In a Nutshell
The Blazers play sloppy, uninspired ball for 45 of 48 minutes but find themselves aided by the Kings' conscience-free offense, laissez-faire defense (with emphasis on the lay-zay for those who know how to pronounce it), and general lack of continuity and team basketball. After taking off almost all the game and carrying a tie score deep into the fourth the Blazers clamp down in the last three minutes, rip away multiple steals, and cruise past the Kings with their finishing kick. It wasn't really a contest but it was way more of a contest than it should have been.
Philosophical Question: Can a game involving Sacramento really be said to have "flow"?
In the first period we were treated to a flow of half-baked shots and even worse defense from both teams. Instead of jumping on the Kings hard from the get-go Portland served notice that they were quite happy to play Sacramento's game. That would include missed defensive rotations, random rebounding, and lots and lots of shots. Lots of shots. Beno Udrih and DeMarcus Cousins lead the Kings in the first. Nobody really led the Blazers. Shots just kind of...happened. LaMarcus Aldridge once again eschewed deep position for jumpers and moves around defenders but his move-around didn't move people enough to get his shot clear. Consequently he missed the hoop, a trend that would continue throughout the evening with only brief respite. In LMA's absence the Blazers did a little Miller, a little Batum, a little Wallace. Mostly Portland scored from the foul line in the first, hitting 10 free throws. It was enough to balance Sacramento's 29 points and the Blazers led 30-29 after one.
The second period saw the entrance of one of the few Blazers who could claim a good offensive night tonight: Patty Mills. Pairing Sacramento's style (no defense, lots and lots of shooting) with Mills is like pairing a Happy Meal with Ronald McDonald. Some things are just meant to go together. Mills seemed to say, "Guys, if we're going to devolve to this kind of game, this is how you do it!" He scored on layups, on jumpers, on anything he could imagine. Aldridge also picked up the beat, starting to abuse the nonchalant Kings with his jumpers. On the other end Sacramento made like a living, breathing Summer League team. The part of the "I'm going to score 40 today" guard was played by Marcus Thornton. Cousins played the "If you pass it to me you ain't seeing it again" big man. The rest of the team filled in with the obligatory chorus line of, "Hey, that wasn't my man!" Both Cousins and Thornton scored but not near enough. The Blazers led 61-53 at the half.
The Road to 120 Points hit a serious detour in the third period as the Blazers started turning over the ball. Portland's lack of good custodial propriety (and just plain good sense) allowed the Kings the easy buckets that they had been trying to develop through one-on-one play all night. Portland was saved by Zombie Marcus Camby suddenly transforming into Real Marcus Camby for a quarter, moving around in the lane instead of shuffling from point to point. Also Wesley Matthews provided plenty of scoring. The Blazers left the period with 6 of the 8 point lead they came in with, 79-73 but momentum was swinging Sacramento's way.
For most of the fourth the momentum pendulum remained stuck on the Kings side of the court. The Blazers suffered from a triple-whammy: missing rebounds, the Kings finally going inside with consistency, and Aldridge shooting with the comfort level of a vegan in a slaughterhouse. Foul shots, offensive rebounds, dunks...everything was going Sacramento's way. The Blazers scored 6 points (thank, you Patty) in the first 6 minutes of the quarter. Had the Kings displayed any kind of defensive consistency in the final 6 minutes they would have sped past Portland and never looked back. As it was, their meter expired right around that 6-minute mark and with Sacramento now up 1, we returned to trading sloppy baskets. Still, the game was tied at the 3-minute mark. That's when the Blazers forced 3 turnovers in 90 seconds, two of them courtesy of Wesley Matthews. Add in a Nicolas Batum 3 and Portland put the game out of reach. A few mandatory free throws later and the Blazers walked off the court with a 107-102 victory.
This game was ugly. We've seen the Blazers ride emotion. We've seen the Blazers get hot. We've seen the Blazers get downright lucky. We've seen the Blazers win game with skill or by exploiting matchups. We're still waiting to see this team impose its will on somebody...anybody. This should have been a game the Blazers ripped away from a nonchalant, navel-gazing opponent. Instead it was a circus.
Patty Mills...bra-VO. 14 points in 14 minutes looking like the only guy who realize it was Sacramento. 6-8 shooting, 3 assists.
Wesley Matthews had a nice game with 21 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals.
Gerald Wallace sometimes looks like he's in a different gear than everybody else out there. He's not frantic at all. You just see that foot plant on the clutch pedal and the gearshift move and VOOOOOM. Something amazing happens. 5-11 shots, 12 points, 5 rebounds, could have been more.
LaMarcus Aldridge took 27 shots tonight. That's not entirely objectionable in itself, even when he only hit 9 of them. Several rattled in and out. But he wasn't establishing any kind of good position with his back to the basket, a week-long trend for him. His jumper was the most reliable part of his game. 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks.
Nicolas Batum had 17 on 5-7 shooting, 3-4 from the arc. He finally convinced the Kings to stop slamming the paint with defenders. (Though "defenders" should probably be in quotes there.)
Andre Miller hit 9-11 free throws for 19 points and 6 assists. It was a middle-of-the-road night for him.
Marcus Camby had 13 rebounds in 22 minutes. He played a nice second half.
Jarron Collins had 4 rebounds in 6 minutes.
Stats of the Night
- Kings shoot 53.2%. Ick. Blazers only shoot 46% but got up 8 more shots and also ended up +8 in points scored from the foul line.
- Blazers score 25 points after Kings turnovers.
- Blazers allow 52 points in the paint. Fortunately they scored 46 themselves.
- Kings only 16 assists on 42 made shots.
Odd Notes and Links
The Blazers' broadcast showed some jerk in the stands with a "Welcome to Anaheim" sign and an Angels cap on. I hope the Kings don't move. Remember when we used to have Seattle and Sacramento either direction plus Vancouver a little further up? Now Oakland might be the closest NBA city to Portland.
Portland should still look to get Beno Udrih.
Maybe not such fun times over at Sactown Royalty.