I felt pretty bad for the Bucks tonight. They showed up for their playdate in Portland only to end up on the business end of four timeouts from their coach and one enormous spanking from the Blazers. Then again, they probably deserved it. They were pretty bad boys.
The first couple minutes of this game looked perilous for Portland as the Blazers came out a step slow on "D" and took the old 1-on-1 approach to the offense. Brandon Roy was the only Blazer scoring with that approach. But even that was enough, as the score at the 7:00 mark of the first was Roy 8, Bucks 6. Soon after a light bulb turned on in the Blazers' heads. "If we pass the ball, we can create more open shots, for the flight of the ball exceeds the speed of the Bucks' feet by a significant margin. And that's not even factoring in the defensive commitment ratio." LaMarcus Aldridge actually started the deal on a couple of Roy's makes but after that Miller, Roy, and Blake got involved with flat-out assisting and nobody else held onto the ball for long. The Blazers also set some crisp picks and (gasp!) used them. As the offense got easier the defense picked up, personified best by the play of Aldridge, whose energy started to rev as the quarter progressed. The rotations all of a sudden got quicker, followed by the overall tempo. The Blazers were helped by Andrew Bogut drawing two early fouls. Add it all together and you got a 31-16 edge for Portland at the first quarter horn.
The unselfish offensive play continued in the second quarter, as Steve Blake and Jerryd Bayless got into the act. Nobody on Milwaukee's side seemed to care about following the ball when it moved. The Blazers might as well have been redeeming Christmas gift cards at Offense-backwards "R"-Us. Portland missed 6 shots in the period and committed 1 turnover. Everything else went right. Meanwhile they helped hard against Bogut whenever he got deep and let Milwaukee try to get back in it with long jumpers and free throws. The Bucks hit a bunch of both but their 30 point total in the period paled next to Portland's 35. The Blazers left the court up 20.
Portland didn't let up in the third period either as LaMarcus Aldridge came out scoring, followed soon by Andre Miller posting up and Martell Webster hitting threes. Aldridge was also all over the place on defense and the Blazers did a better job getting out to cover Milwaukee's deep shots while still protecting the rim. Portland gained another 6 in the period, at one point pushing the lead above 30. The Bucks looked to have long since surrendered. We talked about timeouts in the into. Milwaukee actually called the minimum number allowable in this game. They seemed to just want out of town.
The Bucks did make a comeback in the fourth off of the Blazers getting ultra-sloppy with the ball and them making threes all over the place. But it wasn't a sustainable run, especially facing that kind of deficit. As often happens in the NBA, the final score looked far closer than the game actually was.
Portland shot over 60% for the game, which is almost the only stat you need to know to understand this win. They were 42% from the arc, had 25 assists, slammed back 8 blocks (5 different people accounting for them), took great care of the ball when it mattered, and outscored the Bucks in the paint by 10. If the evening had been any more of a breeze the crowd could have flown kites.
Brandon Roy barely had to exert himself in this game compared to recent outings. One of the best stats of the night was him playing only 27 minutes. He was buttery-smooth and straight in line on everything during his time on the court. His early offense looked beautiful. Remember that awkward Brandon we saw earlier this year? He's grown out of it. 22 points on 7-10 shooting and 7-7 free throws.
LaMarcus Aldridge rediscovered his spark tonight. He spent time guarding centers and forwards, in the lane and on the perimeter. He was all over the place defensively and keyed the energetic performance on that end. He led the team with 15 shots, hitting 10 of them for 21 points. He also had 6 assists to go along with his 7 boards and 2 blocks. The offense ran through him just fine. Obviously you have to put the caveat that this is the Bucks, but this is also what we need out of LaMarcus in this time. I hope he feels great this evening.
Andre Miller brutalized those quick, sweet-scoring Milwaukee point guards. He bumped them, posted up on them, and just acted mean. He shot 6-8 from the field, 7-12 from the line, bagged 19 points, and dished 9 assists. I think he might have remembered how they beat us last time.
Martell Webster was just having fun out there. He hit 3-4 from the three-point arc, cut to the basket on multiple occasions, and ended up with 15 points on 6-10 shooting. His shot gets released without a thought now, which is very, very good to see. I like the Martell we're seeing lately.
Juwan Howard did his job: banging post players, getting 7 rebounds, and hitting 4-5 from the field with timely offense for 9 points total. I still realize his limitations. I still like him anyway.
Steve Blake got 28 minutes tonight, likely because he played excited. He hit his threes, hustled his butt off, and ended up with 5 rebounds and 4 assists along with his 11 points. This was one of the rare times we saw last year's Steve on the court. It looked good.
Jerryd Bayless drew 5 free throws in 18 minutes as the Bucks couldn't keep their hands out of his cookie jar. He had 12 points on the night and had a nice second-quarter run to spark the team to consecutive great quarters.
Jeff Pendergraph had the usual solid outing with 3 rebounds, 9 points, and a lot of effort in 19 minutes. He's a real Bench Buster for this team now.
Rudy Fernandez is back! He passed up a bunch of shots (much to the chagrin of the crowd) and only hit 1-5 on the shots he did take but I loved his defensive effort tonight. He had some wiggle room with the Bucks (and frankly with Portland's screwy lineups right now) and he took full advantage. If you're scrambling anyway, Rudy's one of the guys you want. Good enough impact for Game 1 back.
I normally wouldn't mention much about Dante Cunningham's 5 minutes except that he managed to draw 5 personal fouls in them. Slow down! You can't be Greg Oden in just one day.
Shavlik Randolph got 2 minutes and broke the crowd's heart by missing his only shot.
This was the kind of effort and win we expected to see out of the Blazers this year. Everything clicked tonight. The team needed a game like that and so did we. Well done. Way to not make the game harder than it already is.
See how they interpret the fiasco at BrewHoop