In a Nutshell
LaMarcus Aldridge has a career night against the Raptors' overwhelmed defense and Portland shooters, Raymond Felton in particular, hit enough shots to back him up when Toronto packs it in against him. The Blazers walk away with a relatively easy win against an inferior team.
This one is easy. The Blazers fed LaMarcus Aldridge in the first quarter and he responded by pulverizing a Toronto defense ill-equipped to handle him. In a way the Raptors created their own bad situation by the decent defense they were able to play on everyone but LaMarcus. Portland actually over-passed in the early going, being far too congenial against a defense that didn't merit it. The Raptors intercepted many of those passes. So Portland just shrugged and went to their star. BOOM. 12 minutes later the Blazers were up 27-14. Portland's defense deserves some credit. They didn't over-commit or over-respect the Raptors' scoring ability, keeping in front of everybody in the halfcourt. The only place the Blazers lagged was in transition. The Raptors scored 14 in the first. 10 of those came on the break. This would remain the story of the evening. Portland had to break down for the Raptors to do anything.
Portland extended the lead to 21 in the second period. Portland attacked the rim, either scoring or nabbing offensive rebounds on the weak side because the Raptors had to stop drivers with weak-side help. Toronto scored on threes or not at all. The Raptors found some success with a zone defense in the third quarter. Portland missed multiple shots and Toronto actually pulled back within 5 behind the pointed attack of DeMar DeRozen and Portland's commitment to fouling instead of playing the tough "D" that had gotten them ahead in this game. But it wasn't that serious. Raymond Felton shut down the rally by hitting some long shots, answering DeRozen and taming the Raptors for good. The lead escalated to the teens in the fourth then went back down to 9 before settling at an even 10 as the final horn sounded. The only real critique is that not administering the coup de grace earlier forced the Blazers to play their main guys longer than would be expected in a near-blowout, and this with a game tomorrow. Either way, though, the win's the thing. 94-84 Blazers in the closest thing to a laugher the Blazers have experienced this year.
The Blazers better work more on their offense against the zone.
Also we need a rule that nobody gets to act surprised about the following two things, both of which you've read about fairly consistently here but both of which keep getting mentioned on TV:
1. The Blazers are not good finishers at the rim off the dribble and thus have a low percentage on shots two feet and in. We know. This was called as soon as the final roster took shape.
2. Gerald Wallace is not a halfcourt guy, nor capable of carrying the team or any given possession going 1-on-1. This predates his Portland tenure. It looked like the Blazers were trying to get him energized right off the bat by going to him on offense after the opening tip. The results were a turnover and a badly missed shot. You can't jump start Wallace that way. The only way to keep Wallace involved is if the team helps him by playing a Wallace style: force turnovers, run, get him in the open court or at least get the floor open with made jumpers. He's not a post guy. He's not the weak-side three outlet guy. He's Gerald Wallace. If you don't set him up to play like Gerald Wallace he's not going to help you. In particular right now the Blazers need to get their rebounding solidified so that Wallace can be in the first rank on the attack after missed shots instead of the whole team having to worry about cleaning glass.
LaMarcus Aldridge smashed two games of production into one, pumping out 33 points and 23 rebounds on 12-25 shooting, 9-14 from the line, with 5 assists and 2 steals. He wasn't ball-hogging either, just taking what the defense gave him. (Keeping in mind it's Toronto's defense so the definition there was "pretty much everything". If anything he was too unselfish, committing 6 turnovers, the extras coming via the pass. He was a beast on the board, confident on his moves, and appeared to know that nobody would block his shot. Domination is the only word for what he did tonight.
Gerald Wallace had 10 rebounds but shot 3-10 for 8 points. Good enough on Aldridge's Big Night. He also hounded the Raptors into those early misses that all but doomed them.
Marcus Camby returned for 28 minutes tonight, snagging 10 rebounds himself.
Raymond Felton had an awesome third quarter and a good game overall. He didn't let Jose Calderon free, he didn't make tough passes or lose the ball off the dribble, he didn't even dominate the dribble. He looked like a point guard...one who stepped up when needed but then stepped back and let his teammates shine. 14 points on 6-9 shooting, 5 assists, only 2 turnovers.
Wesley Matthews went 2-9 for 8 points. The good news is that both of his makes were threes and he shot 2-3 from distance for the evening. The bad news is that when he wasn't in the groove he started playing Super Wes again, tripping on the way out of the phone booth and never getting airborne. His shot selection was uglier than a Muppet in a washing machine. He flourishes when he stays within his game.
Jamal Crawford's game is to take the kind of shots that Matthews shouldn't be taking. He only went 3-10 tonight, though, earning 10 points.
Nicolas Batum played 21 minutes and shot a nice 3-6 for 9 points. Since other people were concentrating on rebounding he just played defense.
Kurt Thomas had an uncharacteristically quiet night with a rebound in 13 minutes.
Craig Smith continued to sparkle with his new-found energy shooting 2-3 from the field, 3-4 from the foul line, netting 7 points and 4 rebounds in 9 minutes. This game was made for big men and he's big.
Nolan Smith continued to play pressure defense, made a couple quasi-point-guard-ish moves, and shot 3 times, making 1 in 8 minutes. He's looking better than he did earlier in the year. Not quite there yet though...but better.
Fun With Numbers
- Blazers 55 rebounds, Raptors 40. The Raptors only missed 3 more field goals than the Blazers did too. The Blazers just steamrolled them on the boards.
- Raptors 28 fast break points, Portland 7. Did we mention the transition defense was a little lazy?
- Blazers also commit 18 turnovers to Toronto's 14. This stat along with the fast break one would typically mean a bad game for Portland. But the Raptors are just that bad.
Tomorrow's matchup should be similar to this one. One wonders if Portland can get the same hot start without any rest, though. Would have loved to see the bench get more minutes.
Read it and weep at Raptors HQ.