We won this game in unusual fashion for us. We got more rebounds, especially offensive rebounds, than our opponent. (Whew! Don't have to wear those "Weenie of the Week" signs now.) We committed fewer turnovers and fewer fouls, plus we scored a fair amount in the paint and even a couple off of the break. Nicely done pulling out the win when the usual stuff wasn't working.
Speaking of the usual stuff not working, these games would be a lot easier if we didn't dig ourselves a hole first. I talked last game about Roy, Lamarcus, and Martell needing to be the early scorers to establish the offense. Apparently nobody listened. Rewind back to the first five minutes of the game and you're going to see one Lamarcus hoop and harm. That's it. Martell missed the first shot of the game but even though he's one of my preferred options I'd also prefer him to be working off of pressure caused by the two stars rather than being a go-to-guy all on his own. Besides those two shots it's Channing Frye miss, Channing Frye miss, Channing Frye miss, Steve Blake miss, Channing Frye turnover, Steve Blake turnover. By that time we were down 13-5. Don't you think Sacramento or any team would be jumping for joy to see that shot chart? The next four shots were Lamarcus, Lamarcus, Brandon, Lamarcus...all makes. At that point it was 15-11 and the offense started opening up for everybody.
I have praised this team for how unselfish they are. It's a great quality. But every strength can be a weakness. The weakness in the Blazers right now is being so unconcerned with who shoots that we're playing into the enemy's hands. Everybody else on the team needs Brandon and Lamarcus to establish themselves so that the supporting cast can get open looks that they can make. Unselfishness that leads to consistently missed shots is foolish. San Antonio plays the best team game around but you KNOW who the main guy is on that team without asking, and who numbers two and three are as well. You don't let the defense herd you into making your fourth and fifth starters (who on the Blazers are actually the sixth and seventh best scorers at best) into main men.
The thing I liked most about this game was that it wasn't a work of art but we pulled it out in the end by sheer grit and will. We were hustling like heck when we smelled the chance to pull it out, and you've got to love that desire and the nose for winning. We all have to live through these "pull your hair out" type mistakes, but seeing guys collect floor burns and busting their butts getting up and down the court makes up for a lot, not just emotionally for the fans but on the court as well.
--I've been begging for Lamarcus to become a little more of a monster and tonight he did. 12-15 shooting, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 28 points. There's no reason he shouldn't be tearing apart the league, if not on a nightly basis at least once a week or so. Particularly against teams like this with no interior presence to speak of on defense he should go out and dominate. We've seen doughnut teams pin losses on us for lack of firepower like Lamarcus showed tonight.
There are a couple of things I'm starting to notice about Lamarcus that I think need addressing as well, however. First of all he has to stop trying to draw charges. He's 6'11" with decent dexterity and leaping ability. More importantly he's the only guy besides Joel we can depend on for any interior defense at all. Every time he sets up for a charge people are going right around him. Either time the block or threaten like you're going to block. Also Lamarcus really needs to work on that hook shot. He could score a billion if he gets that down. A move where he can start with his back to the basket but turn around, face up, and score would really help too. Guys are starting to play against his strengths in the post. He needs to mix it up a little more.
--I don't mind Brandon's lower scoring game tonight. Once he started to go hard it lifted the whole team. Also his game-deciding layup was fantastic. He had a rough night being matched up with Artest and came out looking pretty good.
--Martell got 9 rebounds and showed some hustle even though he missed some shots too. Fine by me for now. Steve Blake ran the offense and also hit some timely open shots. Again fine by me.
--We really lacked centers tonight. Frye...he just needs some more time in the shop. That's all I can say. I'm rooting for the guy but this isn't working. The TV crew keeps talking up Przybilla and saying he needs more time on the floor and to an extent I agree. Our defensive mistakes get covered better when he's in and we also get rebounds easier...two areas which are critical to us. But even as we all scream for him to get more run we should also remember that he played 13 minutes tonight and collected 4 turnovers and 5 fouls. I suspect it's not that Nate doesn't want to play him 30 minutes constantly, it's that Nate knows he can't play him 30 minutes constantly.
--Jack missed 4 of his 5 shots tonight but he got 6 free throw attempts, dished 5 assists, and was another one of our key hustle guys. I love that some of our young players are learning to contribute even when their shot is off. I also pretty much guarantee that Jack's ability to drive and draw fouls is going to be important to this team this year.
--Hey Sergio fans, we had a decent sighting tonight! This wasn't his best game statistically and I think we saw that he still has trouble running the offense but he was aggressive driving and shooting from the start and I really liked that. He also showed some energy on defense. I wouldn't say tonight will earn him high marks but he showed a couple flashes of getting it and the effort probably won't hurt him.
--I can just cut and past the description from last game to cover how Travis did: a few brilliant plays (Catch that double-block sequence?) and a few not-very-brilliant ones. He was lively tonight though and that makes me more inclined to live with his mistakes. Nate seems to be trying to see if Trout is dependable enough to rely on...like this is his audition for permanent playing time. Right now I wouldn't say he's passed. He better finish the quiz before James Jones gets back though.
One Sentence Game Summary:
Who cares, it was a win!