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Game 31 Recap: Blazers 102, Raptors 89


This was a fine win.  It wasn't one of the more spectacular games we've played but Toronto really, really wanted this victory and we didn't let them have it.  In fact we didn't let them even sniff it come the fourth quarter.  That's a job well done.

The Raptors started the game on fire.  It's not like Portland was super diligent in closing out or playing great defense.  That's not a Blazer trademark right now.  But at the same time the Raptors were taking those extra inches of shooting space and turning them into miles and miles of points.  Bosh and O'Neal were punishing our slower big defenders and the guards got paralyzed by Toronto's hot shooting and weren't able to help.  We ended up not being able to stop anybody.  Worse still, we played that same kind of sloppy rebounding game we did against the Mavericks on Christmas Day.  I will tell you right now, no joke, rebounding has been an enormous part of the Blazers' success this season.  If we start succumbing to the opposition on the boards we will not win games, period.  The first half of this game had me worried.  Toronto should have claimed maybe 2 offensive boards and been well behind in overall rebounding.  Instead they were even with the Blazers on both counts.  Had it not been for Travis' buzzer-beating halfcourt heave at the end of the second quarter halftime would have been a somber affair.

The second half saw an immediate increase in defensive energy.  Coincidentally or not, the Raptors also started missing shots they were making in the first half.  The Blazers used the guards to double down on the Raptor big men, preventing them from putting the ball on the floor and getting around our centers.  Toronto's perimeter players couldn't make them pay the price and that ground Toronto's scoring to a halt.  Meanwhile the Blazers capitalized by working the ball through the middle and dishing either to big men for close-range shots or wings for threes.  The game turned in the 20-10 third quarter.

Then it was Roy time.

While all of the other Blazers held the Raptors down, Roy came in and pummeled them black and blue.  He drove a couple times which set up his jumper...a jumper which started looking magical again the way we all love.  After Roy had given them all they could stomach it was an easy matter to draw defenders to him and then work the ball around for open jumpers and dunks.  The Raptors never had a chance after that.  This was pure Blazers basketball...the good stuff.

The Blazers ended up ahead on the boards, though not as much as anticipated.  They outshot the Raptors handily thanks to the late game assault.  They shot 7 more free throws though they only converted three more points from them since the Raptors were a perfect 12 of 12 from the stripe.  The two teams ended up even in three-pointers made though the Blazers shot a lower percentage.  It was not one of Portland's finer nights from the arc.  That's OK, though.  There were better shots to be had.  Statistically speaking it was a solid win.  As we said, though, the most impressive part was that we took the Bosh-O'Neal 1-2 punch and came out swinging even harder ourselves.  Also it was really nice to see the guards helping the bigs on defense for a change instead of the big men always having to bail out the guards.

Individual Notes

Brandon Roy ended up shooting 14-19 for this game.  That's silly stupid sick.  He had 32 points and 9 assists.  He so dominated the fourth quarter that you barely noticed anyone else out there.  Typical Brandon game...just win it.

Lamarcus was having defensive struggles early but he helped contain Chris Bosh in the critical second half and also did more than enough damage to keep himself credible.  That single-handed steal and dunk was pretty awesome.  I love to see him use his length and speed.  21 points, 9 rebounds (8 defensive!), 2 steals, and 2 assists.

Greg Oden played 28 minutes and while he had consistent trouble watching Jermaine O'Neal he also did the right thing by getting down low on offense and making the Raptors pay for not being as big as he is.  As Mike Rice pointed out a couple of times during the broadcast, it isn't rocket science.  If a guy is quicker than you on one end of the court make your superior size work for you on the other end.  16 points, 10 rebounds (7 offensive), 1 block that should have been 2, plus only 3 personal fouls.  Good game from the big guy.

Steve Blake's shot was off tonight (2-7 overall, 1-4 on three-pointers) but he helped out with 7 assists and 2 steals.  He and Sergio managed to keep Calderon from taking over the game on offense.

Nicolas Batum hit a 3 and got a couple of rebounds in 17 minutes.  He was also active on defense...more so than we've seen him in a while.  He also chipped in on containing Calderon.

Travis Outlaw had a better game tonight.  He only shot 5-13 but he got 4 rebounds, a steal, and a block.  He stayed active, which is what you want from Travis.  The 12 points didn't hurt.  He could have dominated more against the relatively weak Toronto defense but you'll take it.

Sergio Rodriguez was obviously concentrating more on defense, moving his feet and keeping busy.  One of the things I like about Sergio is that when something is pointed out to him he will usually go out and address it.  He's not always successful in the attempt, but he puts in the effort.  He also looked for his shot tonight, which again I appreciate even when it doesn't go in.  He has to be perceived as a threat out there.  4 points, 2 steals, an assist, and a lot of running around.

Joel Przybilla did his usual plumbing job:  come in when you get the call because something is leaking.  He helped slow down the Toronto big man attack and managed 8 rebounds of his own in 19 minutes.

Rudy Fernandez continues to struggle with his shot, going 1-5 for 3 points in 19 minutes.  It's a long season and I think we're going to see at least one more streak of early-season Rudy before all is said and done.  We may also see more of this Rudy.  No matter who you are, getting used to the rhythm of this league is an adjustment.

Channing Frye got 4 shots up in 6 minutes and hit 2 of them for 4 points.  He spoiled the parade of even numbers by shooting only 1 three-pointer though, which of course he missed.  He couldn't take or make another three without messing up more of the even numbers, though, so instead he just sat down before he got into his 7th minute.  I knew this math fixation would get him in trouble eventually.

Final Thoughts

This was an important win in a couple of ways.  First it ensures that no matter what happens in the next four games versus the Celtics, Hornets, L*kers, and Pistons we still will end the early-season marathon with a decent record.  Chances are it'll be more than decent.  Second, while you can't stop the ebbs and flows of the season (unless you're a truly elite team) you at least want to make the ebbs the least damaging they can be until the next flow hits you.  The Blazers haven't been playing their best ball the last few weeks but they've still won 4 of 6.  That's controlling the ebb.

Check out the Jersey Contest results from this game and enter the final game of the month here.

--Dave (