful up to that point. But a three-point shot got him rolling and, just as if they were chips covered in orange powder, he couldn't stop at just one. Bayless would end up with 18 points for the game, every one of them scored in the fourth and 12 of them coming off of three-pointers. Bayless' arcsmanship allowed the Raptors to grab a 7-point lead at the 6:30 mark, 78-85. That was the hare's race to LaMarcus Aldridge's tortoise, however. Aldridge began spinning and taking the ball inside, drawing foul after foul and/or converting on chip shots. Andre Miller snuck around the corner with a couple of nice mid-range jumpers and Nicolas Batum hit a sweet three to help their brother out. Meanwhile the Bayless show continued on the other end, but the Raptors couldn't get help anywhere else besides the occasional Bargnani jumper. In the final tally Aldridge proved more devastating that Bayless and Portland's team defense outclassed that of the Raptors. Portland walks away with a less-comfortable-than-desired but still adequate 102-96 victory.
It's amazing how authoritative Aldridge looks now when not being guarded well. That swagger leaks over to defense as well. Despite Bargnani's points, he was clearly bothered by LMA bodying him up and poking the ball away.
Toronto's defense really is as bad as advertised. Fortunately the Blazers managed to salvage some good "D" at key points. It never hurts to have extra stops in your arsenal.
Unsurprisingly the starters and Fernandez accounted for almost all the minutes in this game. When in doubt, don't play the bench.
Aldridge scored 37 on 14-25 shooting. He added 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. He was plenty nasty and plenty confident on everything but his foul shots, on which he went 9-12. Still, 12 foul shots is nothing to sneeze at. He knew the Raptors couldn't defend him and he went out and proved it.
Rudy, Rudy, Rudy... 8-11 shooting, 6-8 from three-point land, 23 points, 3 assists, 3 steals. Pretty much all of that came in the first half, but what a half! In his second rotation he looked far more concerned with not messing up his pretty average on the night than attacking, but who can argue with 23 points in less that two quarters?
Andre Miller had 13 points and 8 assists, content to let Aldridge and Fernandez carry the load until late in the fourth when the Blazers really needed buckets. Then he remembered he had Jose Calderon on him and scored, shaking his head as if it was almost embarrassing and beneath him. He's become such a quiet backstop for this team, preventing things from getting too far out of hand. I've mentioned it before, but I love this Andre.
Wesley Matthews had another one of those "I'm not really doing my job" nights. I don't know what gets into him sometimes, but when he's off he's really gone. He shot 1-7 for 6 points, 3 assists, and 5 turnovers. His defense was pretty good though, always a reason for appreciating him on the floor.
Dante Cunningham had 6 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes but the Blazers got hammered on the boards when he played.
Nicolas Batum played 40 minutes for 7 points and 7 rebounds. He got after it on defense in the fourth quarter, helping turn the game.
Joel Przybilla played 14 minutes and had only 2 rebounds but at least he shored up the zone defense. It wasn't a Joel-type matchup.
Toronto's horrid defense made Patty Mills' shot seeking look like an asset tonight. He put up 6 attempts in 12 minutes, hitting on half and scoring 7 to go with 3 assists. It was a good night to be aggressive.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers shoot 54.3%. Toronto shoots 51.4%. Lots of shots went down.
- Toronto 12 offensive rebounds...too many for a Portland game.
- Blazers stay fairly even in fast break points, 15-14 Toronto. That was a crucial category for the Raptors.
- Portland turned the ball over like it was buttered in the first half but finished the game with a moderate 16.
Odd Notes and Links
Raptors HQ has your Toronto story. Tonight they also have video interviews with Nate McMillan, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. Their Twitter account has pictures of a Roy-Babbitt scrimmage. We're always happy for the assist up north!