Any recap of a non-broadcast, pre-season, road game is going to be underwhelming, but we'll do our best to soldier on.
Speaking of soldiering on, the story of the night is Jeff Pendergraph getting wheeled off the floor with a leg injury. You can read the scrolling update below. The basic news: it looks serious but stay tuned for the MRI tomorrow. First and foremost come best wishes for Jeff, not only because the Blazers could use his big body right now but because he's a stand-up, full-effort guy. Ben has a list of possible reactions in his post but the likeliest course is for the Blazers to limp onward, depending on Marcus Camby to be ready for the start of the regular season. Assuming Camby is healthy this will probably result in more time for LaMarcus Aldridge at center and a correspondingly bigger need for Dante Cunningham.
Question: When NBA centers gather around campfires at midnight do you suppose they tell stories about becoming a Trail Blazer? "And that's when he heard his knee snap. Aiiiiiiigggghhhhhhh!" Be afraid Erick Dampier. Be very afraid.
Speaking of Dante Cunningham, he went 8-12 tonight for 18 points plus 10 rebounds, 4 offensive. Wesley Matthews continued his offensive display, notching 21 points. He went only 6-15 from the field but shot 7-10 from the free throw line. That's encouraging news. Shots will fall some nights and stray others but drawn fouls carry your offense every time you take the court. If he's got moves enough to get to the line with consistency Matthews will become a huge asset to the Blazers. Wesley also dished 5 dimes. Rudy Fernandez went 4-6 from the arc en route to 15 points. Jerryd Bayless shot 3-6 for 8 points and 4 assists. The rule about young guys in pre-season is that nothing counts until the games do. Confidence, however, is one characteristic that carries over into the regular season and it appears Portland's second unit will be brimming with confidence this year. That's a great development.
On the down side both Brandon Roy and Andre Miller had sub-par outings, scoring 4 points each on 0-2 and 1-6 shooting respectively. Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum had average games as far as the boxscore reads. We'll have to wait for eyewitness word on the defense. LaMarcus Aldridge was the only starter who acquitted himself well with 15 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. The rule about starters in pre-season, particularly veteran starters, is the same as that for young guys: nothing counts until the games do. I'm not concerned about slow starts at this point. I will be concerned if early November looks the same as early October.
The Blazers got down early in this game, trailing by 16 after one. They blasted out a 40-point second period and closed the gap, trailing by only 3 at the half. Inconsistency is expected at this stage. The more disturbing aspect is the Blazers allowing 58 points to the Jazz in the first half...a result belying their emphasis on defense. The lack of centers--keys to Portland's defensive scheme--probably had something to do with it. The Jazz were consistent in the second half, scoring 21 in each period. (Either Portland's defense picked up or Jerry Sloan went with bench guys...probably both.) The Blazers went split-personality again, scoring 14 in the third and 27 in the fourth. It all added up to a four-point loss, a result which matters not a bit. Ironing out inconsistency is the key as the pre-season progresses even if the Blazers don't win any of their remaining games.
We'll continue to keep an eye on the Pendergraph story. We'll also be watching for the starting lineup to spark soon. If you were in attendance tonight or even heard something significant on the radio be sure and share your impressions in the comment section.