Feb 18

A Complete Win at the Rose Garden

By mikebarrett
In a win that was satisfying as it was needed, the Trail Blazers played one of their more complete games of the season on Saturday night at the Rose Garden.  They stopped their home losing streak at four, and their losing streak to Atlanta at six, blowing out the Hawks 97-77.

The Trail Blazers outshot the Hawks 47% to 41%, but much more importantly destroyed Atlanta in the rebounding column 50 to 27.  That's what Nate McMillan has been wanting to see, and it's always an indicator of effort.  It's also a solid sign that his message is getting through.  No, the team has not tuned him out, despite what you read elsewhere.  I've seen teams tune coaches out, and that's never been a serious concern with this group.

It was also a very nice step in the right direction for Raymond Felton, who has taken a ton of heat, as you know.  He's also put a lot of pressure on himself and isn't a player who has ever seemed to step his game up due to big-time criticism.  I spoke to Ray during pregame warmups, and he told me he felt more relaxed than he has been in a couple of weeks.  Then, he went out and played like it.

Felton wasn't dazzling, and didn't post massive numbers.  But, that's not what this team needs from him.  It needs steady play, with an effort to push the tempo while staying under control, and it also needs him to shoot a decent percentage.  He did all three in this one.  Felton had 14 points, eight assists, and only 2 turnovers.  He was also 6 for 11 from the field and hit 2 of his 5 three point attempts.  What a difference that made for the Blazers.

Of course, also making a big difference was the return of LaMarcus Aldridge, who didn't look to be bothered by his sore ankle.  He scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and needed to play only 35 minutes.

This was really the first chance we got to see this new starting lineup, that debuted in the Washington game, but was quickly undone when Aldridge rolled his ankle less than two minutes into that game.  With Nic Batum starting at the off-guard spot, and Wallace at the small-forward position, the Trail Blazers can really cause matchup trouble for opponents.  Tonight we got a look at that with LaMarcus healthy again.

Batum was very good, and wasn't just good for a half, or a quarter, like he was Thursday against the Clippers.  He had 22 points, on 9 of 15 shooting.  He also had 8 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards.  That's huge for Nic, and something he's got to continue to work on.  He could be a dominant offensive rebounder with his long arms, slippery frame, and nose for the ball.

Being taken out of the starting lineup hasn't seemed to bother Wesley Matthews, and that would bother other players.  Matthews has taken it as a challenge, and against the Hawks had 13 points, and was very active defensively.  That's what this team needs from him, in that role.

It was a bit of an odd game, as both teams shot the heck out of the ball in the first quarter.  Atlanta shot 67% in the opening frame, and the Blazers were at 65%.  The second quarter was a complete reversal.  Portland was just 7 for 24, and the Hawks were a very uncharacteristic 3 for 17.  The Hawks improved, only slightly, in the third quarter shooting 7 for 19.

Being Atlanta is 13-0 on the season when shooting just 45% for the game, it was vital Portland's defense not let them get hot.  It didn't.  And, this time the Blazers were able to put them away.  They lost that 18-point lead to the Clippers on Thursday, but tonight dropped the hammer and increased their lead to 22 before winning it by 20.

Considering the Blazers were just 16-16 through 32 games last season, and are now 17-15, despite having the 2-10 record in games decided by five points or fewer, and despite battling through some injuries, this is actually encouraging.  I spent some time with ESPN's John Hollinger before the game and he said what so many around the league have said about the Blazers- they are better than their record.  Potentially, a lot better.  But, that doesn't mean thing automatically get better from here. 

Saturday night was a big step in the right direction.  The effort and execution will have to be even better in the next couple of games, as the Blazers take on the Lakers in L.A. on Monday, and then host the red-hot San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.  Then, it's the All-Star break, already.


  1. I actually have a good feeling after this game...I don't know why...I think things could really take off from here with this new lineup. Mabe we add another piece a the deadline, who knows.

    On a side note, Oden seems to be a hush-hush topic these days...anyone know the latest?

    by Jaredtherebel2001 on 2/19/2012 12:12 AM
  2. It was good to see LaMarcus come back looking strong, and nice to see the rebounding return. I don't think that's a coincidence, despite the fact that people seem to have treated the rebounding slump and his absence as separate issues. It's one thing "not to make excuses," another to ignore cause and effect. We'd been playing a small line-up and getting beaten on the boards. We finally get a regular line-up enhanced by Batum with some time at the two, and, surprise, we win the glass.
    I was naturally happy to see Nic's good play continue. I was also happy that Nate gave Nolan some solid minutes, even though he didn't really do a whole lot and made some mistakes. (It was still a better stint than Felton's against the Clippers, but then, what isn't?). It seems finally to have dawned on Nate that if he doesn't have a back-up plan prepared, the whole season could go down the drain with Raymond Felton. Felton had a solid game according to the numbers, but I still screamed at the TV half-a-dozen times when he made the same sort of bad plays we've seen way too often. But his pattern has been something like solid, so-so, bad, pretty good, solid, bad, bad, solid, so-so, bad, bad awful, so dropping in another in the solid-to-pretty-good range doesn't mean a lot, except that he'll probably keep his starting job for another game or two.
    I do wish I knew why Jamaal was so shy and retiring tonight. It's like the extra confidence shown by Nic and Raymond had to come from someone, and they got the portion normally alloted to Crawford.
    Still, it was a good win at home against a team with no real excuse for being flat. Here's hoping the team can keep up the the energy and pull out another win or two as they close out the pre-break schedule and then head home for some much-needed rest.

    by Islander on 2/19/2012 12:13 AM
  3. Batum....just loving his play lately! Going after loose balls,blocking any shot he can...getting rebounds and scoring a good mount of buckets. This isnt exactly new for him, hes a guy that we have known has the potential and off and on for past 4 years have seen it. But now hes just more confident and growing into the player he should be.

    He can start the rest of the year as far as Im concerned. Not saying im down on Wesley....hes still a huge asset to this team, might be having a rough year....but I got faith in him...still producing decent numbers and hopefully hell get his long range game back soon. LMA...what can you say..hes our guy and he came out strong...19 points and 10 boards is solid game for guy coming back from injury, good stuff.

    We shall see about Felton...this team has ways to go...but ill take the win. Keep playing our bench, nice to see Nolan and Elliot out there...cant wear out our starters, or it will be a loooong season. Go bLaZeRs :)

    by whitefeather21380 on 2/19/2012 1:44 AM
  4. Hey Mike: I am in the dark about the game, I am just glad we won, glad that our guards got some offensive production and I am glad to get this win.

    Thank you for the update of LMA

    by Hg on 2/19/2012 1:46 AM
  5. Here;s my story. I work Graveyard sunday night to friday morning. I'm 22 in a month, and people that have been my age, likely have been where I'm at - they want my sleep. So I woke up at 5pm (keeping my sleep schedule) and drove to Portland. I don't know Portland at all, but was apparently a block away from where my friend was (who I was meeting) he didn't want to make the effort to walk that block, since Parking was no where to be found. So, after driving around 2 hours looking for the place, he hangs up, turns off his phone, and ditches me. All this while the game was going on, and I listened to it barely on the radio. After getting lost again, it took me an hour to get home back in Tualatin. I did, and the game was already over.

    BUT, it was nice, very nice, to see the Blazers kill two birds with one stone. End this terrible play, and beat a team that's had our number. I'd gladly trade the loss to the Clippers and Wizards for a win in these next two games.

    BUT, again... Consistency HAS been a HUGE issue for this Portland team. I didn't know what team I was going to listen to barely tonight, and I don't know which team we're going to see against the Lakers, or Spurs. I don't know, and that scares me.

    Until we can consistently play (like OKC does) and try every night, I won't feel comfortable going into this game. It scares me that I have those thoughts. This team had a lot of potential at the start, and the loss at LA against the Clippers set the tone for the season - play good for a game, play like garbage against another. We saw this after blowing out Phoenix, then losing to Utah. Blowing out Memphis, than losing in Golden State. Blowing out Charollette, then going on the road. Having Aldridge go 33-23, a big victory in Toronto, then losing to one of the worst in the NBA at Detriot.

    As good and complete as this game was, the main problem still lingers. It was never a problem about playing at home, or on the road. It was never a problem of teams just beating us. It was never a problem of shooting. It's always been a problem of consistency. That is why I scratch my head about the hate on Felton, when every single player on this entire team has showed great potential, but don't show up for about half the games. The only consistent player has been Aldridge, and he's even had a few bad games lately.

    It'd be HUGE to get these two wins, which are badly needed, despite the opponents. But, I fear that we're going to see a half-butt effort against the Lakers, and then we'll have a full of energy sloppy play like we saw against the Clippers, but this time, against the best team in the NBA.

    by Herr on 2/19/2012 2:54 AM
  6. what i saw:

    felton played decent ball and didn't look constipated (very good)

    aldridge played conservative and solid (very good or awesome considering his ankles)

    matthews was hitting the mid-range-killer jumpers (awesome)

    batum continued to be aggressive (awesome)

    nolan smith looked like he belonged out there (awesome)

    wallace looks like he's trying but is tired (troubling because it's happening many times)

    camby went to work (very good)

    thomas went to work (very good)

    crawford looked timid and uninvolved (strange)

    elliot was aggressive (awesome)

    the rest (well done)

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 2/19/2012 4:09 AM
  7. in addition to this being a complete game, it was the most satisfying of wins. as Herr referenced, we handily beat a team which has had our number. we also kept ourselves at above. 500 and reversed our fortunes at home.

    so impressed with the string of games Nicolas has put together. he's been truly incredible, so much so that he's been my pick to click each of the past four games (MB, with all due respect to Rice and LaMarcus, Nico, you and i won the last night!). Nicolas has been all over the court and a real difference maker.

    LaMarcus is a pro. I believe there was a time earlier in his career where he wouldn't have come back so strong from injury. He's matured tremendously. Ray had the type of game we expected when we got him (never been down on him; just wanted to see him step up). Marcus was as solid as ever. how about Kurt grabbing 10 rebounds in his minutes - great work, old man!

    I thought Nolan did some nice things, especially on the defensive end. Elliot made the most of his two minutes out there. not worried about Crash only having 9 points, he was doing other things on the defensive side.

    I'd love to see us beat the lakers and spurs; that would be a perfect way to end this grouping of games. really looking forward to seeing Nicolas make Bryant work on both ends of the court.

    - KMM

    by Kassandra on 2/19/2012 8:55 AM
  8. A total team game with the expected result when we play up to our capabilities.

    Nic Batum as a starter: 22.8 points/game; 4.5 rebounds/game; 53% shooting; 43% 3-pt shooting. And that doesn't include what he brings at the defensive end. This guy is a possible, maybe even probable, future all-star.

    Interesting guard situation if Felton and Matthews continue to play at or near their Sat. night level. With Nic at the 2, Nolan Smith getting more backup PG minutes, and assuming Felton and Matthews play well, where are regular minutes for Jamal Crawford going to come from?

    Anyone else noticed that Elliot Willimas is getting more relaxed and playing better with each game he gets into? More minutes for him as well? Any trade scenario for the Blazers will have to include a couple of guards. Of course, if our guards continue to play like they did against Atlanta, we don't need no stinkin' trade!

    by dgpdx on 2/19/2012 2:35 PM
  9. I wonder where we would be if our guards regularly played the way they did against Atlanta..

    by Ancientone on 2/19/2012 3:32 PM
  10. Felton, Batum, Gerald, LaMarcus, Camby. That's good size.
    Nice to see the chairs at the far end get a break. Is Nate loosening the neck tie a little?
    @ Islander: Well said.

    by Divotking on 2/19/2012 6:03 PM
  11. @Ancientone: Probably about 22-10, maybe a game or two better. And my early prediction of 46 wins would look a lot smarter ;-)

    by dgpdx on 2/19/2012 6:20 PM
  12. @kassandra, i agree gotta make kobe work on both ends

    by xshadowxec on 2/19/2012 11:22 PM
  13. Just do whatever Phoenix did last night!

    by dgpdx on 2/20/2012 1:27 PM
  14. G.O. bummer

    by Divotking on 2/20/2012 5:22 PM
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