In a Nutshell
The Blazers do what is necessary--and no more--to post a second-half rally and win comfortably over the injured and less-talented Hornets.
We don't really need to go quarter-by-quarter for this game because the flow was more or less the same throughout. The Blazers played down to the Hornets' pace, allowed New Orleans to double-team (or more) active scorers with impunity, settled for the outside jumper instead of moving the ball, and played just enough defense to keep the Hornets down by 6-8 points through the first half. In the third quarter the Blazers got a few interior buckets and some of their three-pointers fell. That burst was enough to push the lead to 20. New Orleans wasn't capable of coming back from the 6-point deficit, let alone the double-digit one. The Blazers cruised to a win.
Despite the stagnant play the Blazers rebounded well for most of the game. This saved them from any prospective Hornets rallies.
Right around the time he was named an All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge was really cooking. The Blazers went to him early and often. He broke the backs of other teams in the first period and continued in the second half. Now he looks like an afterthought. He's blending in as if being an All-Star was the whole reason for the season. The Blazers can't have that. There's no way Aldridge should let his teammates get him only 11 shots. He should be calling for the ball, ripping somebody apart in the locker room. More than that, he ought to be blistering them for just standing around when he gets it, allowing opponents to send the kitchen sink at him and take away his looks. Kobe Bryant would be grabbing somebody's collar and chewing them out right now. Aldridge isn't Bryant, but he needs a little bit of that. Give me the ball, run the plays, be a threat when I touch it, help me score so we win. His line for tonight was 5-11, 10 points, 11 rebounds. Cheers for the rebounds, but that 10 points isn't going to cut it against anybody north of the Hornets. It's on him to get more pushy and it's on the rest of the squad to push him the ball.
If you were looking for a resurrection-type win, this wasn't it at all. It'll have to come on the road. That's the more appropriate place anyway. But the Blazers better find their energy before they get too far into this trip or they're going to pull a 2-fer at best.
You have Aldridge's line just above. He played actively on defense. The Hornets defensive scheme against him and the other serious Portland threats was almost comical...like a video game. You know how they simplify the strategy...if a guy is scoring 50 send everybody at him? The Hornets basically did that. Aldridge has it? Go get him everybody! They left Batum and Crawford a little more free but still gave them doses. The idea seemed to be that Portland would be scoring with one guy, so let's get him. It worked, too, because of the aforementioned standing around. When the Hornets sent extra men it was pass out...maybe one more pass...hold ball...oops, clock is running out...shoot a three. It's hard to believe that the Blazers let them get away with that for most of the game, especially a team without Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor. It's not like they were sending defensive stalwarts out there. They just made up for talent with numbers. Aldridge's line is Exhibit A of how it worked. If Portland doesn't do better than that they're going to looooooose big time.
Gerald Wallace often found himself as the recipient of those stand-around hot-potato passes. "Here! Do something!" He did manage to make a dent at the foul line, going 8-8 on the evening. The drive was there. The Hornets might have been better off letting him try to score than fouling him though. He was 2-8 from the field, 1-4 from the arc, finishing with 13 points and 4 rebounds in the latest of a series of rough statistical games for him.
Nicolas Batum stretched his legs offensively tonight, taking 16 shots and scoring 19. It wasn't a great night but he did seem to have fun watching charging Hornets defenders come at him (often recovering from an Aldridge swarm), then side-stepping them as they bulled by and shooting an uncontested jumper.
Marcus Camby got active tonight...or at least as active as we've seen him since the break. He had 16 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks and actually guarded the interior. Forcing the Hornets outside is a good plan as their shooting is dicey, especially with the injuries. Camby saw lesser players coming into the lane and decided to rack them up. Well done.
Somebody needs to get Raymond Felton a Segway because walking is becoming too much of a chore for him. They guy who occasionally pushes his team into the right tempo was not in evidence tonight. Instead it was dump the ball, stand. He got excited on a few drives. That was about it. The numbers say 10 assists but most of them were New Orleans assists. Against the Bulls, for instance, this game wouldn't fly. 5-10 from the field, 11 points, 2 steals.
Wesley Matthews got aggressive with his shot, going 3-7 from the field, 2--5 from distance, 4-6 from the foul line for 12 points plus 2 steals. He benefited from not being one of the guys New Orleans swarmed.
Jamal Crawford played 19 minutes, went 1-3 from the field, scored 5 points with a rebound and an assist. This was one of those "I'm not playing" nights from him. Response to not starting? Only the Shadow knows.
Kurt Thomas returned from his concussion with 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 12 minutes. He and Joel Przybilla played together for a stretch in the second period during which the New Orleans defensive follies reached their height. With two players on the floor they didn't have to guard the Hornets had a field day with the other three. I'm not sure that version of the Twin Towers is practical.
Joel Przybilla played 14 minutes with 3 rebounds, a block, and the usual screens.
Elliot Williams was the only deep-bench player to see the floor before garbage time. He impressed with a couple shots...the usual. 4 points and an assist in 7 minutes.
Fun With Numbers
There was no fun with numbers tonight. All of the stats are blah and indicative of a mild Portland advantage. The Blazers wore the minimum 15 pieces of flair tonight. They need to express themselves.
If there was ever a night to say, "A win is a win" it's tonight.
I don't even know what I'd write if I worked at At The Hive tonight.
Hornets vs Trail Blazers boxscore
P.S. Look for something special hopefully coming tomorrow evening on-site!