Dec 26

One Down, 65 to Go

By mikebarrett
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.


  1. I hope you're right about Nate using the bench. I'd like to think that his caution tonight was just about wanting to make sure of that first win. But the way he yanked the two young guys in the first half and never brought them back made me worry that he'll always put the current game first, and will never risk what he has going now for the sake of fresher legs and game experience that could give him more options down the road. I hope I'm wrong; I'd like to see the bench guys given minutes the way they were in the first exhibition game. Fresh legs and guys with something to prove could be valuable when both teams are going back-to-back. And when you get to a third "back".....

    by Islander on 12/27/2011 12:36 AM
  2. Thought it was a excellent game. What I thought was going to be a laugher turn out to be a close game when the 76ers started hitting all those 3s. We hit the clutch shots that we needed to though and came through with the win.


    by mgb on 12/27/2011 12:37 AM
  3. Great write-up. I agree this team seems to have that intangible quality that has been lacking the last few years. That killer instinct that doesn't allow players to fall ill to moodiness or poor performance. The Blazers replaced streaky scorers and non-scorers with aggressive shooters. Some nights the shots won't fall, as they painfully did not tonight, but the aggressive defense will hopefully compensate. All I know is the team is even more fun to watch, and I can't wait to go watch the hot(?) Kings tomorrow at the Rose Garden!

    by s0iled on 12/27/2011 12:42 AM
  4. Thanks for the immediate blog Mike. This "short season" is gonna be a long one for me not watching the games.

    Islander, i agree with you Nate has gotta utilize the fresh legs.

    From all I've read we played well considering everything. I'm happy to hear that. And I just love knowing we've got a guy like Wallace putting in that effort night in and night out. Good job Blazers!

    Go Blazers!!!!

    by thedanman on 12/27/2011 12:48 AM
  5. The thing I was most interested to see coming into this year was how LaMarcus would handle the pressure of being the unquestionable go-to-guy/leader for the entire year. I do think it was smart of Nate to emphasize a faster offensive pace this year, but in the fourth quarter, we will have to execute in half court. Our half court offense wasn't bad considering the circumstances, but I was curious why LaMarcus didn't try to post up down low in the fourth quarter after missing jump shot after jump shot. I started to think his fourth quarter woes were rearing their ugly heads as we've seen too many times before, but I'll chalk this game up to conditioning. I just hope we make better fourth quarter adjustments in the future because tired legs will continue to be an issue with the compact schedule and coach McMillan's lack of faith in his bench.

    by C. Larry on 12/27/2011 1:23 AM
  6. Watch out for next game against Sacramento Kings... They played extremely well against Los Angeles Lakers.

    I agree with MB that our backcourt won't have a lot of awful shooting night like that. At least I wish and hope, but I'm confident about Felton and Matthews.

    On another note: Are you guys watching over Andre Miller performances? Man, I miss him already. I know we couldn't have Felton AND Miller, and I know we changed for better (that's what I keep telling myself at least), for the future, but man... I admire Miller a lot. Hope he does well @Denver (not against the Blazers, tough), and he's really blending there, doing his thing, racking a lot of assists (and few TO's), and being the court leader and iron man he always is.

    Let's pray that Felton really is really our future, and plays consistently well. I admire him too, now it's time for him to show us that he can be better than Miller not just on long term, but in short too (I sure hope).

    by Tiago Torigoe on 12/27/2011 4:47 AM
  7. Mike: great blog as usual.
    Do you want to talk about tired legs, I had to work 10 hrs straight just to watch the pre-show and all the game, was it worth it? Heck yes. All in fun.

    I didn't expect a lop-sided win because I remember the Cardiac kids of the last 3 year. We change style, we change team members and it still ends up being Cardiac games. Maybe they like to give the fans excitement, whether then a boring blow-out.

    Our shooting woes is not new either, That was the big reason for losing in the play-offs. I do have to agree, we missed a lot of inside excellent looks that normally goes in. We will have games when that happens, but like your partner said, we just have to look for other ways to win when our shots are not falling; that is why this game was gutsy. They kept the pressure on and forced Philly into rushed shots and poor shots.

    Our poor shooting was our bad Oman, but I would only give it a C because of the excellent shot selection, but our great defense was the catalyst that gave us a way to win. I will give that a A beings as how Philly is a great offensive team. On that token, I remember you and your partner saying many times that if you start playing tough D, your offensive team will take a hit. In the long run I think we will be much better off keeping our defense up and tough.

    I think Nate's rotation was OK, sure he was looking for the win and not looking to far in the future, but that is the way the team plays and Nate coaches, One Game at a time. I think by the end of Thursday's game most of our players will have seen action. I don't think he will have mass substitution par say, but he will find out which players plays well together.

    All in all it was a great game and a win is a win, 1 down and 65 to go is what my wife said when the game was over.

    by Hg on 12/27/2011 7:14 AM
  8. W = Awesome way to start season :)
    GW, aka Crash, aka the Predator = HUSTLE/GLUE/HEART guy; Player of the Game
    LA = Superb, just give him a few more games to catch his wind :)
    Cambyman = PRICELESS! What old man???
    Crawford = 4th quarter threat, just like I hoped for
    Felton = Solid, I expect the jitters to pass
    Wesley = Please. Expect brilliance tonight :)
    Nicolas = Smooth Operator...just needs a little more time on the floor

    Nate = Stuck in his ways but trying to change. Time will tell

    Comcast = still sucks :) At least Wheels calls a helluva game!

    Overall, thought they looked good. Love the chemistry, the energy, the hustle, the defense (most of the time). That first quarter looked so fabulous, providing a glimpse of what this team will look like in a few weeks I think. They just need a little time, and a little luck finally from the injury gods. When they were clicking though, they looked ELITE. Straight up.

    Tonight? I expect a blow-out over a team coming off a huge, emotional win that had to travel for the 2nd night of a back-to-back. Talent, yes. Poise? Don't think so. But, we shall see!

    How about them Lakers and Mavs??? Lol

    by SisillaRiann on 12/27/2011 9:57 AM
  9. Hey MB,

    It was exciting. It was a different style of play. I expected rust and turnovers. I didn't expect that many 3's from Philadelphia. Most of all, and I think most would say, BASKETBALL is back and we're all happy about that.

    MB, I 'd say you broke the game down very well. I don't really follow how many consecutive home openers we've one. The close game stat has been something of interest for years. I think we can credit our coach somewhat here. Speaking of Nate, congratulations on getting your record over .500 with the Trailblazers.

    It was a great game, not perfect, but honestly I am kind of speechless. Look forward to tonight's game and also what's next for the emerging Blazers.

    by Bull Frog on 12/27/2011 10:17 AM
  10. LMA had all of his points in the first three quarters. He admitted he was gassed at the end. If Nate plays him 40+min. each game he won't be gassed he will be on the injured list. Great game if you had 1-2 days to recover. Nate is going to have to play those reserves and maybe lose a game or two but gain a stronger 2nd string and a 1st. string that can survive to the end of the season.

    by Ancientone on 12/27/2011 10:21 AM
  11. Ancientone:
    I have to agree, and I think Nate will comply, It was getting LMA in shape, the importance of winning the first game at home or all games at home and not knowing the best combination of playing the bench. We do need to develop our team though, We also need to give LMA some exposure at finishing games and making those crucial shots

    Time will tell

    by Hg on 12/27/2011 10:51 AM
  12. Good game for first one. Iggy is a competitor and can do just about everything well, so I expected a late run from Philly. Crash was outstanding as were Marcus and LaMarcus. Philly remembered what Wesley did to them last year and took it away from him for the most part. It became apparent to me during this game that we will lose Nicolas next year. Someone that good cannot be relegated to the position Nate has placed him and Nico won't settle for it. Breaks my heart!

    by DeVinMzM on 12/27/2011 12:04 PM
  13. Was fun to watch, but as you said on the Broadcast, Portland builds a lead and stops what they were doing to get that lead, and starts shooting jumpers. The 76ers scared us. Elite teams will beat us. That is a concern. Other than that, I'm loving Crash's hustle. I can't believe your partner thinks we'll end up trading him. No way in hell.

    by Herr on 12/27/2011 2:10 PM
  14. i hear you loud and clear about taking the win and moving on to the next game. there are things we could have done better, but i think the most alarming thing is giving up that fourth quarter lead. teams will make runs throughout the game, whether it's us or the opponent. the key for us is to close out without letting it get too close. we should have won this game by about 12. instead, it came down to the final minute. we need to work on that.

    we shot fairly well from the line (late misses tend to deceive the overall effectiveness percent) and shot well from three. our shooting, sans a couple of players, needs to improve. missed shots let the 76ers back into the game in the fourth.

    broken record (or skipped disc) time: we've go to play 48 minutes, and that means keeping up the intensity for four quarters. again, last night that hurt us. 48 minutes, that's it.

    LaMarcus said he was gassed last night after the game and that's understandable. he didn't shoot well and looked a little rusty in spots, but despite that, he committed just two fouls. it's a tremendous asset to have your star player be able to remain on the court. then again, i'm not worried that he'll catch his legs soon.

    Crash was incredible. he was everywhere, shot great, hustled, played hard defense -- everything you want out of a guy with his nickname. it's hard not to give the game ball to Crash. I think Marcus comes close. his line is outstanding. 13 rebounds in 29 minutes. add the assists and blocks and we've got what we need from our starting center.

    Raymond and Jamal i were a little spotty, but i like what i'm seeing there, and Nicolas just needs more than 20 minutes on the court. i think he was effective out there. i see that our second unit (whomever that's all going to be) is going to have to step it up. i'm not completely surprised they haven't quite gelled yet, as four of the five guys were off-season additions, and three of those within the past couple of weeks. i believe that will come with a little time.

    overall, i thought we played really well and put ourselves into the position to pull out the win. i believe the positives outweigh the negatives. what we have now that the season has begun is a chance to grow cohesive on the court. a lot of teams are in the same situation and, though i may be a bit biased, i think we're a good distace beyond the curve there.

    let's see if we can take care of business tonight against sacramento. i think we can.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/27/2011 2:45 PM
  15. Great job Blazers! Philly shot the lights out with the late 3's. It wasn't pretty but we hung in there. We can ride the defense and hustle plays but we'll really be flowing once the guys get familiar with each other and get some offensive sets rolling. Gerald was unbelievable. I'm with a lot of the other fans in that I think it's crucial to give "EVERYONE" playing time. It's been a vicious cycle Nate has gotten caught in over the last several years. He over relies on Roy or La Marcus. They get worn down then he has to rely on them even more because we have more losses and more tight games. I have no doubt that if we spread it around we will be in store for some great surprises. It's a great time to be a Blazer fan.

    by davsykes on 12/27/2011 3:01 PM
  16. Game 1 - W - . Game 2 Nate will go to the bench a little more. If that's the case could someone send Nolan Smith a memo that says we want to push the ball. In the preseason game and last night, for the short time he was in, he walked the ball up. Him of all the players cannot have "lockout" legs. Get the ball up, go early in the clock. I really want Nolan to get in the rotation. I hope he is watching Felton closely.
    Bring on Sac. Go Blazers!!
    Dre is a stud. Rose Garden needs to give him some love his first trip here.

    by Divotking on 12/27/2011 5:14 PM
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