The Memphis Grizzlies won the opening tip in this game and that's pretty much the last good thing that happened to them. The Blazers put on a clinic tonight, showing how to handle a team that doesn't defend and can't back it up with team-wide scoring.
It's hard to know where to start even. I guess what you'd say is that only a couple of Blazers had even average offensive nights. Fortunately those two happened to be Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. But the poor relatively poor overall shooting didn't even come into play because the Blazers dominated in so many other facets of the game.
Portland destroyed the Grizzlies on the boards. They had 21 offensive rebounds. The Grizzlies had 28 rebounds total, 20 of them defensive. Portland rebounded more of its own misses than Memphis did! That's just wrong.
The Blazers picked apart the Grizzlies defense with startling ball and player movement. The first weapon was the fast break, which mostly consisted of LaMarcus Aldridge running past whoever was supposed to guard him and getting football passes for easy twos. But when the initial option wasn't there the Blazers didn't force it. They just looked at Memphis and said, "It's OK. We've got 18 seconds more." Whether it was early or late in the clock almost all of the Blazers' shots were in the paint or open jumpers. You saw very few one-on-one moves resulting in Blazers shooting over the top. The Grizz were having problems dealing with one pass, let alone four.
The Blazers stayed in front of their counterparts, took away their fast break completely (first with rebounding, then by getting back), and made Memphis fire longer than they wanted to. The Grizzlies missed every three they attempted. Neither Gay nor Mayo got off without easy buckets. And frankly the Blazers did a great job of shadowing both scorers so they didn't get enough attempts overall. Mayo finished with 12 points on 14 shots, Gay with 10 points on 10 shots, Gasol with 10 points on 8 shots, and don't even bother asking what Mike Conley did. Their top four options combined for 34 points. That's bad.
After watching the Blazers win games with offense for most of the first 2/3 of the season it's nice to see them winning some games with defense and hustle. The Grizzlies scored 16 points in the first, 11 in the third, and 19 (on some cheap grace buckets) in the final period.
Overall the Blazers attempted 9 more field goals, and 8 more free throws than did Memphis. The Blazers led 32-28 in made field goals, 4-0 in made threes, 18-10 in free throws, and obliterated them in points in the paint and fast break points. The Blazers had more steals, more assists, more blocks, more points off of turnovers, more second-chance points, more bench scoring, more starters scoring...I don't think I need to go on.
--Brandon Roy only attempted 13 shots tonight but he got 21 points off of them because he went 6-8 from the free throw line. He also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. After starting the game with 3 turnovers he shut them down for the rest of the night, ending with that same 3.
--LaMarcus Aldridge was really the dominant force through most of the game. The Grizzlies just didn't have much of an answer to his speed or grace. He went 8-16 for 18 points. He was active defensively as well, moving in the lanes and tipping balls. He finished with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. If you have to pick just one reason the Blazers are looking like a serious playoff team in the last month instead of the young team that started the year you point at LaMarcus. Every game this guy is bringing it.
--Joel Przybilla moved and made himself available for passes tonight. He got enough to go 3-4 for 7 points. Oh, and he had 10 rebounds too. And he helped keep Gasol contained and pesky Grizzlies out of the paint. If you want to pick a second reason for the team's improvement, go with Joel.
--Nicolas Batum was his usual active self early. He's been helping the Blazers get off to fast starts lately and that always helps. 4 points, 3 rebounds, and another fast-break block.
--Steve Blake had 5 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes. With everybody passing like the ball was hot he really didn't spend much time with the rock in his hands.
--Even though he's approaching the bucket on offense like a high school freshman approaches a senior cheerleader at the dance, Greg Oden was still the man off of the bench tonight. He had 12 points, 6 of them off of free throws. He went 6-8 from the charity stripe, 3-9 from the field. He had 9 rebounds, 5 offensive. He also managed a block and 4 fouls. The bench overall was so-so tonight but Greg helped them stay strong.
--Travis Outlaw played 29 minutes and only went 2-9 from the field but the Mikes were correct tonight in pointing out that he's expanded his overall game. He's passing more now than we've ever seen him and he doesn't stick out nearly so much for blowing defensive assignments or missing rebounds. He doesn't just look like an offensive basketball player out there. He's starting to look like a teammate.
--Rudy Fernandez played 26 minutes but couldn't quite recreate his magic from the last game. His shots were a little more forced and he ended up 3-9, 1-4 from distance for 9 points. He got 2 steals, an unselfish assists to Travis Outlaw on the break when he could have had the bucket himself, and he kept himself and the ball moving.
--Sergio Rodriguez rebounded from a shaky start to have a decent game. He's looking more comfortable out there, which is always a good sign. He had 4 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 5 turnovers in 17 minutes. The part I'm starting to like more about him is his rebounding. It's only 2-3 per game but he's been doing that a lot lately. That's not a bad number for a point guard and for as few minutes as he plays.
--Ruffin, Jerryd, and Channing each got a few minutes, combining for a steal, an assist, a turnover, and 2 points between them. Sadly O.J. was gone by the time Channing got in. I wanted badly for him to get switched around on defense so I could say, "Hey, you've got Mayo on my Frye." No such luck. But the two teams do play again soon...
You know, this is a good thing. The Blazers handled this game like it was business. It is so, so GOOD to see them taking lessons that they've learned throughout last year and this--both by what they've done and what other teams have done to them--and applying them at this critical time. This playoff run stretch is like a final exam for this team and they're pretty much acing it. It's not just this win. No offense, but a blowout against Memphis this year is not a singular achievement. It's the way they're handling everything from the road trip to the Philly loss to the Phoenix win to this. This is really the best basketball we've seen from this incarnation of the team. I don't mean it's our biggest win streak, obviously. That happened last winter. But if you just want to talk NBA basketball and doing what you need to do in order to be a dependably good team this is definitely the stuff.
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