Blazers Drop Utah Again
On a night that began with the Trail Blazers announcing that Brandon Roy would be out for an indefinite period of time, the team showed its fans it can still be very dangerous without him. It doesn't seem especially fair, to Brandon or the Blazers, but it's reality. Now, the Blazers are doing the only thing they can do- they're playing the hand they currently have.
On Thursday night, for the second time in four days, the Roy-less team defeated the first-place team in the division. On Monday night the Blazers were in control, then withstood a late Utah rally for a win in Salt Lake City. In this one, the Jazz, also shorthanded, simply didn't have enough to mount a serious run, and fell to the Blazers 100-89 at the Rose Garden.
The man who will be starting in place of Roy for the immediate future, Wesley Matthews, once again showed that he is capeable of putting up Roy-like numbers, scoring 30 points. It felt extra special to Matthews, being it came against the team that simply couldn't bid against the Blazers for his services last summer.
In the first two games against his former team this season, Matthews seemed to perhaps want it too much, and pressed at times. He was still solid, especially in Utah on Monday, scoring 14 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. On Thursday night his shot was falling. When Matthews is hitting outside, and LaMarcus Aldridge is productive inside, and Marcus Camby is picking up the misses, Portland is tough to beat. This is especially the case at the Rose Garden, where Portland has won seven in a row.
Aldridge conntinues to post All-Star type numbers, and in this game scored 27 points, on 10 of 18 shooting. He once again outplayed Utah's Paul Millsap, and couldn't be slowed by Al Jefferson. Only a zone defense by Utah seemed even partially successful in slowing the Blazers down. But even that only enough to make the game somewhat interesting, and kept the Blazers from dropping the hammer much earlier.
Unlike Monday's game, Portland was in control throughout much of the night. They led by as many as 19, and only trailed a couple of times, and only by as many as one point.
Before the game the status of Camby was said to be up in the air, as he has been recovering from an ankle sprain he suffered on Monday night. In that game, the Blazers won without him. On this night, his 20 rebounds never let a Utah run get seriously started.
Oddly enough, the Jazz won two state catagories that we predicted would be huge keys. They outshot the Blazers 48 percent to 46 percent, and outrebounded Portland 39 to 34. But, the Blazers were efficient enough on this night that even those things weren't enough. Portland only turned the ball over 9 times, and got their 34 field goals on 21 assists- a very good sign for this team that the offense was working well.
The Blazers also didn't get a huge effort from the bench, like they got in Salt Lake City. In fact, the second unit was just 4 for 17, and was outrebounded by Utah's bench 13 to 5. Again, it didn't seem to matter, as Matthews and Aldridge were just too much.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
This was a big start to a very important two-game homestand. Given what's ahead on the schedule, including the upcoming three-game road trip, the Blazers absolutely have to continue to win at home. They improved to 11-3 at the Rose Garden with the win, and now get set to take on the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Following Sunday's game, we hit the road again, for games at Dallas, Houston, and Minnesota. After that it's home games against Miami and New York.