One Down, 65 to Go
There won't be much time to pick apart wins and losses during this compressed NBA season. But, there will always be time to learn from successful and unsuccessful in-game situations. This, of course, is much easier to do when you're gaining these teachable moments during victories.
Monday night the Trail Blazers beat Philadelphi 107-103. On many nights this year that'll be enough said, and end of story. Just win and turn the page. Doesn't matter how, don't spend much effort figuring it out, just move on to the next opponent.
But, for this new-look Portland team, playing a new style, with several new components, there will be at least some grading of wins. If that's the case, this one gets a solid B.
They were terrific at times, fought through a bad shooting night, and basically survived. They survived a scare from a good Philadelphia team. Make no mistake, the Sixers are a good team. They're not an elite team, but they're a good team. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see them gain one of the top four positions in the Eastern Conference this season. They're that good offensively. I expected a very close game, and in the end, that's what we got.
We can also say what we want about whether or not this should have been a close game. After all, the Trail Blazers had a 15-point lead almost halfway through the fourth quarter. But, because of some shaky execution, a few key missed shots, a few missed free throws, and some extremely hot three-point shooting by the Sixers, this became a one-possession game late, and a missed Andre Iguodala three pointer from being an overtime game.
So, you take responsibility for not stepping on an opponents' throat, but you also have to give some credit to the Sixers for nailing huge shot after huge shot to create the nervous atmosphere swept over the sold-out crowd in the final minute.
And, before we start hurling rocks at Portland's late game planning, keep one thing in mind- this Portland team wins close games. Since the 06-07 season the Trail Blazers are 43-17 in games decided by three points or less. They were 7-4 in these situations last year. This one ended up being a four-point game, so it was at least close to being in that category.
You take the win, and you move on to the next one. That next one happens to be Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings, who beat the Lakers on Monday night. The Blazers will watch a little film, go through a quick afternoon shootaround, and get set to play again. All the learning this season will have to occur totally on the fly.
The MVP honors in this game absolutely have to go to Gerald Wallace. We've said this many times, but Crash was everywhere. He had 21 points, 9 rebounds, and even hit a big three pointer during a 10-0 Portland run. Keep in mind, most of what Gerald does for his team doesn't show up in the box score.
It was also a very positive night for LaMarcus Aldridge, who is still shaking off the rust from not having had much training camp at all. He had 25 points, with 18 of those coming in the first half. Clearly, he's fine.
Marcus Camby was huge as well, and recorded 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 points in his 29 minutes.
The bench was solid, and was led by Jamal Crawford, who had 12 points, and Nicolas Batum, who had 10.
As far as the starting backcourt goes, Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews are not going to combine to shoot 8 for 28 very often this season. The fact that the team weathered that, and won, is a positive thing.
This new scrappy defensive style, and aggressive offensive attack, gave the Trail Blazers a huge advantage in field goals attempted. Portland took 97 shots in this game. That's a lot. Philadelphia had only 83 attempts. That's 14 more chances to score, and that wasn't a trademark of this Portland team the last few years.
Now then, we get to this talk of the hectic schedule only one game into the season. It was easy to notice some tired legs on the court at the end. I think that's the reason Aldridge missed some looks that he'll normally put down, which would have put this game out of reach ealier.
How will Nate McMillan deal with the rotation in a back-to-back situation? We're about to find out. He used 10 players in this game, but only used 7 players in the second half. Against the Kings, it's likely we'll see him go deeper, later into the game. He almost has to. Depth is going to be so huge this season.
You win, and you get ready for the next game. Let's hope that's something we're saying a lot this season.
Your thoughts please.