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Game 6 Recap: Blazers 97, Timberwolves 93

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Boxscore

 

This was a good game in the sense that winning is always good.  We played a solid one and a half quarters, which was good enough to come away with the four point victory.  Otherwise it was a somewhat uninspired night.  One of the main lessons this season will be that good teams manage to win on somewhat uninspired nights.

 

Team Observations

 

The Blazers won because they excelled in three main areas.  First they outrebounded the ‘Wolves 45-38.  This was a nice accomplishment.  Even though Minnesota isn’t a great rebounding team overall they threw some big guys out there and our smaller lineups still managed to keep pace.  Controlling the boards is the same as saying controlling the ball.  Only good things happen when you control the ball more than the other team.  Second the Blazers generated extra points from the free throw line and three-point arc.  They hit 7 three-pointers and 22 of 30 free throws.  When your offense hasn’t quite grown into itself yet these points mean the difference between winning and losing.  +6 from the arc and +4 from the line tonight is twice the margin of victory.  Plus both types of shots mean the Blazers are being aggressive, if not always successful, in prosecuting their offense.  You get yanked if you shoot a three early off of the dribble nowadays (plus they almost always go in the miss column).  Almost every one of those made threes came off of somebody drawing the defense and then dishing to a wide-open teammate.  The link between free throws and aggression is obvious.  Finally (meant in both senses of that word) the Blazers held a team to a decent shooting percentage, 41.6% to be exact.  On a night when points came hard for most of the game we defended well enough to stay in touch.

 

Otherwise this was a tough game to watch.  We came out flat, scoring only 18 in the first period and making Minnesota look good.  The second quarter may have been the ugliest non-L*ker quarter of the season, even though the offense was more productive and we ended up tied with Minnesota 25-25 in scoring for the period.  That came because of a flurry in the last 90 seconds.  Before that…ugh!  Our interior defense was horrible.  Our rebounding was passive.  We made those Minnesota big men look quick and agile.  We rained jumper after jumper, ignoring the lane entirely.  Nate must have yelled (or thrown) something pretty potent at the half, as we came out re-energized in the third period.  All of a sudden we shut down their paint and started exploring ours.  Other than Al Jefferson starting to catch fire it was all positive for Portland.  The fourth quarter we started moving the ball and our men on offense in addition to defending and rebounding.  That’s when the game was won.  The only thing I didn’t like about the fourth was an over-reliance on the threes for offense, but as I said above, when they hit they were nice.

 

Individual Notes

 

--Brandon Roy pretty much took charge of the ball again but this time he had a more typical Brandon night with 24 points on 7-15 shooting, 9-12 free throws made, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds.  He had 3 turnovers which is still a high number for him, but keep in mind he’s handling the ball under slightly different circumstances since he’s taken on more of the point guard role and that takes adjustment.  Some are muttering about Brandon trying to dominate too much.  I think he will blend in a little more as the team gels together but remember also that this is his team.  He didn’t try to assert himself enough in those losses to the Suns and Jazz.  He’s the All-Star.  The burden rests on his shoulders.  If I were Brandon I would also say, “Look…the responsibility is ultimately going to get pinned on me and I’ve proven I can handle it so I’m going to establish my game first and then look to bring you other guys in.”  The President is surrounded by a cabinet of skilled, intelligent people who are experts in their field.  But if there is a crisis or there are tough decisions to be made, he’s going to be the one to make them, then the rest of the agenda gets woven in.  If he’s not on his game nothing else is going to work right, so it has to be that way.  That’s exactly what Brandon is to this team.  It looks a little rough when he misses shots, but his production stays high nonetheless.  Also we’re 2-0 since he’s taken that responsibility overtly.

 

--Lamarcus Aldridge had a fantastic night with 24 points, 8-10 free throws, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks.  He was all over the place, at least for one night forsaking his monogamous relationship with the jumper.  The rebounds and blocks were far more impressive than the offense, though.  When Lamarcus gets to guard interior players he’s not half bad in there.  The next step for him will be earning the assignment on the Al Jefferson types.

 

--Nicolas Batum was a ball of energy again tonight.  What I like about him is that he has a controlled energy.  He’s not breaking the offense or defense with his movement or decisions (though he occasionally gets lost, but that’s to be expected).  He’s another pace-pusher, which is to the good.  He had 8 points and 2 blocks but only 1 rebound, the latter because he was defending outside most of the night.

 

--Joel Przybilla had 9 boards and kept us on track with his rebounding but was overmatched trying to stay in front of Al Jefferson and collected fouls quickly.

 

--Steve Blake played 32 minutes and shot 3-10 for 6 points plus 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  He looks like he’s trying to demonstrate an ability to score off of the dribble and it’s not pretty.  “Steve Blake” and “pressing” don’t belong in the same sentence…that’s not where his value is.  He did do a good job keeping the ‘Wolves small forwards in front of him and out of transition.

 

--Channing Frye had 7 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.  You have to like that effort.  His offense is still jumper-heavy but he hits them.  Can’t argue with that.

 

--Travis Outlaw took 5 shots and 6 free throws on the way to 11 points.  He also had 4 rebounds.  He only played 20 minutes though.  Still it’s hard to see Batum be such a spark plug and then see Travis not, even though Travis has superior numbers.  I wanted last night’s Travis back.  Then again, he was back to small forward exclusively tonight.

 

--8 of Rudy Fernandez’ 10 attempts tonight were three-pointers.  He ended up with 11 points total, 9 from threes, but I’d like to see a bigger variety of attempts from him.  No argument that he can hit them, but we lose the movement when he’s weak-side waving or always spotting up from distance.  Did anyone catch Sergio’s lob to him that he guided in while falling over?  That ought to make Sportscenter.  Rudy also had 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

 

--Sergio had 5 assists in 13 minutes along with 2 points and 2 turnovers.  I thought he played fine with no signs of anything untoward from this week’s media frenzy.

 

--Ike Diogu got 4 minutes and had a turnover and 2 fouls.

 

Final Thoughts

 

1.  Mike Miller has the girliest hair in the NBA.  Ever.

 

2.  Anybody who said earlier this week that Portland would have beat Utah and Phoenix except for blowing the fourth quarter should now be saying Minnesota would have beaten Portland except for the fourth quarter.  We just did the exact same thing to them that was done to us by more experienced teams.  That is the way it works in the NBA on many nights.  Bottom line:  teams win for a reason…it’s seldom an accident.

 

Check the Minnesota Recap at CanisHoopus.com

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)