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Game 4 Recap: Blazers 93, Hornets 90

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It's nice to do a recap of a win!  I'll warn you in advance that this post is going to slant towards the positive because it feels good and because I think we all need a little "feel good" after the last few days.  That doesn't mean everything is better or that anything has changed really.  This was one win against a tired team.  But it WAS a win and I think it does show that the sky isn't falling.  That's good news for now.

Team Observations

--The #1, overwhelming directive we gave in the preview can be summed up as "play tough, get mean, don't take no guff".  I think you saw the Blazers did that tonight from the jump.  There were some knock-downs, some pushes, and some body-bumping inside drives.  We frustrated the Hornets, as evidenced by their four technical fouls.  They weren't hitting all of those pretty shots, were they?  Excellent job by the Blazers.

--It should also be noted that the Blazers themselves didn't  wilt under the barrage of questionable calls in the first half.  They talked to the officials about them but there were no T's and no heads hanging.  You didn't even see any vintage Zach head shakes and shoulder shrugs.  You have to think that not only kept us focused on business, it helped the refs ease up on us.  This is VERY surprising to see in a young team.

--We were losing the rebound battle at the half by a stinky, awful margin of 10.  Had that continued and ballooned to 20 by the end of the game we would have lost.  Instead we clipped the deficit to 5 by the final buzzer.  We didn't allow the Hornets long swaths of extra possessions.

--Here are two numbers so good as to cause fainting:  21 assists on 30 made shots, only 6 turnovers for the game.  If you think about those very long it'll actually make you worried that we only won by 3.  That was some great offensive continuity.

--Peja Stojakovic 5 points, Mo Peterson 4.  Did I say some guys would wilt if you make the game punishing?  We didn't do great in all aspects of the defensive game but we did make life tough on those two.

--Until the end of the game we were well ahead of the Hornets in shots attempted.  We quickened the tempo to good effect and didn't allow their defense to set fully.

--Joel Przybilla and Lamarcus Aldridge both were setting GREAT picks.  I mean they were fantastic.  A lot of those made shots for the guards should have a footnote thanking the big guys.  I can't say enough how good they looked.

--Not everything was rosy.  The rebounding we've mentioned.  Our interior defense was pretty bad for the first part of the game but then tightened up a little.  We ended up forcing a few more shots against the clock this game than normal.  We still had that nasty habit of passing up good, open shots only to settle for a bad one ten seconds later.  All of these warts are going to be with us for a while.  Let's look back at this recap after, say, Game 52 and see if they are better.

--Oh, and when Lamarcus went out of the game it allowed David West to score 28 and grab 14 boards.  We, uh, kind of need Lamarcus.  We are so paper thin defensively without him it isn't even funny.

--I'd say all in all the lineup changes didn't hurt us, wouldn't you?

Individual Notes:

--Oh Martell, baby.  Dang you are sweet.  8-14 shooting, 3-8 from the arc, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, (who cares about the 3 turnovers?) and 20 points total.  Martell isn't the best offensive player on this team but he does have the closest thing to an unstoppable shot we can manage right now.  It's that 2-3 dribble move left to the free-throw line, rise, and hitting it is like taking Halloween candy.  In fact he ought to say "Trick or Treat" because he's scary with that shot.  He's the one who really spurred our breakaway run.  I am so glad to see his confidence and SO GLAD to see his teammates passing to him now.  It's amazing what even a little skill putting the ball on the floor can do.

--Lamarcus got fouled out of the first half and only played 22 minutes.  He scored 12 points in those 22 minutes but the more impressive stat was his 5 defensive rebounds and his 8 overall.  That's what we need from him.

--Brandon Roy got off to a slow start again but he did his usual 7 assist, 5 rebound thang.  He also showed up big in crunch time, perhaps motivated by a nice dunk he threw down some time before.  We haven't seen him jam like that yet this season and hopefully that'll serve notice to everyone that he's ready to play.  He really needs to get more than one free throw a game though.

--Channing Frye had more defensive trouble BUT he grabbed 7 rebounds and made himself available to receive scoring passes, the results of which were 4-8 shooting and 8 points in 21 minutes.  He also contributed to the team offense with some foot movement and screens.

--Joel also played 21 minutes, scored 9, and grabbed 11 rebounds.  He pretty much led the charge defensively and in the grit department.  He may have been the player of the game in the first half.

--Travis had a rough game.  I guess I am really wondering about this power forward thing.  David West is a pretty small power forward and he was moving Travis like he was a rag doll.  Also Outlaw was bombing away from the perimeter, which is not exactly four-spot offense.  Other than 2 steals and 1-7 shooting he didn't really make an impact.

--Raef played a little and looked like he had a hard time getting up and down the court.

Now for the point guard rundown:

--Blake seemed to do fine with the first unit.  I think the ball moved a little quicker and he certainly got it up the floor quicker than Jack usually does.  The scorers just seemed a little more comfortable with him.  His defense wasn't bad (especially for a Blazer point guard) and although he only scored 5 point on 2-7 shooting he dished 9 assists.

--Jarrett Jack made the move to the bench look like pure genius.  At least you can say it freed him up to do what he does best, which is score.  He admitted as much in the post-game interview on TV.  He ended up with 20 points, at least six of which were gifts from New Orleans in the foul-spree at the end of the game.  However he still wasn't bad.  And 3 turnovers don't hurt as much when you're scoring 20.

--People are going to look at Sergio's stat line (0-4 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 0 points in 13 minutes) and say, "Blech!"  Actually I think this was one of the more encouraging games I've seen him play.  He demonstrated energy not just when he had the ball but when he was away from it as well.  I saw him move his feet on defense a little.  I saw him box out!  (Though technically he had to grab the guy's jersey to move him, which in itself was a little show of spirit.)  His head was on a swivel out there and he didn't get lost much.  In short he looked like an actual basketball player tonight.  When he made a couple mistakes as the game was heading into crunch time Nate subbed him out, but it didn't feel like a yank.  It was more like, "OK...you've done your part, now let's have the regular, more experienced guys come back in and win the game."  I've seen far better statistical games from him that I felt far worse about.

One Sentence Game Summary:  

Young teams always do better at home than on the road...thank God we play 41 here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)