A Dose of Home Cookin'
We've said many times that, during this season especially, you shouldn't do too much complaining after a win no matter how unattractive it turns out to be. This one had it's moments, but certainly was no thing of beauty. After that six-game trip, however, the most important thing was to simply get the win. The Trail Blazers did that, beating the Sacramento Kings 101-89.
But, I have to admit one thing that I believe to be absolutely true in the case of this game- if this would have been on the road, it would have been a loss. I only say that to illustrate ther power of the home court. On the road, the margin for error is just too thin. At home you can be a little scattered and still survive.
That is not to say, however, that there weren't improvements seen in several key areas for the Trail Blazers. They were great on the boards (led by LaMarcus), they shot a higher percentage, and one very key player seemed to rediscover his shooting touch. Those aren't little things mind you, but what solved Portland's recent issues in this game was simply the Rose Garden.
Well, that, and they had Gerald Walllace back. If Gerald had played in the Detroit game it would have been a win. No doubt in my mind about that.
The first half of this game will not be shown in the future as part of a how-to course on offense in this league. It was ragged, and ugly. Sacramento takes more bad shots than any team I've seen this year. They are very selfish at times, and do not work as a unit. DeMarcus Cousins is a beast, but he's also extremely inconsistent. It appears he loses interest in certain parts of the game, and has no desire to get his teammates involved.
But, the Kings have shown that they can put things together on a given night. Just before this most recent road trip, they beat Indiana. The Pacers have been one of the better teams in the east. And, on the road trip they beat the Spurs in San Antonio, and that's no easy task (just ask the Blazers). So, while you may consider them chopped liver, they have their moments. They just didn't have many of them in this game.
This game was so awkward for the Blazers early because of foul trouble. Just over halfway through the first quarter, Aldridge, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas were all on the bench with two fouls each. On most any other night, or if this had been on the road, this could have been fatal.
Aldridge, out of the offensive flow early, did make a huge effort to do other things- like rebound. He ended with 16 rebounds, 13 points, and five assists. That really shows growth in his game. That's what all-stars do. They find a way to be effective, even if their primary weapon, for whatever reason, isn't working.
Wallace, playing with a splint on his shooting hand, was very good as well. Somehow, he scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. These were 20 effort points, and that's what he does best.
The other glaring bright spot was the play of Jamal Crawford. Crawford, who shot just 29 percent on the six-game trip, hasn't lost his confidence.
Before the game, toward the end of warmups, when we were about to go on the air, I felt two hands on my shoulders from behind. Not knowing who it was, I just leaned my head back. I heard Jamal say "don't worry. We're going to be fine. We ARE the team everyone thought we could be." Then, he ran off to shoot another lay-in. When he came back around, concerned that perhaps someone had told him that we've been critical on the broacasts (and that does happen- family, friends, or whoever), I asked if he thought we were losing faith. To my relief he said, "no, no.. I just wanted you to know that we're okay." It was an interesting moment, and actually showed me a lot about him, and his belief. He went on the floor and proved it.
Crawford scored a season-high 26 points, and was 9 for 18 from the field. That's just 50 percent, obviously, but for him that was a huge step in the right direction. We've sounded like a broken record lately stating time and time again that this team couldn't win consistently with its guards struggling so badly from the field. I feel like Raymond Felton busted out of his slump in the second half at Toronto, and then in Detroit. Crawford may have just broken out of his in this game. Next up, hopefully, it'll be Wesley Matthews. He was just 5 for 14 in this game, but played with passion and energy. That's never an issue with him.
Here's some more truth. This kind of performance was enough to beat the Sacramento Kings at the Rose Garden. But, it won't be enough to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, and certainly won't be nearly enough to win at Golden State on Wednesday.
Baby steps, I suppose. We want massive improvement immediately. But, job one in this game was restoring this team's confidence. A win, no matter how you get it, or who you get it against, helps greatly with that.