Wallace Leads the Way Again
It's pretty safe to say that Gerald Wallace is enjoying this new system.
The Trail Blazers, and their fans, are certainly enjoying Wallace. Not only was he given several standing ovations from the sold-out crowd at the Rose Garden, the fans continued to sing his name well after he was seated on the bench and the game was moving on.
For the second-straight night, it was Wallace early, Wallace late, and Wallace to the rescue, as the Blazers blew out the Sacramento Kings 101-79. Monday night he scored 21 points, on 8 for 13 shooting, and grabbed 9 rebounds. On Tuesday, he scored 25 points, on 8 of 11 shooting, grabbed 8 rebounds, and also dished out 5 assists. Add to that the countless hustle plays, and the way he leads by example in the effort department, and it's been a winning combination.
The best news? The Trail Blazers have won their first two games and haven't played anywhere near a complete game yet. Once the backcourt starts to hit some shots (which they eventually will) this could be a scary group.
Portland won again, despite the fact that Ray Felton, Wesley Matthews, and Jamal Crawford, three guys you greatly depend on to provide an outside threat, combined to shoot 8 for 33 from the field. They will find their range, but it's nice that the rest of the team has held down the fort pretty well while that happens.
This was a bit of a strange game, as Portland came out flat, and stagnant on offense. The defensive energy wasn't there either, as Sacramento was scoring at will. Everything the Kings were trying offensively was working and they built an early 12-point lead.
But, following a very nice 14-2 run to end the first half, the Trail Blazers had already dug themselves out of trouble, and went to the locker room with the game tied at 46 apiece. Portland was shooting just 40 percent at halftime, and the Kings were at 50 percent.
A few tweaks to the defensive game plan, and a heavy dose of Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge, and this thing quickly turned into a rout. The Trail Blazers held the Kings to just 24 percent shooting in the second half, and only gave up 33 points. Portland meanwhile shot 50 percent in the second half and built a 25-point lead before coasting to the finish line.
For not having much of a preseason to gather his legs, Aldridge has been impressive in the first two nights. He had 25 against Philly, and against the Kings went for 24 in only 33 minutes, while hitting 10 of his 15 shot attempts.
Despite the fact that Crawford was just 2 for 11 shooting, and Batum was 4 for 12, it wasn't a bad effort turned in by the bench. They were a bit shaky at times against Philly, but against the Kings the Blazers didn't lose much ground when they went deep into the bench.
It was also nice to see the Smith's play well in the second unit. Nolan was 2 for 2, and continues to get his NBA feet wet. And, Craig Smith showed that he can be a very capable sub on the front line, as he scored 4 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in his 8 minutes of action. He's also a physical presence, and showed great hustle around the rim.
It's tough to tell too much from these first two games, as they were games Portland was expected to win, but it's nice to see that they can win, and even be dominant, when they aren't at their best.
And then there's Wallace. He's off to a fantastic start in his first full season as a Trail Blazer, and is more than capable of putting this team on his back, if necessary.
Next up, it's Denver on Thursday. They'll be playing the second of a back to back, while Portland will be coming off a very light day, with no game.