Dec 29

Three Up and Three Down

By mikebarrett
Well, you know what they say, stats don't lie.  Wait a second... yes they do.

At the end of the TV broadcast my partner and I were both in agreement that we'd never seen a team win when it was on the short end of a 25-7 turnover discrepancy.  Winning when you turn the ball over 25 times is one thing, but to win when you turn it over 18 more times than your opponent just doesn't happen.  It had never happened in Blazers' history- until now. (the last NBA team to win when turning it over 18 more times than an opponent was the Lakers in 2010)

In a game that had the intensity of one played in April, with a playoff spot on the line, the Trail Blazers got hot at the right time and defeated the Denver Nuggets 111-102, handing Denver it's first loss of the season.

There are some reasons why the Trail Blazers were able to turn the ball over like they did and still win.  First, they shot 52 percent from the field.  Second, they held Denver to 40 percent shooting.  And, third, they outrebounded the Nuggets 50 to 30.  That doesn't explain all of it, but comes close.

Oh, how nice it was to see Wesley Matthews find his shooting eye from behind the three-point line in this game.  He hasn't been missing badly, but with each passing miss in the first two games seemed to start pressing.  He's a very streaky shooter, as you know.  When he gets it going, look out.

Matthews picked a good time to get it going in this game.  After the Trail Blazers had given back a 13-point first-half lead, and settled for a tie at halftime, Denver seized the momentum in the third quarter and quickly went up 59-55.  Then, during a three-minute stretch, Matthews hit four bombs that put Portland back on top, and pumped life back into the building.

After Matthews stole the show in the third, he turned things over to Jamal Crawford early in the fourth.  Crawford caught fire and scored 14 of Portland's first 16 in the final frame.  

Then, it was Raymond Felton's turn to take over late in the fourth.  Felton had also been struggling, but had eight points in the fourth, including a massive three pointer with 1:46 left that put the Blazers up 107-100, and basically put the game away.  For good measure, he drew an offensive foul on Ty Lawson in the closing seconds.

In other words, it was a "team win" as Marcus Camby tweeted after the game.  They got help from everyone that played, and picked up a key divisional win.

Speaking of Camby, how huge has he been in these first three games?  He had 12 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and was a big presence on the interior for Portland all night.  

Nicolas Batum shot just 1 for 6, but stats tell another lie here as well.  Batum's defense was crucial to this win, and he blocked 4 shots.

The guys who have been carrying the offensive load, LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace, didn't have to in this game.  They weren't bad, as they had 13 points apiece, but it was nice to see Portland balance things out and use the backcourt's offense to shoot down an opponent.

Now, if they can shoot 52 percent and not turn the ball over 25 times, we'll really be on to something. That complete game is coming, it's just nice that we haven't seen it yet and this team is still 3-0.

Now, we're off on the road.  Saturday we'll fly to L.A. and Sunday will take on the Clippers at Staples.  That'll be followed by a game at Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.  Then, it's back home for a game against the Lakers.  

Yes, it gets tougher from here.



  1. Gets tougher, but still winnable. I asked you on Twitter a few nights ago if you thought Portland was elite. You replied with something like "not yet, but more so than the experts are saying they are". The thing is, whether they are or are not elite, I have those expectations for the Blazers. You see these teams, that are supposedly elite, and are getting blown out or struggling against teams they SHOULD win. San Antonio got destroyed tonight. Lakers are finally doing what they should be (Except, I don't see Utah or New York doing much this year. New York is the most overrated team in the NBA right now). Heat are very lucky to have beat the Bobcats, and, well, as we know, Dallas and Boston are 0-3 starting the season.

    There are only 6 teams left undefeated. Atlanta, New Orleans, Indiana, Portland, Miami, and OKC. Three of those teams are likely to make noise in the playoffs, and that is Portland, Miami, and OKC. Only one of those are elite (unless you consider OKC elite, but I think if you consider that group elite, you HAVE to consider Portland elite). And of the "Elite teams" if you aren't considering Portland and OKC elite, have had terrible games. I know it's just the start of the season, but some of these games are kind of defining the teams. Clippers obviously aren't ready. Dallas and Boston are looking as old as they are. New York still has no idea what defense is (and may I remind everyone that Chandler was just money thrown around until landing in Dallas, and may I remind everyone that Dallas was a 1st round exit team before picking up Chandler). Bulls also have looked pretty bad.

    So, in reality, I'd consider this Portland team an elite team. The true tests are ahead. But the thing that's nice is I don't think the Blazers respected any of the 3 teams enough, and still beat them. We know Portland respects OKC and the Lakers, and will come out huge against them. The question is if they can make it 4-0 against the Clippers. We have the guys that can defend Paul, but we need to make sure Aldridge and Camby can beat DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. I expect Chauncy to have a good night, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Butler giving us trouble. But if our frontcourt can match theirs, we should be able to pull through. Should be a good game. Only thing I'm nervous about is the Blazers having no effort and staying close with the Clippers because they are flat footed. That concerns me. I expect that a few times, but not this early, and not after 2 days of rest.

    My promise to you all - Portland will beat OKC.

    Happy New Year old. Be safe!

    by Herr on 12/30/2011 12:28 AM
  2. When the Blazers do play a complete game against a top-tier team it will be time to start wondering whether they are indeed an elite team. I'd like to think so, because they'd have gotten there without the dominant superstar people assume is necessary. I like the idea of having a team where LaMarcus doesn't have to dominate every night, where Wallace doesn't have to wear himself out playing long minutes at his extreme energy level, where there's always someone new stepping up to do what needs to be done. The NBA publicity machine insists on having a major star name to stick on as a label for any team they treat as great. It's always got to be "Kobe and the Lakers" "Kevin and the Thunder" and so on, with the exception of a few teams where they have to go deeper "Lebron, Wade and Bosh" "Garnett, Pierce and Allen." But LaMarcus, while surely one of the twenty most valuable players in the league, still isn't in the lead pack of dominating stars, and no one else on the Blazer roster is all that much more valuable than anyone else. Of course, it took a total team effort to turn the ball over 25 times tonight--can anyone explain why this happened?--but I like the fact that streaks of cold shooting or butter fingers don't seem to stop these guys from playing together hard as a team. There's a lot more meshing to do, and it's possible things will turn sour (for a while) pretty soon, but the Blazers are well ahead of where I expected them to be, and they've got something going as a group I'd love to understand better. They seem to do an awful lot of different things, which makes it hard to pin-point a reason for their success. But if they can keep the streak rolling for a couple of more games, the TV analysts may be forced to try to address the team's success, even though their cliches and homilies don't quite fit.

    by Islander on 12/30/2011 1:44 AM
  3. I know it's just been three games, but this is the first time since the 1999-2000 season where I wouldn't be surprised to see Portland make a championship run. Our first three players off the bench (Batum, Crawford, and Thomas) are about as good as it gets around the league. Each of them can play multiple positions, and that will be valuable when the playoffs come around and rotations are set at 8 or 9 players. It feels good to have a Vinnie "The Microwave" type player in Crawford coming off the bench; I expect every shot he shoots is going to be good. Kurt Thomas' mid-range jumper is as good as it gets, and he provides toughness in the paint. Batum does it all, offensively and defensively. If Greg was healthy, Portland would be unbelievably good because he and Kurt would compliment each other so well playing in that second unit. Nonetheless, I have to give management lots of credit for assembling this great roster.

    by C. Larry on 12/30/2011 1:45 AM
  4. Mike: As I have said many times before, Stats don't mean to much other then giving fans a way of comparing, but each and every game is won in the trenches.

    That being said, your partner said it best. when something is lost, taken away of just off key, the Trailblazers just finds other way to win. As Sarah just wrote in her blog, the three guards you mentioned just said "We play for each other".

    It has been proven that you can beat a super Star by taking his help way, but you can't continue to beat a whole team with a roster of players that play for each other. Where this will take us in the season and hopefully the play-offs, no one knows for sure. But as Rice said, the team just finds other ways to win.

    So if and when the game comes that we play a complete game, that will be great, but in the meantime they need to "Keep Playing For Each Other".

    As the schedule gets tougher so does the team and the "BlazerNation"

    by Hg on 12/30/2011 2:31 AM
  5. Denver's game plan must have been to contain LaMarcus and they did a good job of that. But this Blazer team has too many weapons to beat by containing one guy, even as important a guy as LA. And, as you said, Mike, it was great to see the guards finally contributing big time scoring.

    Now we'll see how the team does on the road. I feel confident against the Clips and I hope Herr is right about beating OKC, that's a tough assignment.

    I love this Blazer team!

    by dgpdx on 12/30/2011 3:46 AM
  6. I forgot to mention Marcus Canby -- he's been the most consistent Blazer so far! But when he's on the bench, we need someone else to protect the rim. Way too many layups against our half court defense tonight when Marcus was getting his rest. We were fortunate they missed a few and also couldn't hit the three at all tonight.

    by dgpdx on 12/30/2011 3:51 AM
  7. @Don
    That has been the plan for most teams the last two years. Stop LMA and make the others beat them. tonight the others did beat them. All we need is any one of our outside shooters to get hot.

    by Hg on 12/30/2011 6:11 AM
  8. Craze game. 50-30 rebounds? 25-7 Turnovers? OMG, never saw a game like this.

    Good thing is that our Guards did very very well, and our bigs did ok.
    Sad is that Nate used a 8 player rotation, and many bench players were left out, wich is OK in some games (I'd rather win than give rookies exp, but experience to rookies/bench players is good too).

    Well, nice W, and keep on pace to 66-0 Blazers!

    by Tiago Torigoe on 12/30/2011 6:30 AM
  9. Felton was pushing too hard at times and forcing things that weren't there. That created several turnovers. Denver played the passing lanes well and a lot of our passes were weak also resulting in turn overs. Our atheleticism overcame that.

    Speaking of that some of Nick's blocks were amazing. He may have missed two dunks but can that kid play or what? It's going to be exciting to see how he and GW can deal with Durant.

    It was interesting to watch Rudy shoot another team in the foot just like he did to us so many times. Crawford is such a big upgrade.

    I was so excited about the streaming news that I spent 30 min. trying to sign up when I thought I was there my credit card company called and asked if I really wanted to put through a charge to a offshore site in Nicosia. I backed off, but I still want to sign up. Any ideas how I can get there?

    by Ancientone on 12/30/2011 7:48 AM
  10. Hg : Was that long enough for you to get a snack? I had to get up and get a cookie to finish.

    by Ancientone on 12/30/2011 7:48 AM
  11. what i've seen so far this season is that someone -- and who knows who it will be -- is stepping up and making the huge difference. in fact, i'll go as far to say that it's been at least two or three someones.

    last night i had hoped to see either Wesley, Jamal or Felton find their shot and/or rhythm. i didn't anticipate it would be all three of them. at different times, and when needed, the blazers did just what we all know they can do. they finished out the game. sure it got close there, but good opponents will make it close. i really hadn't expected the nuggets to be all that much given that three of their main guys are stuck in china, but i've been impressed with what i've seen from them so far. this was a very good win.

    i loved seeing what we saw from Raymond. he's really getting the hang of the offense and setting the tempo we want to set. Jamal was smooth pretty much throughout the game which is something i hope we see a whole lot more of. Wesley found his shot. he won't go through spurts like that in every game, but he should be good for his one of two treys each game and that will keep opposing defenses honest.

    i don't know what else to say about Marcus. i think he came into the season with a litlte more rest and in better shape than in recent years and it's showing. he set the rebounding pace and he's just been a beast at the defensive end. he's been remarkable in all three games so far.

    I was a little surprised with Nate's rotation, but i understand it will be tighter during the lighter parts of the season (we've got the next two days off). we know what we have on the bench and i think these guys will be ready when their name is called.

    a few more points:

    * Nicolas' four blocks (he almost had five) tied his previous career high.

    * Crash scored 13 points which does not concern me when he shoots 71 percent from the field (5-7) and 3-3 from the line. he's now shooting 67.7 percent on the season from the field.

    * ball protection; 16 of our 25 turnovers came on steals.

    * Kurt Thomas played just over 12 minutes, shot 3-3, had seven points and had six rebounds.

    * of the right blazers who played, none had less than five rebounds.

    * we out-assisted the nuggets, 20-17.

    as i'm heading to southern california for new years, i'll probably be able to watch the game against the clippers, but i'll have to be resoved to watch the clippers' network. I think i'll be streaming Wheels & Tone in the process.

    happy new year everyone!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/30/2011 8:53 AM
  12. It was a very strange game. The guards came through in the last two quarters. This is the first game where I liked Felton. Matthews and Crawford came through too. I am soooooo impressed with Crawford. He is going to be the spark all teams need coming off the bench. Dre did his usual drives to the basket, with his whimpering foul grunts. When he hit a 3, I suddenly became very depressed saying, "Blazer's coaching gave him that" I was happy to see Rudy miss those same 3s he was missing when he was a Blazer. Although, he looked a lot more active, especially when he attacked the basket. I wonder, is he happier now that he is getting more minutes? Overall, without the turnovers, what would the score have been? Blazers 130 and Denver 102??

    by T on 12/30/2011 12:41 PM
  13. It is scary (but exciting) to think how this team will do when they click on all cylinders. Even better, the opponents won't know which player will step up, so they will have a difficult time trying to key on one or two players. Let's start the new yer off with this momentum and BEAT LA (the Clippers)!

    by blazerdarren77 on 12/30/2011 3:53 PM
  14. TEAM CHEMISTRY period. This good start is all about playing together, a common goal, sharing the ball and team defense. Denver did try to take LMA out of his comfort zone because that has worked against us in the past. The difference now is we can find other ways to get the job done. Two of our guards from last year play for Denver. What was their shooting percentage last night? (poor) If teams want to stop LMA, they have other worries now.
    As for 25 turnovers, give Denver some credit. They are a lot like Portland. Fast, athletic and deep. Denver is a good team that Portland will have to battle with every time they play.
    Three wins, great job. Keep up the defense. Winning at home is one thing, winning on the road is an entirely different creature.
    This is going to be a fun year. Average teams with great chemistry have done great things. Go Blazers!! Bring on the Clips!!

    by Divotking on 12/30/2011 4:52 PM
  15. Ty Lawson created 1/3 of those turnovers with 8 steals. Of course, a couple were the result of lazy passes and playing fumble-fingers by the Blazers.

    We've had 20+ assists in all three games. That's nice!

    As for the second unit, Nate knows how important it is to get them as many minutes now as he can, but I think he wanted to establish something with this game -- and it was a division game after all.

    by dgpdx on 12/30/2011 8:29 PM
  16. @HG: From what I saw, neither of our first two opponents concentrated as much on LA as Denver did. I think coach Karl felt his guys could handle our running game without special attention, so he went after LA more. Except for early in the first quarter and in a few spots later on, Denver did handle our running game pretty well. They have the same type of speed and quickness that we do, so that was no surprise. But I think we have more of it.

    by dgpdx on 12/30/2011 8:39 PM
  17. Just watched the Clips get schooled on their home court by DRose and the Bulls. The Clips have a good first 5 but lack depth. Vinny plays his starters until they are gassed. That is a weakness I think the Blazers can exploit.
    About Nic Batum. His game has progressed. Rebounds better. Shoots off the dribble a little better. Shot blocking. All in a new role on the team. I think Batum plays his best ball when given a defensive assignment. I hope Nate continues to use him that way. Against the Clips, Vinny will play Chris Paul a lot of minutes. I would like to see Batum guarding the point while in the game. Nobody shuts down CP but Batum can slow him. The Clips can be beat with Paul slowed. Look for a fast start from the Clippers. Blazers need to stay poised and weather the early storm. Use a lot of bigs and make Griffin shoot free throws. When he's winded, at the line, I'm not impressed.

    by Divotking on 12/30/2011 10:39 PM
  18. i dont know about anyone else. but i'm so tired of watching batum miss easy dunks. he can fly everyone knows that. he knows that. but i just want to see him on a dunk.. instead of deciding to try and 1 hand it. take it with two hands and power it down on someone trying to contest his shot. there is no reason why he should ever miss a dunk. props to his defence. but we all know he can play defence. that's how he made the team as a rookie. i want to see him get nasty and dunk the darn ball with TWO HANDS.

    by Brandon Weinant on 12/30/2011 10:43 PM
  19. everything i have read on batum related to these first few games is that he is NOT being assertive. i'd be pissed if i thought it had something to do with him not caring enough but having followed him for the past 3 years i KNOW that's not the case. this guys cares and he wants to be great but unfortunately he lacks that "killer instinct". i'm talking about that certain "something" deep inside that makes a player bigger when he is faced with a challenge or test. you can teach aggressiveness all you like but a player can never know it or understand it like someone who is born with it.

    batum is a huge talent and we'd be fools to ever let him go but i think it's time to realize who he is and what he is. he's a fill-in-the-gaps guy that makes a unit function better. he's a guy that will hurt you if you fall asleep on him. but, he's not a go-to-guy or someone we can rely on to make big offensive showings consistently. i doubt he ever will be but i certainly hope he proves me wrong. he simply lacks the DNA.

    go blazers!!

    by thedanman on 12/31/2011 6:29 AM
  20. go blazers!!!!!

    by moreanu on 12/31/2011 6:46 AM
  21. Felton will find control. The defense will pick up even more. Blazers win.

    by mbmurr1 on 12/31/2011 10:27 AM
  22. Happy New years to all, lets start it out with a victory against the Clippers.

    by Hg on 12/31/2011 12:05 PM
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