Ah yes. There's an old Klingon saying that goes, "Revenge is a dish best served rammed down your gullet like a monster Oden block with a side of Lamarcus sauce." It goes something like that anyway. Klingon was never my best subject. I always went in more for Quenya and Sindarin myself. Anyway, we won. That's the important part.
This game featured aspects of the Blazer attack that we haven't seen except in spurts. Portland won this game in a variety of ways:
--They got off to a hot start, putting the opponent down early.
--A big part of that early start was prosec...uhhhh...running the fast break attack.
--When the fast break wasn't there Portland played through their big men first, using Oden and Aldridge to apply pressure which eventually freed the guards instead of the reverse.
--The Blazers were generally quick-footed and active on defense, doing a much better job than usual against screens. That includes the performance of the big men jumping out and the guards fighting through. The Blazers also rotated well to cover each other and almost completely shut down the middle.
--With all of that going on, the usual rebounding edge just broke the opponent's back.
I know there was no Gerald Wallace tonight (and by the way, the league better suspend Andrew Bynum with conviction for that foul) but we've faced many a weakened team this year and still not put forth this kind of effort. That game was tight. It looked like a veteran, winning team out there.
Portland held Charlotte to a very nice (for the Blazers) 41.4% shooting clip. The Bobcats only got 19 defensive rebounds off of 40 missed Portland shots. The Blazers had 17 offensive rebounds themselves. We should make a special mention of the non-center rebounding being far better in this game than in the last contest against Charlotte, as that was a huge factor in the Blazers losing that game. Portland was +10 in free throw attempts which helped make up for a 2-15 shooting night from distance. But because of the things mentioned above the Blazers really didn't need the deep shooting.
In short, this was a bankable win...the kind of win you could repeat with confidence. I loved seeing this Portland team. They're much more reassuring than the jump-shooting, porous lot that still manages to win but you're never sure about it.
I'm going to talk about Lamarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden as a pair tonight because their games dovetailed so nicely. Greg had a dominant night on the boards and was aggressive in prosec...uhhhh...making the most of his offensive attempts. He bowled over or dipped around anyone who got in his way, including Emeka Okafor. In fact Okafor ended up with 5 fouls and (get this) only 5 rebounds. With Greg going "Ding! Ding! Ding!" all night Lamarcus was left free and easy for that mid-range jumper. He was basically hitting practice shots out there. He also had a couple nice moves to the bucket, mind you. Basically he feasted on whatever he wanted. That threat opened up the middle even more for Greg, keeping him in single coverage most of the night. Left hand, meet right hand. Way to work together! This was one of the first times both players have had fantastic games on the same night. Hopefully it was a preview of things to come. Greg: 14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 3 turnovers in 30 minutes. Lamarcus: 11-15 shooting, 25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 blocks, 3 turnovers in 37 minutes.
Brandon Roy got to ride in the passenger car for most of this trip instead of driving the train all night. He had a good offensive night, though, picking and choosing his spots. Greg had the two-handed Scottish Claymore and Lamarcus sliced and diced like a Cutlass while Brandon was fencing with a Rapier. "Plink! Point for me. Plink! Another point for me. Plink! Say, you're bleeding from a bunch of cuts there. Just say when." It was effective in combination with the other legs of the Big Three. Aside from a couple of defensive gaffes this was just your ordinary, decent Brandon night with slightly lower stats. 17 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds.
Nicolas Batum had 5 points and 6 rebounds and played an energetic game. He was the usual buzzing bee on defense and actually put the ball on the floor a couple times offensively.
Sergio Rodriguez had a tough offensive night but once he got in the flow of the game he started setting people up with alacrity. He also played pretty spot-on defense, doing a good job staying in front of Raymond Felton who had a poor offensive night himself. I like the higher-energy, foot-moving Sergio. 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 5 turnovers in 24 minutes.
Jerryd Bayless also moved his feet pretty well on defense and gave us a couple very special "Jerryd Only" moments, notably a layup at the end of the first quarter which ought to make the highlight reel. He managed the ball pretty well tonight, which is what you're looking for in his growth process. You can't beat his drive though. As the old saying goes, this guy has a motor. 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in 24 minutes.
One thing I wish both young point guards would learn is that you don't give a big man the ball on the run when he's still up at the top of the key.
Travis didn't match his production from last game (natch) but he didn't have a bad game either. His three point shot was off but he had a couple of nice hanging jumpers and almost rammed home a putback for the ages. 9 points, 5 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Rudy couldn't buy a three either, though a couple of his were forced. He had 3 assists, 2 steals, a block, 3 turnovers, and 5 points which probably isn't a stat line he wants to frame. He did have a spectacular behind-the-back outlet pass off of a steal and a mean reverse dunk off of a Sergio alley-oop. Rudy and Jerryd also seem to be getting more used to each other. That's to the good.
Joel Przybilla had 2 rebounds and 2 points, the latter coming while finishing the aforementioned behind-the-back break. When Oden's going well we don't need as much Joel and that's fine. He'll be ready.
Channing Frye and Shavlik Randolph had 3 minutes and a personal foul between them.
It's a lot more fun to be 28-17 than 17-28. Especially when you can also remember years when 17-28 would have been a godsend.
Check out the anti-Bynum rhetoric over at RufusonFire.
You can see the Jersey Contest scores for this game and enter the next one here.