Ah yes...the sweet taste of victory. Mmmmm...victory... (drool)
The absolutely outstanding feature of this game was our rebounding. We destroyed them by 15 overall, more than doubling their offensive rebounds, and we got 14 offensive rebounds to their 26 defensive. When you're rebounding more than half as many as they are on your end of the court you're going to do well. And all of this came on a night when no individual Blazer got more than 8 rebounds.
Outstanding feature #2 was getting 29 free throw attempts to their 15 and scoring +9 at the line. Getting an extra 9 points will win you a ton of games. We started out the game shooting from outside WAY too much but we adjusted and started drawing fouls late in the first half and throughout the second. That's how we pulled away.
Also notice the game's leading scorers. For Minnesota: Jefferson with 22, McCants with 21. For Portland: Roy with 22, Aldridge with 21. One of the big questions of the month is how much of this is sustainable, repeatable, or dare we say "real". Here's one of the things you can take to the bank: if our two main guys match your two main guys point for point our supporting cast is probably going to trump yours. That's what we do. This might not be true in every case, but in the majority of them it will be. And this is not going to go away. Our popcorn type of attack means somebody is going to come through big almost every night...often two or three guys. Whether it's Trout, Webster, Jones, Blake, Jack, or Frye you're going to have a hard time keeping up.
As is our habit we took care of the ball and refrained from making Minnesota more of a scoring team than they are. I will repeat this: that is what gives us a chance every night. We don't make it easy on the opponent or deprive ourselves of chances. That makes our margin of error on the offensive and defensive ends wider, allowing us through the door.
Another clear mark of our "A" game is sharing the ball, which we did almost to perfection tonight. A guy who can score on his own is dangerous, but a team that will get people open is dangerous times five.
The flow of this game was also interesting. We played down to the competition through the first 21 minutes of the game or so. As I said, we settled for jumpers. We also played somewhat half-hearted on defense. But in the last 2-3 minutes of the half we knuckled down, pumped it up, and pulled away. We played around with our cushion in the third quarter and allowed Minnesota to creep back. But when push came to shove in the fourth we hit the gas and left them in the dust. Through all of this the game never felt much in doubt. If this sounds familiar that's because it's what other teams were doing to us for the first few weeks of the season. Apparently we learned our lesson and we're now acting like the poised, veteran team cruising to victory. We're also going to learn that it won't work against many teams, notably the ones who are still better than we are. Try that stuff with Dallas and they're going to be up 16 before the first quarter buzzer sounds. But we're doing a convincing impression of a real, live NBA team with teams that aren't up to snuff. Winning the games you should is another hallmark of a good team.
--Oh man...I'm going to make sure my baby's first words are Brandon Freakin' Roy. When we talk about accelerating away in crunch time you have to point to the way Roy DESTROYED the `Wolves singlehandedly. Jukes, jumpers...JEEPERS. He took the air right out of them. He ended up 7-12 with 13 free throw attempts for 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. MVP indeed. He may not deserve that award outright but he's certainly Top 10, and if this keeps up maybe Top 5-7 in the discussion for the year.
--The Blazers made a conscious effort to get Lamarcus Aldridge involved tonight, both in the post and from the perimeter. This is smart, as our success depends heavily on him. He looked pretty darn good with his back to the basket tonight too. He shot 9-17 (great) and led the team with 8 rebounds.
--Martell continues to struggle from the offensive end. He was part of the good ball movement tonight though and is not losing games for us or even hurting us that much. I hope his up-and-down goes back up to where it was very early in the season.
--This was another game where Joel wasn't really the guy to man the center position. Al Jefferson was a little too much offense for him, as he would be for anyone. Still Joel had 5 boards in 20 minutes.
--Steve Blake shot well when open tonight and gave us 12 points on 4-7 shooting, 4-5 from distance. We are very hard to stop when our auxiliary players hit from deep.
--Remember a couple weeks ago when Channing Frye couldn't find his way over Niagra Falls in an oar-less rowboat? Now he couldn't miss if you blindfolded him and tied one arm behind his back. Ladies and Gentlemen, Channing has arrived and the Buffet is open. Tonight that looked like 50% shooting, 13 points, 7 rebounds, and some really nifty passing. Every time he starts to shoot now I am saying, "Take it!" Applause all around.
--Jarrett Jack looked like he was going to have a rough game for a while there, but he came back with more nifty drives, 14 points (leading the supporting cast), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and only 1 turnover. That's a winning line. He also had a nice defensive stand or two.
--The Assassin James Jones gave us 12 points on 8 shots. If you want to have a really great bench you need guys who can score points without taking 15-20 shots a game. Meet James Jones. Nights like this are commonplace for him, but they are extraordinarily important for us. The minute he stops hitting we will have trouble winning consistently.
--Travis didn't come very far out of the phone booth tonight, but even in Clark Kent mode he still got 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and leaped tall buildings for a couple of SPECTACULAR blocks. How can you not like the guy?
--This wasn't Sergio's night. He only got 6 minutes so he never had a chance to redeem himself. That's what the next game is for.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
When you used to win 12 games in half a season 12 in a month looks indescribably good.