Saying the Blazers played a great game tonight would be an overstatement. They played a smart, energetic, and finely-executed second half. That was enough against an overmatched Bucks team. On the fifth game of a five-game trip you'll hear no complaints about that from me.
The Bucks actually came out the aggressors by far. They were out to exploit whatever fatigue the Blazers were feeling. They got in the grill of every shooter and bumped hard on drives. The Blazers shied away a little, beginning the game with a rain of jumpers that missed. Portland didn't get on the scoreboard until Roy and Outlaw drove it hard. That caused the Bucks to sag more and opened up some threes, which is how we got back in the game. We struggled on the boards and even more in transition defense.
The Bucks also surprised us by switching defensive schemes back and forth. This was great practice for the playoffs, as that's exactly what any non-dominant team will try to do against this young squad. Portland looked flabbergasted at first and ended up shooting late in the clock as they searched for different cracks every time down. Finally the Blazers adjusted and started driving again and once again we made up ground. The Bucks led by 4 at the half but you got the sense that Portland had the momentum.
In the second half Portland became the aggressor. The defense was more active, including and especially shutting off those easy transition buckets. Milwaukee still ran but whoever tried for the layup faced a Blazer defending and another trailing. Milwaukee still tried valiantly to cover the middle and then close out on shooters but eventually all of that running wore them down. The Blazers spaced the floor exquisitely well and the Bucks started leaving Portland open for threes. Steve Blake tattooed the Bucks, connecting on 6 of 10 threes. Meanwhile B-Roy was working his magic in the middle and Joel and company were tugging down rebounds on both ends. It was too much. Charlie Villanueva was the only Buck hitting and he couldn't score enough to stem the tide. The Blazers cruised to the victory and a nice 3-2 road trip that almost became a spectacular 4-1.
The stats of the night were:
1. The Blazers held Milwaukee to 39.5% shooting. Their season average is 44.5%.
2. The Blazers actually got up three more shots than the Bucks, which is something Milwaukee definitely doesn't like.
3. Portland hit 11-24 threes...almost 46%. Yikes!
--You have to start with Roy's 30 points. But more than that, nobody really got free for the Blazers until Brandon started driving and drilling it. 11-19 shooting, 7-9 from the line, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, a block...he was serious about coming out with a good effort this game. I don't care what anyone around the league says. He's our superstar.
--LaMarcus Aldridge stayed outside almost exclusively on offense and looked a little concussed on his shot, frankly. That's not a medical diagnosis or a suggestion he shouldn't be out there, he was just off. He did grab 5 defensive boards and 7 overall so it's not like he stopped fighting. He just didn't have it tonight. 4-16 shooting, 8 points.
--All of LaMarcus' missed points were made up by Steve Blake. He drilled the team that gave up on him for 21, 6-10 from three-point range (worth mentioning twice) and 1 nifty move off of the dribble. He was just filthy from distance too. No matter where he was, he hit. He had 6 assists and 2 steals as well.
--Travis Outlaw started the game and was one of the guys who drove hard. He picked up 6 foul shots, which is a trend I'd love to see continue...doubly so because he hit every one of them. He had 6 rebounds, 17 points, and even 4 assists. That's actually a nice line for 33 minutes, especially since he didn't have to stick out to make it happen.
--Joel Przybilla never touched the ball inside because the Bucks were so swarmy, but he managed 14 rebounds (4 offensive) and 2 blocks in 37 minutes. He also answered the defensive call, especially in the second half. Again, we depend on him for so much help and he comes through.
--Rudy Fernandez played 29 minutes but had trouble connecting on his shot again. He did hit 3 threes, which was wonderful to see. We can talk about spacing all we want but unless guys connect on the shots that come as a result it's worthless. He was 4-12 overall for 12 points, 2 assists, and a blocked shot straight up! Good game...still waiting for the chance to chant again.
--Sergio Rodriguez played 12 minutes as the only back-up point guard and brought some nice energy to the game. He had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal, all of which show how active he was. He connected on his only shot but blew the chance for a triple-triple when he missed the and-one. Correction...he had 3 turnovers as well, so technically he missed out on a quadruple-triple. (Which, by the way, you can order at Wendy's. But I wouldn't advise it.) I'm not inclined to hold those 3 turnovers against him. A couple of them were just brain-dead aberrations and he doesn't have nearly so many of those anymore. He was just a little rusty and pushing a bit.
--You know if Joel Przybilla played 37 minutes that means that Greg Oden got in a passel of foul trouble. He had 5 fouls and 4 turnovers (gulp!) in 9 minutes. He's getting washed and waxed down deep again because he's bringing the ball down low off of rebounds. He did have 3 boards, 2 points, and a steal.
One more game in this extended stretch of playing every-night or every-other-night and we get a little break. The 3rd of March is the last extra off day we had and before that the 17th of February.
The remaining games (home games in bold): Philly, Phoenix, Memphis, Utah, OKC, Houston, Memphis, San Antonio, L*kers, Clippers, OKC, Denver. There's good news and bad news sprinkled in there with a couple of wildcard games. Monday's contest would be one of the latter.
Check out the Bucks' reaction at BrewHoop.
Peep your Jersey Contest score and enter for Monday's game here.