Off to Florida
Get-away games can sometimes be a struggle. This is especially the case when you’re playing an undermanned team that you should handle fairly easily. Saturday night at the Rose Garden was a game that featured both elements. And, even though this Charlotte was overmatched to the point where you couldn’t really term this a “trap game,” the Trail Blazers weren’t entirely thrilled with their effort. The second half put to rest any concern about the outcome, as the Blazers outscored the Bobcats 53-34, and won it 93-69.
There is clearly no time for slippage at this point of the season. With this Western Conference playoff race as tight as it is, any subpar play can be cause for concern. When the Bobcats hung around a little longer than expected, and even grabbed a five-point lead in the second half, the feeling was uneasy.
This adjustment period continues for the Blazers, as being just about as healthy as they’re going to get is a very different feeling. It’s easier in some ways to play shorthanded, at least mentally. Now that this team has more options, and has more players expecting minutes, roles almost have to be redefined. That’s what we’ve been seeing lately.
The main offensive weapon for Portland has remained constant, even if less is required of LaMarcus Aldridge right now. That’s a good thing, by the way. Aldridge had 26 points against Charlotte, and only had to take 18 shots. On most nights he’ll likely get more looks than that, but it’s not going to be like it was several weeks ago when the team was playing with eight healthy people.
For the time being, Gerald Wallace will continue to come off the bench. That’s a very new role for him, but he’s said on many occasions it doesn’t bother him. Nate McMillan simply believes that really gives the Blazers some punch off the bench and that they now have the luxury of having, essentially, two separate units. Again, they haven’t had this much of the season.
It’s going to require some selfless attitudes among the players, and there’s certainly no room for egos on this team. That’s how it has to be when you’re going to have to share the ball, and share minutes.
Aldridge played 40 minutes against Charlotte, and no one else played more than 29. Again, that’s a good thing.
To listen to McMillan’s post-game comments, click here
We’re now off on the final four-game road trip of the season, and the last to the Eastern Conference. This trip is tough, and it’s important. A check of the standings shows you all you need to know about the sense of urgency that’s needed on a nightly basis.
The Trail Blazers did get a break when Orlando’s Dwight Howard picked up his 16th technical foul on Friday night. He got a one-game suspension from the NBA and won’t play against the Blazers on Monday night. Don’t think for a second, however, that this game is now one Portland will be favored to win. We feel that way, but the Magic certainly don’t. Because the suspension came three days before their next game, Orlando will have plenty of time to devise a plan for life without their Mr. Everything.
The clear advantage Portland will have in the first game of the road trip is in the middle. Aldridge will have an advantage against whoever the Magic throw at him. They are very, very small with Howard out. Expect them to swarm Aldridge with a variety of double teams, and perhaps even play a lot of zone. Also expect them to bomb away from the outside. If they get hot shooting threes, it could certainly not only keep them in the game, but spell doom for the road team.
It’s Orlando Monday, Miami Tuesday, Charlotte Friday, and Atlanta on Saturday. Nothing easy about the trip, even if the Howard news looks to be positive for the Blazers.
If you’d like to give your prediction for the trip, or even what you’d be satisfied with, in terms of wins or losses, fire away. As we’ve talked about, the Blazers don’t have a favorable remaining schedule, especially when you compare it to the rest of the teams they’re in this logjam with in the west.
Talk to you from Florida.