As reported below Travis Outlaw has suffered a stress fracture in his left foot. Updates as they become available.
This was another nice win by the Blazers on a much less than perfect night. They're starting to make a habit of this. I don't know whether that's good or bad, but I'm quite pleased that they won.
The game started out with the Blazers making a concerted effort to go to their stars. Roy, Aldridge, and Oden took the shots coming out of the gate. Only Oden was successful initially. Charlotte, on the other hand, did everything they could to get the ball inside. Unfortunately they came face to face with the Block Ness Monster in the form of Greg Oden, who swiftly taught them that jumpers are the better part of valor. They hung with the Blazers in the first quarter from the perimeter as both sides took mostly outside shots (almost universally missed) peppered with a few layups. The score was knotted at 18 after one.
The second period started with Portland's offense DOA as again they took the easy way out and lofted it over the top. With Oden having been out since the 7:22 mark of the first quarter with foul trouble there was nobody to buck the trend. Charlotte simply packed the inside on defense, waited for the rebound, then tried to run out. They had a fair amount of success but their attack wasn't explosive enough to get them up by more than 8. Finally after a painful series of turnovers and 20+ foot misses Andre Miller broke the ice, getting fouled on his way to the bucket and converting the free throws. Then Roy drove for a layup. All of a sudden the light went on and it was time to administer the spankings. Every point after was either at the rim, at the foul line, or off of a clear (and much closer) jumper. The Blazers went on an 18-2 run to finish the quarter up 8, having been down by the same amount halfway through.
One of the nice things about the Blazers in this winning stretch is that they've taken starts and ends of periods seriously, especially the start of the third. Tonight was no exception. They repeated the attack from the top of the game, going to Oden, Aldridge, and Roy with one Miller jumper thrown in. The big three ballooned the lead to 16 in less than 5 minutes. At that point Oden left the game and again the interior offense came to a halt. Had every fan in Charlotte simultaneously left their lights on in the parking lot the Blazers still could have provided them all jumpers. On the other hand it might not have worked as they couldn't find the post to save their lives. On the other end Charlotte started getting layups and tip-ins. Lo and behold, it's a four-point game after three.
Oden scored the first four points of the final period but by that time Charlotte was in no mood to cede the game. They scrapped hard, hit some jumpers, grabbed some rebounds, and tried to wrest it away. At this point Rudy Fernandez came in and provided some energy play to keep the Blazers in it, jumping dribblers and grabbing rebounds. Charlotte hit some threes but not enough to put them over the top. The Blazers made their free throws, weathered the obligatory Tyson Chandler whiny-soft-tough-guy temper tantrum (he wisely made sure Przybilla wasn't in the game this time), watched the refs miss a second-foul-in-the-last-two-minutes call, and still came out ahead 80-74 in a game filled with mistakes for everyone.
In a game featuring 8 assists for the Blazers (yikes!) you know this one was about individual efforts. Credit the Big Three, Miller, and Fernandez. Portland again held the opponent to sub-37% shooting. Gerald Wallace was held to 12 points on the strength of Portland's interior defenders and nobody else outside of Boris Diaw could make a difference. After they were thwarted early on the Bobcats stayed out of the middle for far too long and ended up paying the price. Portland made 21 foul shots to Charlotte's 8. The Blazers also moderated their turnovers. The only area where Charlotte did what they wanted was offensive rebounds, of which they collected 16, likely due to Oden being limited to 17 minutes of play.
Greg Oden was a game-changer again, as should be evident by his name coming up every second sentence heretofore. He finished a perfect 4-4 from the field, confounding Charlotte defenders, tallying 8 points. He added 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. The 17 minutes were all about foul trouble. He ended up fouling out too, providing some justification for Nate's "Two fouls and you're down" rule. The perimeter defenders left him exposed on a couple drives. It wasn't that obnoxious, but all you need is two whistles to turn a 30-minute, 4-foul night into a 15-minute ejection.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a rough offensive night at 4-11 and 11 points, losing the scoring duel to Diaw. It didn't matter because the guys surrounding him were better and because he kept active despite missing. I like the energy LaMarcus has been putting out during this streak. He's a guy who could be demanding 18-20 shots per game but he's working for the team. Don't lose sight of that despite the rocky offensive start to the season.
Brandon Roy was on tonight and played a fairly complete game. You never noticed him taking over. He pretty much did it in the flow. 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers. His teammates helped him with Wallace too.
Andre Miller played an aggressive game tonight, doing everything from driving to hitting baseline jumpers to taking D.J. Augustin in the post and making him look about 4'9" tall. He helped spearhead the much-needed lane attack. 5-12, 5-5 from the line, 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist. Don't let the assist worry you. It wasn't that kind of night.
Steve Blake shot 10 three-pointers tonight and hit 2. Every field goal attempt was from beyond the arc. He did dribble-penetrate though and he picked up a couple of assists to go along with his 8 points and 4 rebounds.
Rudy Fernandez provided a lift in the fourth when everybody else looked tired. The game almost looked like it was going south until he stepped in. Like Blake, every field goal attempt came from beyond the arc but he hit 2-5 instead of 2-10. 10 points, 7 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Joel Przybilla tried to keep the middle safe and picked up 6 boards in 26 minutes. It wasn't his greatest game but he didn't hurt us either.
Martell Webster missed all three of his shot attempts in 11 minutes. At least he collected 2 rebounds. Juwon Howard played 12 minutes, hit a shot and a free throw, and got 0 rebounds...same as Charlotte's DeSagana Diop. Except Diop didn't dress tonight.
Final Thoughts and Links
4-0 on a five-game road swing. 4-1 is the worst that can happen. I don't care who you are, that's fine work. I'd give equal chances for a Blazer win or a huge blowout in Atlanta's favor Monday. Portland also has to watch on that first game back home as the tendency will be to relax. But none of that takes away 4-0 on a five-game road swing.
See what they thought of us at RufusonFire