Another night, another victory over a team the Blazers should beat. How you look at it depends on your philosophy, I suppose. Skeptic: Portland had better be winning these games. You can't tell anything yet. Fan: Every team is a team the Blazers should beat! Either way, winning beats the heck out of losing, as you could tell by the Nets' expressions (Brook Lopez aside) walking off the floor.
The Blazers did the right thing early, going to Oden and letting the Nets try to stop him. He scored twice before they sent reinforcements. At that point Roy and Webster had free jumpers and the offense was rolling. Well...except for a couple possessions when Blake over-dribbled the ball like he was the shooting guard again. The players just can't let that happen. They have to give him more options. He has to take them. Meanwhile the Nets tried Chris Douglas-Roberts a couple of times before they settled into their theme for the evening: Brook Lopez, Brook Lopez, Brook Lopez. It was as single-note as a Britney Spears hit, but it also worked like a Britney Spears hit. He started tipping and flipping, adding a dunk or two along the way for good measure. Greg Oden had picked up a near-immediate foul to start the game. While he kept a body on Lopez he wasn't going to go after him hard. Joel Przybilla couldn't stop him either. But the inside-out attack of the Blazers beat the inside-in attack of the Nets and Portland exited the period up 5.
At that point both teams signed a cease-fire treaty. Well, technically speaking it wasn't a cease fire since both teams kept firing. It was more of a cease-hitting treaty. For the better part of the next two quarters the Blazers were content to moderate the tempo and trade possessions with the Nets. It started with a Miller-Bayless-Rudy lineup that just didn't work on the offensive end. The mediocrity continued as the Blazers got looks for everyone except LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Considering Brandon Roy was on the bench at the time that means nobody that a casual New Jersey fan would recognize shot the ball. Finally Aldridge started getting shots in the final third of the period, bolstered a little by Miller. Coincidentally the ball started going through the hoop. Meanwhile the Nets decided that Brook Lopez wasn't the answer after all...that experimenting was more fun. Each team scored 21 in the second period.
Since the beginning stretch of the cease-hitting treaty went so well the teams agreed to extend it not only in length but in scope. Evidently the final goal was total disarmament...neither team damaging the other in any way, putting the ball through the hoop being replaced by an emotion-baring drum circle around the center court logo, punctuated by the steady blowing of the 24-second horn. The Blazers spent much of the third quarter packing in the defense. After watching Greg Oden score again early in the period the Nets did the same. There was drought. There was famine. There was a mass rush to the concession stand, followed by an 18-minute wait for munchies, followed by returning to seats only to realize that the score was two points different than when you left. New Jersey snuck in a couple layups early. Portland pushed tempo and got some secondary break buckets late. The Nets scored 12 in the quarter, the Blazers 13.
After two quarters of mutual non-hostility Rudy Fernandez finally stepped forward and said, "This is not macho. This is not sexy. This is not allowing me to demonstrate the best traditions of Spanish basketball which my forbears gave into my sacred trust." And he immediately began peppering New Jersey with those insufferable, impossible threes he hits. In true 2009-10 Nets fashion they responded, "Ow! Hey, that hurt! Be more careful...ow! But we promised not to...ow! That's it! RELEASE THE BROOK LOPEZ!" The waters roared and foamed as the great behemoth rose from the depths. There sat the lovely win, chained to a rock, easy prey for whoever would come to claim her. Lopez hit free throws, post shots, spinning layups, tip shots. But it was too late. The medusa head of Rudy's shooting combined with some timely Miller assists and Oden dunks, ended the threat. The ending credits saw the Blazers up by 10, streamers falling, and the Nets looking elsewhere for their first win of the season. Portland didn't win comfortably--the score had been tied midway through the third and the Blazers only led by 6 going into the final period--but they won. That's the important thing.
Portland got past getting obliterated in the paint (a 52-28 points in the paint edge to New Jersey when all was said and done) by shooting 50% from the field, 53% from the arc, and tallying 25 assists on 35 made buckets. The offense was basically right, the Nets couldn't hit a three to save their souls, and that was the ballgame.
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Brandon Roy had a quiet night, taking only 10 shots in 39 minutes, hitting 5 of them, and scoring 13 points with 5 assists and 3 turnovers. On the one hand you say the Blazers didn't need more Brandon tonight. But I'm not as fond of nights like this simply because I think it's hard to make the adjustment between Brandon turning it on and off game to game...if not for him, for the team. You know you're going to need him. Keep the wheels greased. The early-90's Blazers didn't need Clyde every single night but he still got plenty of shots. I think Andre Miller has the right idea that Greg Oden needs to be fed first to get him in the game and establish inside strength. That frees up the whole court for other offensive players. I also think LaMarcus needs to be established early. But once that has happened I think the team really needs to concentrate on getting Brandon his. It worries me a little that we have plenty of players in the middle rotation (Rudy, Martell, Travis) who need to score to feel important. Props to them, they're good players. But Brandon is at the head of the list, period. Feed him.
Greg Oden had another good offensive night, bowling his way to 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks. The team is really starting to rely on him. They don't look the same without him. Good job keeping his head when the whistles blew too. Even though he got 5 fouls he never looked in danger of fouling out.
LaMarcus Aldridge operated mostly from the perimeter tonight, hitting 4-13 shots but also drawing 5 foul shots (which is a good number for him) on his way to 12 points and 8 rebounds. More impressively he got 4 assists. His assist numbers are inching their way up and staying there. This is a great expansion of his game. The opponent used to know exactly what was going to happen when LMA got the ball. Now they have to guess at least a little bit. Between the two of them our starting big men tallied 6 assists which was as much as any individual guard.
Rudy Fernandez got hot late, ending the game having hit 4 of 5 three-pointers for 12 points. He took this game from a close shave to a sure victory. This was good, as his first quarter shift was filled with serious defensive mistakes reminiscent of old Rudy more than this year's model. This team is just begging for Rudy to be great right now. The door is wide open. I hope he can move through it. His entry is dependent on attention to detail as much as anything. He's got to be precise out there.
Martell Webster hit 4 of 8 shots, 2-4 from the arc, for 10 points. He looked confident in his shot. It was hard to tell how well he was playing defensively as the Nets didn't field a lot of threats. Overall he looked a little more energetic than in the last couple of games, likely because he was connecting.
Steve Blake scored 8 points on 3-6 shooting and had 4 assists. When he blends in with the offense it's seamless. As mentioned above, though, when the opponent forces him to stick out it's still not pretty. I'm appreciative of Steve and yet restless with Steve at the same time. I think that the injuries have put him in a place to which he's not suited. Every single time he puts the ball on the floor and tries to attack I wish it were Brandon instead.
Andre Miller helped us push the tempo again, benefitting LaMarcus and several others. The Blazers' secondary break is a potent weapon with almost any conceivable trailer being able to score and/or dunk. Miller knows how to work it. The simple defense tonight (help Oden guard the middle at all costs) benefitted Andre as much as it did Martell. 10 points and 6 assists in 26 minutes.
Joel Przybilla exploded for 10 rebounds in 18 minutes. Nice! He also committed 5 turnovers in those 18 minutes. Not so nice. Still love the effort though.
Dante Cunningham pulled 17 minutes tonight. That's a pretty big chunk for a young fella. He looked energetic and as confident as ever. He didn't play perfectly but he made up for it with effort and having a decent sense of where to be on the court, which I believe is all the coaching staff expects from its rookies. He hit 3-6 shots for 6 points, which was good. He got 5 rebounds and a steal too. That was better. His 2 assists topped off the cake. Looking for others hasn't been a strong suit of our forward corps for years. If this guy has any kind of court vision and unselfishness, I think my toes are going to start curling. Don't expect the world yet, but put another small notch in Cunningham's holster.
Jerryd Bayless got 5 minutes and finished a nifty drive for 2. But he also committed 2 personal fouls, had a little trouble defensively, and couldn't find any kind of groove or create one for others.
I'm thankful the Blazers won this won. I'm thankful some of the guys around Roy are starting to look better, both individually and together. I'm thankful for the 12-5 record. I'm thankful that we'll be seeing moderately tougher competition soon so we can be honed and tested more. And I'm thankful for all of you who make Blazersedge the site it is. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Enter Friday's Jersey Contest form here. Remember there's also a Saturday game. The form for that one will open after the Memphis game is complete.