Blazersedge reader Christian was in KC tonight and caught the game. He sends in this eyewitness recap:
This was the Blazers' third game in four nights. They spent their off day flying half way across the country to play a "home" game in a half-full neutral arena. Said flight did not include three players who were expected to play significant roles this year. To be honest, all of those factors showed. At least for the first five minutes of the game. Then the Blazers showed heart and began playing like a veteran team. Once they got their legs under them, they made the Hawks look like a young team. They made the Hawks look like the Blazers circa 2006.
Not that there wasn't room for improvement. We struggled in transition defense, which I'm not going to panic about considering all of the leg draining factors working against the team. There were also struggles in running offensive sets tonight. The bright side of that setback was that it was nice to see Roy and Aldridge step up and take on a vocal leadership role in helping the rest of the guys come together.
--Oden was trying too hard tonight. The guards were making a concerted effort to get him the ball in the post, which they did well. When he went to a quick hook, it worked swimmingly. But he spent a lot of his opportunities trying to back down his defender to the point where he could dunk, and he ended up turning the ball over. The hook is nice. Don't be afraid of it.
--The scouting report on Outlaw was that he could shoot. Clearly, the Hawks didn't listen in their pregame meeting. He barely missed his first shot, and then hit his second. Right before the ball came to him for his third shot, the Atlanta coaches were SCREAMING at their players to find Outlaw. They didn't. He drained the shot. Too bad he went completely cold after that.
--Lamarcus Aldridge was deadly from the college three point line tonight. Automatic. If he can continue to do that while still rebounding well, it could help soften the blow of Webster being out.
--Roy's line was nice tonight. But what you don't see in the box is how he decided in the third quarter that it was time for the Blazers to win the game. He took a charge. He hit his step-back jumper a couple of times. After spending an entire quarter on the bench, he came back completely in rhythm and took over the game.
--Great chemistry between Rodriguez and Bayless. Together, they were so much quicker than the Hawks backup guards. Kicking out to each other. Generally overwhelming their opponents on defense.
--Jerryd Bayless lacks nothing in terms of confidence. His jumper wasn't falling tonight. No problem. He just decides to start driving the lane. On one fast break, he actually had a notion to dunk on Marvin Williams. Thought better of it in mid-air, but then had the smarts to draw a foul on a double-pump layup. He finished the first half by blowing past a defender at the three point line and dunking with two hands. Threw an alley-oop to Randolph, and then caught one on the very next trip down the floor.
--Where did that come from, Randolph? About as unremarkable a 19 point, 10 board in 20 minutes you are going to see. He was always in the right place at the right time. He played with strength and confidence. Whenever he got the ball, he knew exactly what to do with it.
--Batum struggled to get his shot to fall, but looked nice getting out on the break. Quick. Strong. Always in control.
--The Blazers did a good job importing the home game experience to Kansas City. They cut the lights and played the highlight package when the Blazers were introduced. The University of Kansas dance team donned Blazers shirts for their routines, and threw Blazers shirts into the crowd. Blaze the cat even made the trip, as did the inflatable dancing Blaze.
--Celebrities in the house included Manute Bol, Bill Self and most of the Kansas City Chiefs.
--The guy sitting behind me was impressed with Oden's facial hair. In his opinion, it made him look 60 instead of 50.
--Not to be outdone, the guy sitting next to me noticed I was taking copious notes and asked if I was a scout. Yeah. Because scouts wear Kiki Vandeweghe jerseys and take game notes on pieces of plain white paper folded in half.
--Oden got by far the loudest ovation during the starting lineups.
Many thanks to Christian. If you want to say "thank you" with a click or two you could check out his well-written, multi-topic blog here: Live Life Abundantly.
Also be sure and check out the Atlanta reaction this weekend at PeachTreeHoops.