Wallace Takes the Lead
It's clear that Gerald Wallace is getting more and more comfortable as a Portland Trail Blazer. But, following the 111-76 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, said he won't feel like he's totally a part of the group until he learns to throw the lob pass to LaMarcus Aldridge. He was laughing when he said it, but that certainly sounds like something we'd expect him to say.
The Trail Blazers lead the NBA (by far) in alley-oop plays. They've hit on 136 of them this season. The Clippers are second with 110. Of those 136 lobs, 89 have been finished off by Aldridge. That's an amazing number. All Wallace could think about after the game, is had he delievered a better lob, Aldridge would be standing at 90 on the season.
Now, that's getting nit picky.
But, when you blow out a team you should blow out, and still want to talk about things you can improve on, that was an easy place to land. Actually, there was one other place the Blazers didn't do well in this game, and that was from behind the three-point line. They were just 5 for 20.
At halftime the Blazers held a 17-point lead, but Washington was shooting 47 percent. Nate McMillan felt that was too high a percentage. So, he challenged his defense in the second half. They responded. The Blazers held the Wiz to 9 for 34 shooting in the final three quarters, and the rout was on.
Here is the stat of the night, and something I can't say I've seen before. The Blazers ended with 62 points in the paint. They had 15 points from behind the three-point line. And, they had 26 points from the free-throw line. That means they only had 8 points, four field goals, from mid range- that is the area outside the key, but inside the three-point line. I hope you appreciate how crazy, and how rare, that is.
In games like this though, the stat page can look a little funny. The best news is they won the game by 35, and picked up win number 41.
Wallace led the way with 28 points (the most for him so far as a Blazer), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. And, he had a huge blocked shot in the game. Also good news was the fact that he only had to play 32 minutes. Aldridge, who had 22 points and 6 rebounds, only had to play 33 minutes.
Nicolas Batum, who was coming off a season-high 25 against the Lakers, backed that up nicely with 22 points and 12 rebounds. The points are nice for Nic, but to see him get the 12 boards was very satisfying.
The Blazers shot 50 percent from the field, which was nice, following the 39 percent performance against the Lakers on Sunday. Obviously, the Wizards aren't the Lakers.
Given what Portland has ahead of it, in terms of the schedule, this was a must win. They treated it that way, and stepped on the throats of the Wizards early in the third.
To listen to McMillan's post-game comments, click here
Now, it gets tough.
The Blazers host San Antonio on Friday, and then head for Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and New Orleans. As soon as they get home they have Oklahoma City again, and then Dallas. That's brutal.
This race in the west is far from over, and nothing at this point is guaranteed. We've all spent so much time talking about who Portland should be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Once again, they've got to get there first.
11 games to go.