Jan 23

A Dose of Home Cookin'

By mikebarrett
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.


  1. Yeah, you were right, Mike, we were all too easily spooked by the depressing trip. (I have to say, by the way, we laughed out loud in our house at your line in Detroit "....and literally tens of people jump to their feet.") And you're right that this game, while better, is far from good enough if we're going to beat a good team. I was especially sorry the deep-bench subs didn't get in sooner, because of the three-in-a-row thing, but I knew Nate wouldn't take the slightest chance of blowing the game. I hope Nic's odd, drifting-around game was just because there was no urgency to the situation when he was in there, rather than being connected to the meeting about his contract. I do wish I knew why the team starts off so awkwardly these days. Did you see how tentative LaMarcus was on his first possession, looking around endlessly for the double-team that never came instead of just taking it to the defense? Thankfully he snapped out of it, after his long stint on the bench. I suspect that the foul trouble was a blessing in disguise, keeping the minutes down for our big guys. Hope it pays off against Memphis. I'm rooting for this team to do well during the upcoming run of the gauntlet, though I'd still be tempted to shift into rebuild mode if we tank steadily in the tough games ahead. But the nice thing about this schedule that we don't have long to wait, and the next game is should actually tell us something, certainly more than what we learned tonight, which is that Sacramento can be a really, really bad team.

    by Islander on 1/24/2012 12:17 AM
  2. The other big bright spot tonight, in my opinion, was the incredible performance by Craig Smith. Talk about being a BEAST. This guy is the epitome of a beast. I'm continually impressed by his offensive game and am coming to expect the physical defense and rebounding he always gives. I was at the game tonight and really didn't realize (until now) how BIG he is. Reminds me a lot of Mark Bryant (with bigger legs) and Brian Grant (with less hair). I really like his energy.
    Great blog as usual Mike, thanks for hammering it out so soon after the game.
    See ya later.

    by bigjeff911 on 1/24/2012 12:48 AM
  3. I am too tired to think after working all night after the game. but it was worth it. I am just thrilled for the win. But let me tell you all in my honest opinion the Kings are a better team then their record shows and will start winning some games.

    Good night Mike, I will read your blog in its entity tomorrow.

    by Hg on 1/24/2012 12:57 AM
  4. that king team has talent and youth and that's it. i'm happy we won and could make a couple of shots against a BAD team.

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 1/24/2012 1:06 AM
  5. the game last night was predictable. i am always happy with a win, but it looked like a scripted game. l.a. with two early fouls fizzles offensively, but comes back in and does other things to help the team. craig "beast" smith is such a nice addition to the team because he continues to step up and play good minutes while l.a. is on the bench. jamal seems to have found his shot again, but for how long? i think it is very troubling that everybody on this blazer team seemed more active and alive when running around on their own floor than on an opponents floor. yeah, go ahead and build off this win, but with two more back to back games coming up continue playing nate's style of offense. maybe just maybe they'll be able to take the momentum on the road and play just as if not better than they do at home.

    by Imwytdashyt Epps on 1/24/2012 8:22 AM
  6. @bigjeff911: I too thought that Craig was a beast. I love his game and I loved the fact that he stood toe to toe with DeMarcus. That was about the most exciting part of the game, even the flagrant1 on Thomas showed DeMarcus that we were not going to back down from his bully tactics. And speaking of which, I think he met his match Craig

    @Islander: Nate used the second unit more tonight than usual with 28 minutes for Craig and Jamal was in the 30 minutes range and Thomas played long minutes for being in foul trouble. I don't know how much little Smith of the Smith and Smith second unit played, but he played enough to give Ray a rest and keep Jamal from playing PG.

    To everybody including U Mike: It is always been said by Mike and Mike that the first game after any road trip is difficult to win and in actuality it really is the last game of a road trip. But that being said a little home cookin helps LOL. Also, has the Blazers ever been guilty of playing down to their opponents another LOL. And yes Sactown is a bad team with spurts of brilliance, but I am not to sure we can classify the Blazers in a much better light. Could it be that we are a bad team with spurts of brilliance in our wins against LAL and Thunders? I also believe that part of the Sacs bad shooting was because of the pressure Raymond put on Evens. He wasn't mentioned above pertaining to his defense, but let me tell you that the Sac announcers were painfully aware of his defensive talent. Sure he got burnt a few times by Evens; he burnt Evens a few times, but all in all that was a great matchup.
    I am not sure if the starters have been playing conservative because of the schedule and guarding against fatigue, but with the second unit playing like they did tonight, that should definitely give the starters confident that they can play with energy in the first quarter and depend on the second unit to keep the game going. That was the big improvement in the game.

    by Hg on 1/24/2012 8:38 AM
  7. Baby steps are sometimes the biggest leaps.

    It was a decent game, but the thing is I feel like I watch a different team at home than I do on the road. That's expected, but it's such a different comparison it makes me ponder.

    I asked you on Twitter if you thought it could have been a respect issue with the Blazers, since they are so notorious for playing to the level of their opponent. You said that wasn't the case, because they knew the Hawks were good. However, in that Hawks game, the Hawks played just equally as bad, and the Blazers played that way.

    On the road, they notoriously do that, and miss huge opportunities. We could have easily gone 5-1 on that recent road trip, but 3 of those loses were just missed opportunities. So you're right, the homecourt does help just that much.

    I think the Blazers need this game more than people realize (against Memphis), simply because Memphis is rolling, is 4th in the West (Blazers are 9th, but Memphis would be out of the playoffs had GSW not have choked, and Blazers back in). This is a game that would be huge if you won, and disturbing if you lost. I think the Blazers will bring that energy tonight. It's a possible playoff matchup, and it's a game that can put you in the right direction.

    I will just say it now, I have no faith in this team beating Golden State. I'm already counting that a loss. 3rd game in 3 nights, and in a place we never win, against a team that choked miserably last night, no way we win. If we win that, I'll be very happy, but I don't have any faith we'll win on Wednesday. That's just me being honest.

    by Herr on 1/24/2012 11:25 AM
  8. it wasn't the prettiest of first quarters, but i thought we played pretty well in the final three. the thing about that is, teams are going to make runs.we did a very good job of answering those runs by the kings last night. i'm not so worried that we only won by 12 (although a blowout would have allowed are guys to rest even more than they did and let the kids play more than they did). we did what we had to do.

    i've been mentioning Craig Smith a lot lately -- here and in my own blogs -- and i'm going to do so again. i can't quote LaMarcus' comments verbatim, but after the game he said having Craig in there was a huge relief. LaMarcus played just 28 minutes, and could have played shoter minutes. i almost think Nate put LaMarcus in there as an obligatory substitution in the 4th quarter, or he certainly could have gotten more rest. that's all due to the tenacity of the Rhino. he's proven his worth and definitely earned his minutes. Craig shot 4-8 -- great by most standards, but pedestrian by his own. i absolutely love what he does while he's in the game. it's like he uses his performance to tell LaMarcus, "take a load off for a while; i've got this."

    for my part, it was great to see my own #homecourt tweet displayed during halftime of the detroit game in which i declared "Craig 'Rhino' Smith is the steal of free agency." i seem to recall over the past year or so many fans hoping the team would address the backup pf spot. over the past few weeks, i don't think i've heard that once. now it's more like "we need to lock Craig into a long-term deal."

    LaMarcus snagged 16 rebounds in 28 minutes. glad we only needed him for a little more than half the game, because we're going to need him big time against memphis tonight. i'll take the 13 points too. he didn't shoot the lights out, but 43 percent is fairly respectable on an off night.

    our three-guard trio of Wesley, Raymond and Jamal finally all clicked (at least to some extent) last night. maybe more than anything, that's what i've been hoping to see. heck, i would have been happy to see just two of them click. Jamal looked like the player we expected when we all were tweeting him back in november and december asking him to come here. i don't need 26 points from him every night; just the 15-20 which will put us over the hump in most games.

    odd moment after the game for me. i commonly tweet these guys after games with words of encouragement. when i was writing to Marcus, i wanted to tell him i hoped he would feel better soon. i started to write, "Marcus i hope your groin feels better ..." but i don't think that would sound quite right!

    looking forward to this game against memphis. it's going o be a battle, but i think we can to this.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/24/2012 4:19 PM
  9. Nice little win. The Blazers were beaten badly on the boards. Were terrible at the free throw line. Still won the game. Shows how bad the Kings are. Take the "W" and run.
    Craig Smith- Hero of the game. Held down the paint with our other bigs in foul trouble.
    Gerald- Mr. Everything. PERIOD
    Jamal- Did his thing. Need more of that.
    LaMarcus- Started slow. Got stronger late in the game. Nice rebounding.
    Matthews- Overthinking his shooting. Just stroke it. Is all over the court doing other things to help the team.
    Felton- Getting better at picking his spots to shoot. Is doing what Nate wanted, pressuring the ball.
    Camby- What about the groin? Is he a go?
    Batum- I think his alarm clock malfunctioned yesterday.
    I think Memphis is the best team in the west. Not only that, they are a bad matchup for Portland. A team with a big physical center is Portland's achilles heel. Last night their starters played big minutes. Still no Zach.
    I'm not about to predict a win or a loss. Too strange of a NBA season. I do know the Blazers must rebound better. Most important, don't leave points at the free throw line.

    by Divotking on 1/24/2012 11:58 AM
  10. Home cookin' and a good night's sleep in your own bed can do wonders.

    I think we should consider what Gerald Wallace did against Sacto with two full days rest. You say, Mike, that we would would have won the Detroit game had Wallace played and you're probably right. But, would he have been the same player on Saturday that we saw last night, and would he have played as well last night had he played on Saturday? Wallace plays so hard every minute that giving him an extra day off once in a while may pay big dividends later on.

    by dgpdx on 1/24/2012 1:01 PM
  11. I agree with Herr that tonight's game with Memphis is huge. It's too early to declare any game a "must win," but this game will be a good barometer of where we stand at the 1/4 mark of the season.

    by dgpdx on 1/24/2012 1:11 PM
  12. @Divotking: not a bad rundown, though we were not beaten on the boards; we whalloped the kings in the rebounding battle, 53-36 -- huge reason we won the game.

    not the most spectacular performance, but enough with which to be pleased.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/24/2012 2:16 PM
  13. @Kass; Thanks. I stand corrected. That makes the final score make more sense.

    by Divotking on 1/24/2012 3:29 PM

  14. What I saw last night was a Blazer team that is uptight when trailing, and loosed up once got a lead. Confidence? Playing it safe? Really need to play like they own the court right from the start and continue all the way to finish.

    by NOYB on 1/24/2012 4:08 PM
  15. Hey Mike,
    For about 2 seconds I felt like lashing out at a certain law professor. So ridiculous it doesn't deserve any of my mental energy. In addition, you are in no need of a defense. Keep up the good work and fun my friend.

    by Divotking on 1/24/2012 4:53 PM
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