Single file. I said: SINGLE FILE! Yes, this is the line to take credit for the adjustments that led to the Blazers victory -- but please, stop pushing and shoving!!! -- Order. Please, order!!
So you thought the Blazers should ditch the three guard lineup? Good, step right on up here.
You thought Blazers bigs should be allowed three fouls in the first half, like every other team in the league? Yep, get in line.
You wanted to see more young energy -- Jerryd Bayless and/or Dante Cunningham -- provide a spark in the second unit? Congratulations, you're in the right place.
Oh God. Oh... God. You're part of the mass of 100,000 people who thought it was important to return Brandon Roy to his rightful position as two guard? Ok, all of you, you're in. Careful, please, careful.
All together now: pat yourself on the back. Don't sprain anything. Ma$e, what are you doing here? Oh, you'd like to break out an impromptu rendition of "Feel So Good?" Fine. Very well.
Good show, everyone, good show. Take a bow. You deserve it.
It's not everyday and every city where you see the fanbase so accurately predict a team's necessary adjustments after a loss and have them play out almost exactly as planned the very next day. This is cause for celebration.
Seriously, though, it's always nice to know that the coaching staff and the fanbase are seeing the same things and it's doubly nice to see the coaching staff exhibit flexibility and sound judgement in pulling the trigger. Some of these issues might have seemed like easy decisions but they are more complicated than you might expect given that they do involve real people, real dollars (millions of them) and real egos (very, very real egos). The important takeaway from tonight's game: adjustments were made, normalcy was re-established and life goes on in a much happier direction.
Tonight, Nate McMillan returned to his original starting lineup -- Blake, Roy, Webster, Aldridge, Oden -- and returned both Brandon Roy and Steve Blake to their respective comfort zones. While some might hold out hope that Andre Miller will find himself in that starting point guard spot, that's a discussion for a later date. No one can argue with the results that Blake and Roy provided tonight: Blake was 4 of 6 from distance with 9 assists, Roy with 18 points and 5 assists, the players combined for just two turnovers. The icing on the cake was one of Martell Webster's best games as a pro, his first career double-double (21 points, 13 rebounds), highlighted by a solid 4 of 7 from distance, 3s that helped turn the game from comfortable win to blowout city.
It remains to be seen how Andre Miller will respond to his return to the bench. He managed just 4 points and 4 assists in 20 minutes and gave a laconic post-game interview before exiting the locker room quickly. He said all the right things but didn't look particularly thrilled. Then again, I'm not sure thrilled is part of his vocabulary when it comes to post-game interviews.
Brandon Roy, on the other hand, looked as happy as he did the day he signed his max extension, practically gushing over the return to the original starting lineup. "Of course I like it, I'm back to my natural position," Roy said. He later added, "I wish we would have stuck to it a little longer" earlier this year. Sounds to me like those statements we heard this week about Roy not grasping his role found the right set of ears.
Certainly, it's hard to put any stock into a win over the Timberwolves, a team that fields no more than three quality players, a team that the Blazers out-shot, out-rebounded, out-assisted, out-blocked and out-housed (they took them behind the woodshed). Nevertheless, a resounding win is what we all expected to see, what the team, frankly, needed to deliver. And they did. Mission accomplished, for tonight.
Random Game Notes
- Martell Webster went down hard during the last minute of the game -- a ridiculous scene, really, as he tried to pad his stats with the game well out of hand -- and was having difficulty moving around on the game's final possession. After the game, he asked a member of the Blazers medical staff to join him in a back area of the locker room and seemed to indicate he was in some pain. The team is not scheduled to practice tomorrow and will only go through a light shootaround Monday before Monday night's game against the Bulls. Hopefully it's nothing serious.
- So Bill Laimbeer and Nathan Jawai walk into a bar and... yeah, it's a ridiculous mental image worthy of a punchline. During pregame warmups, the former Bad Boy was putting the pleasant Jawai through his paces, with a focus on footwork, exploding to the basket and some peppy motivational mumbo-jumbo. When Jawai took the ball directly at Greg Oden for his only field goal of the game, the Wolves bench exploded, although Laimbeer just sat smiling. Baby steps, I suppose.
- Jonny Flynn might not have been efficient or all that effective but there is a very short list of players in the league who are more fearless. All these minutes with the ball in his hands reading defenses will surely pay dividends later in his career. He is Wade-esque in his ability to hurdle/vault himself at the rim regardless of the bodies around or in front of him. Blazers Scouting Director Mike Born spoke with Flynn for quite awhile prior to the game. Dare to dream.
- For the record... when Nate McMillan switched to the 3 guard lineup against the San Antonio Spurs, I noted "there's a chance McMillan talks himself into this starting lineup for the next 9 games." He made it 8 games. Remarkable, in hindsight.
- Juwan Howard: 0 points, 6 rebounds, 21 minutes. Is Team Dante ready to rock and roll or what?
Nate's Post-Game Comments
With that group, that first group, he's a spreader. Brandon and LaMarcus are seeing double teams when they play and you need a guy who can keep that defense honest. And if they don't he has the ability to hurt them with the three point ball. If they play single coverage our guys should be able to take advantage of that. He really helps spreading the floor.
Yeah, I just wanted to get back to that lineup and get Martell in the game, get us some balance. I wanted to try to get Brandon some touches. Get Andre with that second group, running that second team. I thought he did a good job tonight, running some sets with Martell. Bayless was in there for a little bit. Rudy, that group. I think it balances the rotation. Without Travis being in the lineup, we need, I really need Andre to be more of a force with that second group.
Tonight he basically was just quarterbacking. He was running the sets. Looking for Rudy and Martell. We had LaMarcus come back with that group. I want to try to keep a big with them, either Greg or LaMarcus. LaMarcus was the guy who got in foul trouble, ended up playing the fourth quarter. It wasn't bad. I think we can take advantage of Andre posting and running the team, and running some sets for those guys.
Six players in double figures
I mean it's been awhile since we've seen guys make shots. Tonight we were knocking down our shots. Open looks, shots that we've had in other games but tonight we were knocking those shots down. We're very capable of knocking those shots down and we just need to keep taking them.
Wins over bad teams
Those are games you've got to take care of. That's the schedule, you play the schedule. You try to improve every single night. A game is a game -- all of them mean the same, regardless of who you're playing or where you're playing. You try to win those games. I thought tonight we came back after losing that game last night, much better job taking care of the ball, only 10 turnovers tonight.
Stick with this starting lineup going forward?
Yeah, this is where the lineup that we'll go with.
Andre's reaction to not starting?
He was fine with it. I want him, I need him to be aggressive with that group. It's not a demotion or anything like that. I think with that group we can allow him to be aggressive, post up, run the team. We had pretty much all of our weapons in that first group -- now Martell, you're not running plays for him, he's just spreading and playing off of guys, which I think is good for him. This is the way we started. You change that lineup sometimes to get some aggressiveness, to light a fire with a guy and tonight Martell had his eye.
Martell's defense and rebounding
It's very important and he's capable of defending and rebounding. He's a good rebounder and those are things he needs to do at that small forward position.
-- Ben Golliver | (email@example.com) | Twitter