mikebarrett

Mar 02

Balance Helps Blazers Down Wolves

By mikebarrett Posted in: Timberwolves
Okay, so Damian Lillard had 24 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 and 8, JJ Hickson turned in his 32nd double-double, and Nic Batum posted 12 points and 7 rebounds.  None of that is unusual.  We're used to that stuff.  But, what really helped on this night is the fact that the bench provided 29 points, 15 assists, and 16 rebounds.  For perhaps the first time this year, we've got every reason to believe this kind of production from the second unit will continue.

The Trail Blazers led just about throughout in this contest, by as many as 18 points, and beat a shorthanded Minnesota team 109-94.  It completed a four-game sweep for Portland over Minnesota (for the fifth time in six years), and gave the Blazers 21 wins in their last 23 meetings with the Timberwolves. 

As we said before this game, and probably several times early in the contest, the Blazers haven't always gotten up to play the teams they should beat.  The elite teams?  Yes, the Blazers always find a way to crank up the intensity meter, and have recorded some very impressive wins against some of the beat in this league.

But, going into this game the Blazers were just 11-11 on the season against teams who came in with winning percentages under 40 percent.  If they don't end up being able to scramble back to get in position to strike in the playoff race, it's going to be that record that will be to blame.  As Terry Stotts pointed out to me before the game, if you just cut those 11 losses, to teams you expect to beat, in half, Portland is in the top 8 in the west. 

In this game, the Blazers did what they were supposed to do.  It perhaps wasn't as comfortable late in the game as they would have preferred, but they beat Minnesota, again.  They showed they could actually be a front-running team in the process.  Meaning, they built a lead, rode it, and were able to put the game away without threatening grandpa's pacemaker.  It was just the fifth win of the season by more than 10 points for this team.  Yes, the nail-biters are fun, but give me a blow out from time to time please.

Okay, now to the bench.  After Wednesday's game against Denver, Meyers Leonard said he was starting to get it, and that the game was beginning to slow down for him a bit.  Simply put, he was starting to understand things better.  We called that game his best of the season so far. Well, he topped it in the very next game.  Against Minnesota, Leonard had 12 points, 8 rebounds, and was 6 for 7 from the field.  The only thing that wasn't perfect is that he missed two free-throw attempts.  But, he's 87% from the field for the season, so we'll let that slide.

Victor Claver is going to make it in this league.  That's big praise for this rookie who has found himself out of the rotation on many nights.  Now, he's earned trust from Stotts, and with that comes playing time.  Claver, who had 10 rebounds in a game last week, had 10 points against Minnesota, and simply continues to bring energy and continues to produce.  

Then, there's Eric Maynor.  In just his third game as a Trail Blazer, he posted a career-high 12 assists, and also added 7 points in his 31 minutes.  He's getting this offensive system down now, and he's getting more and more comfortable.  

What's exciting to see is that we're seeing Maynor and Lillard comfortable playing together on the floor at the same time.  I can't tell you how much pressure this takes off Lillard.  Everyone has been stuck on how many minutes Lillard has been playing.  That hasn't bothered me. What's concerning at times is the type of minutes Lillard has had to play.  Now, with Maynor able to run the offense for stretches, other teams can't simply try and beat Lillard up and pressure the heck out of him for 48 minutes.  Damian can play off the ball, score from the wing, and help this team in other ways.  Maynor's addition also helps Wesley Matthews, who's been playing a ton of minutes as well, and has been beaten up lately.  Matthews only had to play 23 minutes against Minnesota, and believe me, he had no problem with that.

The play of Leonard, Claver, and now Maynor, simply gives Stotts more options, and lets him be more creative with the rotation.  That'll be a huge help moving forward.

The Blazers have one more game left on this home stand, and that's Monday against Charlotte. Another of those dreaded "games you should win."  But, given what we're seeing in this lineup, the confidence is building once again.

Finally, it was very nice to see Brandon Roy back in the Rose Garden tonight.  He got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown behind Minnesota's bench, and while that wasn't at all surprising, put a huge smile on his face.  It was fun to see him honored, and gave us a sad reminder, again, of what could have been.  But, at the very least, it was a good opportunity for fans to thank him for the many memories he did provide while a member of this franchise.

Talk to you Monday.




11 Comments

  1. Hey Mike; thanks for the blog.
    You just about said it all. I agree with you it was Leonard's eyes that made him miss those free throws not Mike and Mike jinking him. A comfortable win it was, it didn't hardly feel like a Blazer game.

    by Hg on 3/3/2013 12:14 AM
  2. Minnesota is weak. Injuries are an unfair part of the game. Blazer fans know that all to well.
    JJ does it again. He is a part of every game they play.
    Meyers- two in a row. The way his teammates get the ball to him tells me he works in practice.
    I said it before Maynor changes everything. Solidifies rotations. Was that really a career high in assists ?
    Blocking shots in the open court, Batum reminds me of a slobbering dog and a frisbee.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 3/3/2013 8:01 AM
  3. What about Joel Freeland? Why he hasn't earned more minutes? I mean, he played great in Europe (I saw a lot of his games as European) and on the Olympics. He played 4 minutes against Minny and he grabbed three rebounds and he blocked one shot. Btw. In Europe was Joel better than Victor...

    by Dexter on 3/3/2013 8:46 AM
  4. @Dexter, At least at the moment Victor is more adapted to the NBA, probably from getting burn while playing for injured Matthews. IMO, Joel is doing great.

    by Hg on 3/3/2013 9:00 AM
  5. @Divotking, knowing that Minny is weak, gave Stotts, time to experiment.

    As our starting unit is pretty concrete, Eric and Meyers, will be able to play the pick and roll great in the second unit and with Meyer Leonard's ability to hit the out side shot, pass, run the floor, and dribble, the pick and pop would also work great. Of course as Ancientone pointed out in the last blog, that is due to him playing guard before he grew rapidly. therefore I think we have just tipped the ice burg and may have found another Dirk, that would really be up Stotts alley would it not; he already has LaMarcus playing somewhat like dirk and is doing great, and last night he used a pick to open up Meyers for a shot; mmmm, we are starting to be good, I mean really good. Oh I forgot Claver playing the 4 and plays with energy. that will also help the bench.

    by Hg on 3/3/2013 9:12 AM
  6. MB,

    It's always refreshing to see these guys play a 48-minute game and win by double digits! When it happens, haha. They were just plain efficient and held the Wolves at bay for much of the contest. And hey...we might finally have a decent bench! Maynor and Leonard's play really impressed me. And Claver, he's always impressed me with his hustle, but 10 points! He's showing that he can score now, too!

    I'm just hoping we can play another 48-minute game against the Bobcats, get a winning streak going, and kill on the road trip as Rice said. 24 games left, and likely 18 wins at least to make the playoffs. Should be interesting to see how things unfold.

    -Max Milander '14

    by linfieldrunner on 3/3/2013 10:14 AM
  7. over the past couple of weeks, i've mentioned Victor's name in my comments here -- and for good reason. he's been solid. he doesn't even have to score a lot to make a difference. that said, i very much enjoy when he is shooting well and giving us points off the bench.

    Meyers has taken the next step in his development. he's putting himself in good situations and good things are happening. side stat for Meyers: he's averaging 12.5 points as a 21 year old! i hope he can string a few more games together. i'd love to see this kind of effort on a consistent basis. Eric is reborn here. he may have lost an opportunity to immediately contend for a title, but he's going to get the playing time he's been searching for since coming back from his injury. he's definitely a welcome addition to the team.

    beating the injury depleted Wolves should not really be anything to write home about, but MB, it's like you said: we've dropped enough games against sub-.500 teams that when we win a solid one, i think it's a good thing to celebrate a little. we play the team with the worst record in the league monday night. easy win? it sure wasn't in Charlotte earlier this season. as i've been saying for the past four-plus years here, we've got to play 48 minutes. we did that last night; we need to repeat that effort tomorrow night.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/3/2013 8:12 PM
  8. Mike, here is something to bring up the next time Victor Claver gets to the foul line. We know he's been struggling there with a .368 clip, but here is something to look at.

    I was looking for some stats on Claver in Europe because I have a hard time believing that he's going to continue to be that bad from the line. Google hasn't been much help so far and I don't want to spend all night trying to find more info, but I did find something worth looking at that should make a good point:

    http://www.hoopsstats.com/basketball/fantasy/eurobasketball/euroleague/players/11/victor_claver/stats/234/id-2

    In the 2010-2011 season, he played 14 games. In those 14 games, he shot 37-44 from the line, an .841 clip. I recall Mike Rice mentioning that he had good form and it maybe worth mentioning that this has to be a fluke the next time he gets to the charity strip.

    by Shem on 3/4/2013 1:15 AM
  9. One thing I noticed about Joel last night is his ball defense. He is late defending the dribble. The ball gets too deep and he has to recover at the rim. He is able to recover and block a few shots but sometimes ends up fouling or opens up passing lanes. This may be due to his lack of NBA experience. I don't know.
    I'm pulling for the guy. I like his hustle/effort. He rebounds ok. I'm not ready to say he is make or bust. I want to see more.

    by Divotking on 3/4/2013 1:18 AM
  10. Loved seeing Roy and that smile...
    miss him a lot.
    It is good to see the bench coming together.
    Stotts has truly been patient and smart in trying all options.
    Love watching Leonard fly. He is big and strong and will do well for us.
    I totally love watching allie-oops and can't wait until Lill throws a few his way.
    Looking forward to tonights game.

    by allie-oop on 3/4/2013 7:23 AM
  11. I went to the game loading dock was crowded and Sarah Hect I wanted to meet you in person but you were busy Im so sorry thanks for the smile

    by LA 2012 on 3/4/2013 10:56 AM
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