The Portland Trail Blazers predictably pummeled the Washington Wizards, 111-76, in what amounted to a fight between a pit bull and a t-bone steak with its hands tied behind its back.
For at least the third year in a row, Washington was far more entertaining during pre-game warm-ups than during regulation. At first, it was unclear how many Wizards would show up and I was starting to get worried that they got lost in Beaverton during their trip to the Nike Employee Store. Forward Yi Jianlian warmed up by himself for a solid twenty minutes before any of his teammates showed up. Jianlian practiced shooting jump hooks while standing 90 degrees to the basket and he was being instructed to shoot them without rotating his body, only turning his head. He wasn't adept at the concept and didn't succeed often.
Later, Hamady Ndiaya airballed a jump hook from six feet so violently that it bounced off of a ball boy's foot and careened all the way out of bounds to the sideline rather than the baseline. It was the closest thing I've ever seen to one of those wayward, hooking soccer strikes that winds up as a throw-in for the other team rather than a goal kick. I expected Bill Nye to pop out from behind the guy from the Biggest Loser (Note: not Eddy Curry) and explain the physics of the process to me.
Out of nowhere most of the healthy Wizards emerged to play a nearly full speed game of four on four, by far the hardest you'll ever see a team go at it prior to a game. The good part was that the 10 minute stretch seemed like the most fun these guys had had -- except for the trip to Nike, of course -- all week. The bad part was that assistant coach Sam Cassell was still the best and most vocal player on the court. The worst part was that every possession seemed to end in an uncontested Yi 20 footer. The really worst part is that I nearly got decapitated by an errant crosscourt pass. Twitter can be hazardous, as I've noted many times before.
Eventually the real game started and the Blazers, although flat out of the gate, made quick work of as inexperienced a team as you'll see in the NBA. Full credit to the Wizards for tearing it all the way down, for shipping Gilbert Arenas out of town and for doing whatever it takes to get rookie point guard John Wall a talented teammate in this year's draft. But everyone knows that this team simply isn't watchable right now, and the Blazers ensured you could turn the game off early by getting promising Wizards center JaVale McGee into early foul trouble and then repeatedly picking on his undersized and inexperienced replacements. LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace combined for 50 points and 14 rebounds. Take another look at the picture above: no one on that roster is guarding LaMarcus Aldridge. And, obviously, no one is guarding Gerald Wallace either. The combination was more than enough to make up for the fact that all of Portland's guards had off shooting nights.
The only real storyline for the Blazers was the continued ineffectiveness of guard Brandon Roy, who looked beyond deferential, taking just six shots in almost 20 minutes, making none of them. Roy finished with one point, his lowest total since Nov. 10, 2006, when he played just six minutes in his fifth career NBA game. Tonight was also the first time Roy failed to make a field goal since that game. Roy is 5-25 (20%) from the field in the four games since his special second half against the Dallas Mavericks.
Both Roy and Blazers coach Nate McMillan maintain Roy's health isn't the issue.
"He's fine. He's not complaining about anything," McMillan said.
Asked by Matt Calkins of The Columbian if we should read into his recent shooting struggles, Roy said, "I wouldn't look into it. I thought the Dallas game was good, but physically I haven't taken any steps back."
I asked Roy, who had three assists, whether he was making a point to further adjust his offensive game by looking to facilitate first while playing extended stretches at the point guard position with Rudy Fernandez next to him. He sort of agreed but wasn't adamant about it. "Yeah, just trying to find that balance," Roy said. "See how I can continue to help. Try to get guys involved."
Blazers rookie point guard Armon Johnson piped up from the next locker, lightheartedly suggesting to me that Roy was simply trying to expand his game. "He's trying to become a complete player, man."
"Nah, man," Roy replied, as he stood up to leave. "I been had that. I was a complete player when I was born."
Random Game Notes
- When John Wall hits the open court he is trying to put people into medical retirement. And when he puts up that jumper he's building houses for Habitat for Humanity. The first Wall-as-a-pro-in-person experience was not as gleeful as I had hoped. Circumstances prevented that. He will be an All-Star by 2013.
- Nicolas Batum scored 22 points, one game after scoring 25 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It was only the second time Batum has scored 20+ back to back. The other was came in February and March of 2010, when Batum hung a career-high 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves and then 21 on the Memphis Grizzlies.
- Patty Mills: just five minutes in that game. Message received. Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that the high fives and bench energy from Mills will keep coming, tick or not.
- Chris Johnson: definitely better than Jarron Collins.
- Blazers center Marcus Camby turned 37 today. Aldridge joked on Twitter: "happy 40th b day yo." Camby's locker was adorned with streamers to celebrate the big day.
- Much to Kevin Pelton's delight, 2010 WNBA Champion Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler was recognized on the Rose Garden jumbotron. Agler is famous ... in WNBA circles ... for his stanky leg.
- The highlight of the night, maybe month, was JaVale McGee's cuff block of a Wesley Matthews drive. This is as must-see as defense gets in the NBA. Check out this genius photo of it by Bruce Ely. And here's the video via YouTube user OutsideTheNBA.
- Here's Roy on what sets the San Antonio Spurs, Friday's opponent, apart from the pack this year: "Just experience. They've got experienced players, great coach, Hall of Famer. And they have a style of play this year that is hard to deal with because they get a lot of movement, they shoot a lot of threes. I think defensively they do a good job of rotating. Just that experience that they have, they have won a lot of championships, they know how to adjust really well."
- Roy was carrying this book with him after the game.
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
What can you take from the win
I like that we went out and took care of business. I thought tonight we had to make some adjustments, play a lot of zone. The zone got us back into the game, slowed them down a little bit, they were really hurting us. Points in the paint. Trying to control their speed and the zone formed a wall and kept them out of the paint. The guys got three quarters in tonight which was good and the second half we came out and sustained play from the second quarter.
Just go out and play the game the right way. We want to play from the inside out. I thought tonight we did a better job of going into the post and playing off of LaMarcus. Our spacing and dives were better. Wallace did a good job of crashing the boards and diving to the basket. McGee is a beast in that paint. He blocked some shots, he can intimidate. I thought we got him in foul trouble early and he had to go to the bench. We're going to play from the inside out and I thought we did that.
JaVale McGee's block shot on Wesley Matthews
He defends the basket. I was watching tape, the Chicago game, he had seven block shots. He's a high wire act. We went at him early and was able to get him in foul trouble. Two quick fouls, he had to go out of the game. I thought that allowed us to really get to the basket.
Three players with 22+ points
Movement. You're not going to win too many games with 20 turnovers but I thought we did a good job, that first group, of moving the ball. The spacing was good. Being pretty sharp. Andre did a nice job of getting us into our sets.
14 steals tonight
I don't recall the steals. They were a little loose with the ball. We were able to come up with some steals but we had to play zone because we just could not stop their transition and their penetration, Wall's penetration early.
Brandon Roy's health
He's fine. He's not complaining about anything.
Ready for tough stretch of the schedule?
Well we know it's going to be a challenge going down the stretch. The focus is they are home games, most of them, and we get ready for San Antonio. We can't worry about next week or the road trip, we need to get ready for San Antonio on Friday.
I think they had 20 points in the paint in the first quarter. That was due to not controlling the ball. The zone helped us control that ball. So we can get better, we will have to get better with controlling the basketball and keeping the ball in front of us.
Are you ready for tough stretch in schedule
We'll see. It's coming up Friday. One game at a time. San Antonio is the game that we need to get ready for so we'll start to do that on Thursday.
Facing Spurs without Duncan
They play well without Tim against us. Tony is more involved, Ginobili is more involved, it's a veteran team. They're going to play their game, those guys are going to be the guys they run their sets through. They try to play faster, more pick and rolls, spread, uptempo kind of basketball with Tim.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter