I really liked this game and I’ll tell you why. We didn’t have to win it. The way we started out it looked like we were in for a long night, giving the Kings life and letting them score and rebound. It felt at best like one of those wire-to-wire games where we escape thinking, “We played like crap but managed a win.” It felt like one of those games nobody would be proud of win or lose. But then in the second half we turned it on, cleaned it up, locked down, and rebounded. Like a MMA fight it was a couple rounds of equal drudgery and then BAM! It was over. Had we been in a cage the refs would have called it in the third period. But see, pay attention here. What better teams did to us earlier in the season--playing so-so and then stretching out for the expected win--we just did to
That first half, especially the first period, was rough to watch. I could handle the Kings shooting well. That’s what they do. But all of those offensive rebounds? Scoring at the cup? Easy buckets in transition? The Blazers turning the ball over? Mike Rice said it best when he described us as an inch off on everything. Add a step slow too. Plus even though our threes were falling they were no more than keeping us even as we failed to attack the paint. That was a huge no-no against the Kings.
Then all of a sudden we started going inside again. Lamarcus Aldridge really keyed the attack with Oden, Przybilla, and a driving Outlaw pitching in. Most of our points in the second period came from 15 feet and closer. Our transition defense was still leaky and we were still coughing up the ball but at least you saw a swing in the offensive energy.
After the half we got down to business and all hell broke loose for the Kings. No more rebounds. No more turnovers to take advantage of.
The Blazers ended up shooting 56% to the Kings’ 50% and shot an amazing 54% from the three-point line, making 14 of 26 shots from that distance. If you’re counting that’s 42 points from the arc alone. We bested the Kings on the boards (Do we lose when we do that?) and made the game more or less even everywhere else. Done and done. Good win.
Steve Blake, you leading scorer devil, you! Earlier in the year opposing defenses were specifically leaving Blake alone to start the game. Look back over the play-by-play charts and see how many early shots he gets. It’s a ton. To draw an analogy to baseball, it’s like opponents intentionally walk the guy before him to pitch to him. Tonight he hit a home run. He had 20 points on 7-14 shooting, 6-10 from the three-point arc, plus 5 assists. . It seems like every time you think Blake is in danger of slipping or losing his spot he finds another level to keep it and show you how silly you were being. After this last week you just have to shake your head and say, “Point taken.”
Lamarcus started the game in his ongoing funk but something really triggered about halfway through the second period. It’s like he remembered who was guarding him. During his recent slump he’s been making easy shots hard. Easy shots came easy again. He made 5 shots in a row and scored 11 points in the space of 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Slump over. He ended the night with 19 plus 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Brandon Roy stayed quiet most of the night, meaning he didn’t have to take over this game so he didn’t. Other than a couple of forced shots he didn’t stand out. He just played well, as usual. I like that on a night when scoring was pretty easy for everyone he let other people have their share. 16 points on 6-8 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.
Joel Przybilla had an excellent night, grabbing 10 boards and hitting all four of his shots for 10 points. He even hit a couple of short shots from the post, punishing the relatively weak Kings pivots. He had 2 blocks as well. I loved his game tonight and really have in the past couple weeks. He’s a pro for sure.
Greg Oden collected 4 fouls in 19 minutes, which is not entirely surprising given the nature of the Kings offense. He hit 3-6 shots for 7 points and also got 8 rebounds in those 19 minutes. But did you see that other special aspect of Greg’s game come to the fore against the porous
Nicolas Batum did OK. It looks like opponents are starting to attack him with more vigor now, running him off of screens, banging him around on defense, and making him make decisions. It’s still a process for him. He’s playing well enough while learning. His time may be running short with Martell’s return on the horizon though. 3 points on a three-pointer, 2 rebounds, and a block in 16 minutes.
Travis Outlaw was a nice offensive spark tonight. He kept the crazy shots to a minimum and hit 6-9, including 3-4 from the arc, for 15 points. I would still like to see him get in the lane and draw fouls more, especially against this kind of team, but I’m not going to complain about 66% shooting.
Rudy Fernandez was 5-9 plus 4-6 from distance for 14 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Typical Rudy game…catch and shoot, move around on defense, play the passing lanes, help make everybody feel OK about passing the ball and shooting deep.
Sergio Rodriguez didn’t hit a shot but had 4 assists and 3 steals in 17 minutes of play. Blake ate most of the point guard minutes tonight, unsurprisingly. Sergio didn’t even get the benefit of blowout minutes. But to his credit he doesn’t need them to feel special anymore. He only knows one speed, which is full, which is a mixed blessing when managing a big lead. Good game for him though.
Channing Frye looked pretty comfortable again and actually got some extra minutes tonight. He ended up shooting 3-5 for 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Jerryd Bayless got 5 minutes of floor time and never stopped scowling. He did make 2 of his 3 shots including a pretty layup, scoring 5 with an assist, a rebound, and a turnover. He brought the ball up a couple times and looked OK until he had to set the offense. He looked really good on the drive.
Ike Diogu also played 4 minutes. He looks a little better conditioned than he did earlier this season.
Nobody played huge minutes tonight so hopefully we’re rested for tomorrow.
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