How low-stress was this game? For the first time in three years I didn't jot down a single note while watching. It's going to be a low-stress recap too. Be forewarned.
Despite going through stretches where they couldn't have hit the round side of a grain silo from inside it (mostly when settling for jumpers) the Blazers pretty much played this game with perfect strategy. They jumped out early, kept the pressure on the Wizards to catch up, defended the interior, and figured that no matter how many jumpers Butler and Jamison took they weren't going to be able to beat them. That's exactly how it worked out. The Wizards had some great individual efforts but never could pull it together. They couldn't keep the Blazers out of the lane or off the offensive glass either. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around the only suspense left was how many break-aways Portland would have and how close Brandon Roy would get to a quadruple-double.
Portland grabbed 15 offensive boards, got 13 more shots up than the Wizards, and shot 31 free throws to their 17. But the stat line of the night was 20 steals overall for the Blazers. That's about 6 games' worth normally. Washington kept trying to move the ball and Portland kept taking it away. Finally the Wizards couldn't do anything but hoist. The Blazers ended up with 33 points off of turnovers. Unlike many nights that wasn't a misleading stat. We really poured it on by denying them opportunities.
Brandon Roy had the stat line of the night with 22 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 9 steals, and 2 blocks. The funny thing was he was just sort of playing out there. This wasn't one of his most energetic nights or anything. He just took advantage of what the Wizards gave him...which was mostly the ball.
Greg Oden also had a good night against weak opposition. He did a fantastic job of staying out of foul trouble, especially after having a ticky-tack one whistled on him early. He had a double-double at the half and ended the night with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Plus Mike Rice mentioned several times that he was calling for the ball. Neener neener.
Lamarcus Aldridge actually had a couple dunks in the halfcourt. More please! 18 points, 8 boards...pretty much the usual.
Nicolas Batum drove and got out on the break tonight. He played with the usual high energy on defense as well. 9 points on 4-7 shooting plus 2 blocks. Well done.
Sergio Rodriguez came on a little in the second quarter and really poured it on in the second half to have another great game. He looked confident in his shot and hit 5 of 9 for 12 points plus 8 assists. He took advantage of the free-pass Wizards defense to break people down off the dribble and dish.
Travis Outlaw started out shaky as a small forward but dominated as a power forward. He ended up scoring 11 on 5-10 shooting including some crowd-pleasing run-outs. He had 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks as well.
Joel Przybilla had a hard time hanging with the quicker Washington big men. He collected 3 fouls and a rebound in 9 minutes. We could afford it considering how Oden was playing.
Rudy Fernandez mad his way through a horrible shooting night by pressing on defense and trying to make creative passes to his teammates. It didn't really work but Washington couldn't really do anything with the opportunities either. 5 points, 3 steals.
Jerryd Bayless got some free throws in 15 minutes but couldn't move the ball effectively and didn't get to play much. It wasn't a game for solo offense. 3 points, 2 turnovers.
This kind of win was hard to come by in previous years. Even when we won 41 last year we were in the business of making easy games hard. This is another sign that the Blazers are on their way to being a good team instead of a surprisingly good team.
Get the Washington take at BulletsForever.
Check out the Jersey Contest scores for this game and enter the next one here.