Well, it wasn't a great night but it wasn't a bad night either. This was a typical veteran versus young team matchup in the NBA. The Blazers had a lot of enthusiasm and never gave up. But you got the sense that San Antonio was in control of this matchup from about midway through the first half and never relinquished it. Every time Portland would pull close the Spurs would put the hammer down. They won by 9 because that's about how much they needed to win by. No wasted effort, it's just business.
--We shot 50% for the night off of basically unselfish play. Overall I was fairly impressed with how the offense ran. We committed sins of overpassing rather than selfishness. The assist total (15) doesn't reflect the efficacy of the passing. We got the ball to the right people in the right places to score whether or not those buckets came directly off the pass. We shot over 46% from distance too. I would give us a B+ at least offensively, maybe an A when you consider it was against the Spurs.
--We also did a credible job rebounding considering who we were facing. Joel Przybilla led us with 10 but after that it was a total team effort, which I love seeing.
--We shot 13-17 from the foul line which is a great percentage. Again Joel came to the rescue, hitting 5 of 6. People will point to the 26-17 disparity in free throw attempts but aside from a couple of Duncan star-calls (which are to be expected) San Antonio was just taking it deeper quicker than we were and thus got calls.
--One of the obvious changes you'll notice if you've watched this team for the last three years is that there were almost no attempts against the shot clock tonight. In the "post it `til it molds" era last-second heaves were commonplace when the initial attempt proved fruitless. We had few fruitless attempts tonight. Even fewer of those were rushed. This is a much more pleasing offense.
--One of the two glaring problems of the evening was our turnovers. It's not so much that we committed an obnoxious amount (though 16 ain't perfect) it's that the ones we did commit were so limp-noodle-lame that the Spurs scored on all of them that didn't require an inbounds pass. They ended up with 17 points off of our turnovers which helped tip the balance of the game.
--More glaring was our defense, which just fell apart at times. The first unit kept it pretty respectable. Guys were moving their feet and hustling. When they did get beat it was usually off of the turnovers mentioned above. The second unit defense was...oh wow, I don't have a word. Communication seemed to break down all over and the Spurs waltzed inside in embarrassingly easy fashion. As we mentioned in the game preview it's hard to play a zone against the Spurs anyway, but we made it look like suicide. Our transition defense was off and on. For the most part we seemed to get back but there were stretches where the Spurs just racked us. They didn't last long, but leaking 6 points in 2 minutes doesn't help when the final scores are tallied. Oh...and our point guards got oven-roasted like Shrinky-Dinks by Parker, as advertised. It was pretty bad. Point guard defense is going to be an issue all year.
The best way to describe both our turnover and defensive woes is this: We've looked a lot worse than we did tonight and made more mistakes too. But in the moments we did look bad it was really, really bad. This wasn't a low-grade, continual suckage as in past years. It was, "Doing good...doing good...doing good...WHAT THE HECK?!?" Again this is probably a function of being young.
--Lamarcus Aldridge's coming out party took all of one game. You may expect to hear his name on the lips of all national pundits who want to look smart now. He played a fantastic game. The most obvious part of his contribution was offense. He scored 27 points on 12-19 shooting...against the Spurs. He looked so good out there. He scored inside, outside, facing up, with his back to the basket...you name it. He even got a dunk off the break and a hook shot in there. It was like he was playing Horse. But the more impressive part of his game to me was his defense. He did pretty much everything at that end too from guarding Duncan to roaming the perimeter. On one play in the third quarter he was isolated on Manu Ginobili out at the three-point line on the right side. Ginobili, seeing the big man on him, tried to take him off the dribble. Lamarcus not only stayed with him, he shut him down. Amazing. And yes, Timmy scored points, but they were well-earned. Lamarcus just had a whale of a game. Some will point to his 3 total rebounds and I know...this is something I've pointed out before. But he was roaming so much tonight that he wasn't in position for rebounds. That's what we needed from him too...to be that multi-purpose defender. Lord knows nobody else was picking up the slack.
A quick note of comparison: Zach was an amazing offensive player. (So amazing, in fact, that we can't put Lamarcus up there until he's shown he can have this kind of night consistently.) But Zach was amazing in the sense of, "Oh man, he can't make that shot, can he? Ooooh! He did!" Lamarcus, on the other hand, is much more of a "He's going to make that" guy. We haven't had a guy that inspires that kind of confidence for a while.
--Martell also played the role of Webutante tonight. His all-around game wasn't as impressive as Lamarcus' of course, but his offense was the perfect complement to the passing game. He sometimes caught-and-shot and he sometimes took a couple short dribbles. Either way he looked exquisite. He never held it, he never hesitated, he just did his gol'-danged job which is to put that round orange thing through some twine. 21 points on 9-15 shooting isn't bad.
--Joel Przybilla also had a pretty good game manning the middle. He got those aforementioned 10 rebounds and actually shot 5 times. Several of those were off of dishes inside but he took a jumper from the free throw line against the shot clock and hit it! And he scored 13 points! His defense was appropriate. He helped when possible, stayed out of foul trouble, handled his man, and rebounded hard. Nice overall game.
--Travis Outlaw looked all-world in the first half. He was banging down shots like they were Bailey's on ice. Much like Martell he was confident and picked his spots well. He looked like a real NBA player. He trailed off some in the second half but one half of great-looking Travis is decent progress. He also grabbed 5 boards.
--Steve Blake had his typical "I-didn't-notice-live-but-nice-stat-line" game. He ended up with 9 points on 4-7 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in 25 minutes. He didn't really help the point guard defense much but he was probably the least leaky of the three. He committed 3 turnovers though, which will hinder him taking a clear-cut lead over Jack.
--James Jones and Sergio Rodriguez both had decent nights for the amount they played (7 and 6 minutes respectively). Jones grabbed 3 boards and hit a shot but had a couple defensive lapses. Sergio looked like he was ready to add a spark to the game but also had a little defensive trouble and committed a quick turnover. The tempo got more frantic when Sergio was in though!
Now we get to the people who really struggled...
--Jarrett Jack got 28 minutes and had a hard time producing in any facet of the game. He was trying but he just got stymied a lot. His shot wasn't falling right, his passes didn't go anywhere, and he was just a little too slow for the San Antonio guards on defense. I don't want to hit him really hard because I think he can play better but this just wasn't a good game for him in any sense.
--Far more glaring were the woes of Brandon Roy. He played 38 minutes and did grab 5 rebounds and dish 6 assists. He was really conscious about setting other people up. But he looked tentative on his shot and doubly so when finishing his drives. He was a lot closer to Sergio's "drive-and-always-dish" style than to the brilliant scorer we saw last year. He also committed 4 turnovers. 2-10 for 7 points won't cut it for any starting guard in this league.
--Channing Frye got 9 minutes and basically the less said the better. The defense and rebounding on the second unit are going to need major help from somewhere and Channing hasn't shown that he's it yet.
Game Summary in One Sentence:
Despite the ups and downs tonight if we continue to play like this we'll start winning.