Wow. What a game. The way we played as a team tonight was amazing. There were a ton of individual imperfections on display but somehow when you shuffled us all together it was more than enough to win the contest. That's a testament to how hard this team is playing and how unselfish and dedicated they are.
--Oh my. 55% shooting against the Pistons?!? You're kidding me! But like we just said, the one-word key here is unselfish. Wherever the defense keyed the Blazers found either an open jump-shooter or a single-covered driver or post player. You could probably count the really poor shots in this game on one hand. This team really doesn't seem to care who the heck shoots and scores the ball. If it's your night or you're the one the other team left open, be our guest. Welcome to your 20 points. 22 assists on 40 made shots is yet another good night for the Blazers in that category.
--I think I'm even more impressed that this was not primarily a hurry-up game. We did a great job of getting into the offense early in possessions during the first half. Steve Blake really pushed us up the floor well. But Blake got in foul trouble and the Detroit defense really started clamping down. We ended up spending a fair amount of the second half going late in the clock. I was on pins and needles the whole time but the team eventually found the same type of scoring opportunities they had when they were pushing. This was not a gimmick win. This was not a match-up exploitation win. This was just plain basketball.
--We outrebounded the Pistons too, though that might be expected since they missed 14 more shots than we did. Still it was another great team rebounding night. I want everybody to remember how scary this team is going to be when we have a guy in there who will vacuum up rebounds, allowing all the small guys who are now having to sag back and rebound to run out instead. That will be a true nightmare for opponents.
--After the first quarter jitters passed we took excellent care of the ball.
--You saw tonight how pressure defense can make us nervous. You may expect more teams to try heavy pressure until we show we can break it. The best way to break it is to get Lamarcus upcourt quickly and let him dunk the heck out of the ball.
--Our defense should also get a lot of credit. We were pretty shaky at the start of the game. We were handling picks like we had never seen them before. Nobody was helping out anybody off screens. A lot of people were helping out unnecessarily on other sets. But we got our heads on straight and by the second half you saw a repeat of the Dallas game defensively. Detroit had a decent offensive night but not a great one. We had a great offensive night. Add those two together and it comes out around 102-94, Blazers.
--The advantage of the game was the one a lot of us pointed out in the previews...our second unit obliterated theirs.
--The Pistons did a masterful job of exploiting the matchups they liked early in the game. That meant they ran it right at Brandon Roy. And early on he looked silly. He got blown by and rubbed off screens a few times. He also missed most of his opening shots. It looked like this might be an "Uh oh" night for him. No such luck though. After he came back in the game following his first rest he seemed to operate on the "I'll do to you what you did to me" theory...taking the ball right at his defenders, finding cracks in the defense through which to fire jumpers, and generally making life heck for whoever was on him and whoever helped them. He finished 9-16 for 20 points. However he has got to be prepared that many more teams are going to attempt to limit his scoring by making him play very hard on defense. Let's hope his stamina is good.
--Lamarcus had a much better start offensively than Brandon, as is typical of him. He and Rasheed Wallace were really going toe-to-toe in the opening stanza. Unfortunately maybe Lamarcus was paying a little bit too much attention to `Sheed. Remember how we said the Blazer bigs failed to help on the picks? Lamarcus was a main culprit. He too picked it up later in the game, even as he scored less. He ended up with a game-high 22 plus 10 rebounds, many of them contested. During the pre-season I was saying how much we needed LMA to become a defensive rebounder. We saw that tonight.
--The game ball doesn't go to either of the stars tonight though. It goes to Jarrett Jack. Jack got an early call because of Blake's foul trouble and boy did he respond! All of that tentative play we talked about happened before he came in. When he hit the floor it's like he was taking guff from NOBODY. He was bumping and grinding, driving and using his strength to draw fouls and finish. He was a scoring machine in there and his energy and grit broke the old "Wow...these are the Pistons" spell. His 20 points on 7-10 shooting don't measure his contributions. If he hadn't given us that shot in the arm we maybe never would have woken up. Also don't miss what a weapon his great foul shooting makes him. The defense has to be careful with him because he could score any number of ways and you can't stop him by hacking.
--Don't worry about Martell having another off-shooting night. He was taking good shots and they'll fall most of the time. Besides he still got 36 minutes, which means Nate saw everything he was doing besides shooting. We just said that Detroit tried to exploit our weak defenders by running at them one-on-one. They tried it with Roy and Blake and it worked. They tried it with Martell too. No dice. He stayed in front of his man nearly every time. (He did have trouble dealing with picks like the rest of the team though.) Plus Martell rebounded the heck out of the ball. It just wasn't his night to be the offensive hero. Celebrate that he didn't need to be in order to be effective. That's the new Martell in a nutshell right there.
--Blake only played 19 minutes because once he gave up his spot the other guys did a ton with it. He was still the best guard getting us into our offense though and the only guard who consistently, effectively pushed the tempo. It's hard to argue with those 8 assists in 19 minutes either.
--Travis gave 22 well-rounded minutes. He had 13 points on 4-6 shooting with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. That's a pretty typical Travis game lately. He didn't hurt us too much on defense and stayed active. I still cringe a little every time he tries to drive but he did have one or two aggressive moves to the hoop that looked nice. He was a nice complementary piece tonight and that's what we need from him.
--Joel gave us grit right alongside Jarrett and was a hidden factor in the turn-around. He got in there and punked some people, making sure the Pistons knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk. He got 10 rebounds in 23 minutes and scored 8 points too. Show me a back-up center who can do better than that on a nightly basis. This really seems to be Joel's niche and it's one he can fill for us for a good, long time. Oh, and before I forget, Joel finally DUNKED a couple times tonight. The one thing that's been completely absent this year has been Joel's rim aggression. Back in his heyday he used to have those nasty, jackknife slams. Nowadays he loops it in even when he's within inches of the rim. It was good to see him finish strong.
--Sergio got some burn and did some nice things. He hit 3-6 and scored 7 in 15 minutes. He was so enthusiastic about it that he got the whole bench going for him. He also had 3 pretty assists, 2 rebounds, and no turnovers. His defense was as credible as anyone else's. There were a couple things still to improve upon. In his first stint the offense got shaky. Basically if there wasn't a fast break opportunity we ended up shooting one-on-one and very late in the clock. He couldn't get the team into the offense the way Blake did despite his superior speed. Also I was literally SCREAMING at him to take a freakin' LAYUP when the opposition gave it to him. He has absolutely got to recognize when it's time to finish instead of pass. He did pick it up in his second trip out and it's no coincidence that this opened up both the offense and his own scoring. If I hadn't had a cat nuzzled in my lap I would have jumped off the couch for a standing ovation the first time he took it to the hoop and put it in. His three-pointer was a great moment too.
--Channing Frye hit a couple jumpers and grabbed a couple rebounds but his defense was again substandard. I feel pretty comfortable saying that if there were anybody else to play that position right now they would be. I hope Channing improves as he settles in more.
--Other than when Lamarcus provoked him into a mano-a-mano scoring duel I thought Rasheed had a pretty lackadaisical game. He was manning up on LMA but there were a lot of gaps in his defense, especially late.
--Did you notice that everyone they honored tonight except for Kevin Duckworth was a draft pick of the Blazers? That's also how we're building this team.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
That was basketball the way it was meant to be played.
P.S. I read on Oregonlive today how 'Sheed said he liked the new Blazers but it would be YEARS before they made the playoffs again. Technically I suppose he was correct, if by YEARS you mean two. That is plural after all. So in Rasheed's honor we're adding a countdown clock to the top banner, ticking off the number of regular season games to go before Portland returns to the post-season. Enjoy.