mikebarrett

Apr 01

Blazers Close Out Minnesota

By mikebarrett Posted in: LaMarcusAldridge, NicolasBatum, Timberwolves, WesleyMatthews
This is the LaMarcus Aldridge the Trail Blazers need to be successful in Western-Conference battles like the one that took place on Sunday night at the Rose Garden.  He was physical, determined, and a touch nasty, as the Blazers scored a measure of revenge with a 119-106 victory.

The last time the Timberwolves were in Portland, it was Kevin Love who stole the show, scoring 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as his team won in Portland for the first time since 2005.  Love just about repeated the feat again just four days later, on March 7th, as he went for 29 and 16 as the Timberwolves beat the Blazers in Minnesota.

On Sunday, even though Aldridge's numbers weren't decidedly dominant in the head-to-head battle, he led the way with aggressive play, which set the tone, and Portland was able to avoid the season sweep.  Aldridge scored 26 points, on 10 of 17 shooting, and grabbed nine rebounds. Love had 26 and 9, but was just 7 for 16 from the field.  L.A. also recorded an emphatic block on Love and sent the ball into the sixth row of seats.  The crowd reacted, and so did Love, who threw a high elbow at Aldridge the next trip down and the two had to be separated.

The difference between this win, and the first two losses to Minnesota, was that Aldridge had plenty of help on this night.  His scrappy play rubbed off on his teammates, especially J.J. Hickson, who continued his outstanding play since becoming a Blazer.  Hickson ended with 15 points (14 in the second half) and also grabbed nine rebounds (four offensive).  

Seeing Aldridge and Hickson play so effectively together in the second half obviously leads to the question- should those two be starting together on the front line?  Joel Przybilla, who didn't play in this game so that he could rest his sore knee, wouldn't have played much in this game anyway, so Hickson got extended minutes with Aldridge.  Minnesota is small right now, and Portland was able to play the Aldridge/Hickson combo and not get hurt on the boards.  Against Utah on Monday, this may not be the case.  Utah is big and physical, and hopefully Przybilla will be able to go, because he'll be needed.

One thing is certain about Hickson- this doesn't look like flash-in-the-pan stuff.  He's energized this team with his play since joining the team.  As we've continued to say on our broadcasts, he needed to show us something, and he continues to.  As Aldridge said after the game, Hickson takes pressure off of everyone, with his constant activity, and ability to get hustle points.  The team doesn't run plays for him, he just gets what he gets by pure effort.

This was also the Nicolas Batum the Trail Blazers need to see more often.  Batum can disappear for stretches, and even for entire games now and then, but he was assertive in this contest for 48 minutes, and that's exactly the way he needs to play.  Batum had 24 points, and continued to look for his shot, something he should always do.

The Blazers got balanced scoring from the rest of the starting five as well, as Wesley Matthews had 18 points, and Ray Felton flirted with a triple double, scoring 10, dishing out 11 assists, and grabbing 8 rebounds.

It's also becoming more and more difficult to keep Jonny Flynn off the court.  He had just four points, but also had seven assists and three rebounds in his 18 minutes.  Flynn sees the court extremely well, and is lightening-quick.

The bench was also solid in this game, shooting 12 for 21 from the field, led by Jamal Crawford's 12 points.  And, Luke Babbitt continues to lead all second-year players in the NBA in three-point percentage.  He's now 21 for 40 on the season, and has no fear.  He drilled a 30-foot bomb in this game, and looked effortless in doing it.

The Blazers may have slim playoff hopes, but they have hopes, and opportunities continue to come.  They host Utah Monday night, and will need the same kind of effort and focus to have a chance to further build momentum for a final run.

15 Comments

  1. Hey Mike Great game. thanks for the updates. I didn't know what happened to Joel.
    I really enjoyed some of the things Snapper Jones had to say.
    Our young players just need to go out and play without fear of making a mistake is what seems to be helping us.
    Boy we are a completely different team now, I even enjoyed the lost we had against the Clippers.
    I love JJ and LMA together. But JJ will be valuable coming off the bench when we have big centers to go against.

    by Hg on 4/1/2012 10:44 PM
  2. As I sad on Twitter, JJ Hickson seems to be the reinforcement this team needs. Get some good free agents and picks on the draft, and we'll be back next season. I still think the playoffs are far away and impossible, but jeez, it felt like a real chance tonight. If the Blazers can win 10 of their next 13, they can make it. Friday hurt badly though. Ugh how I hate refs...

    by Herr on 4/1/2012 11:15 PM
  3. Win or lose, it has been so fun watching an energized team for these last two games. Friday was a heartbreak but still totally fun to watch. Sunday was a blast too. JJ seems to have resurrected the rebound on this team. HE gets himself to the right place at the right time and others were doing that more. Loved watching the shooting and good pass making. I don't see any point in worrying about the playoffs. Can't imagine how we would get out of the first round. So lets think BUILD for next year.

    by allie-oop on 4/2/2012 6:09 AM
  4. Two exciting games in a row. They played with energy and played some defense and rebounded.

    by Ancientone on 4/2/2012 6:28 AM
  5. Mike:
    I think I owe you an apology, after watching some of the highlights of Snapper, I think it was that Other announcer that I was thinking about. My TV was snow filled and Of course, I can't hear and would never admit at 71 my mind forgets, so I will retract my statement of Snapper making you look like an idiot, and say, gulp, it is me that is the idiot.
    My bad

    by Hg on 4/2/2012 7:35 AM
  6. NEW JERSEY WATCH
    7th worst record
    19-35 .352

    Nice win. Six players in double figures. We outrebounded somebody. Kaleb wants 5 guys rebounding. He got that last night. Jamal had 4. Yes 4. Little Ray had 8.
    Lamarcus looked good. I enjoy it when he brings the nasty. He is still growing as a player.
    18 assists from the point position. Must be a first this season.
    Luke is getting more comfortable every night. Fighting for rebounds. Learning how to play a little D in this league. What position he plays is a little confusing. He may be a tweener. 3 and 4. He is showing improvement. Might be the haircut.
    I wish we could take Batum's passport. Put him in the weight room all summer. Make him hungry to play basketball.

    by Divotking on 4/2/2012 7:46 AM
  7. Gotta make sure ppl c the love for JJ & Flynn ;) In the following, I quote myself (from the soon to be deleted 2x's post ;)

    "THAT'S what's so impressive about JJ, the fact that he did what he did WITHOUT having plays called 4 him! He's been averaging 3 offensive boards & he got 4 2night (the BEST in the league avg. 4! :) JJ's drive, strong hands (not 2 mention, I'll bet he's pretty tuff dude 2 ;), b-ball IQ, & motor get him those RBs, 2nd chance points, & 1st shot attempts.

    "It's also becoming more and more difficult to keep Jonny Flynn off the court," then... DON'T! The guy IS good! THIS guy IS the guy WE NEED! Hopefully Felton plays out the season like a pro even after we give Flynn the keys; If not, bench Felton & give ALL the time to Flynn (regardless of how he plays, he'll help the Blazers > Felton, ESPECIALLY in the long run :) & Felton is released after season's end giving the Blazers the most flexibility 2 do what is needed :) Things happen 4 a reason; I don't think the Blazers would've considered bringing in Flynn if Felton had played well this season; I STILL believe Felton had/has the skills to b what the Blazers need(ed) but bc he wasn't able to produce when the Blazers really needed him, he's going to b sent packing. Felton's a good/skilled/elite player & some1 else will offer him a big contract. Chin up though every1, in a sense, Felton brought us our pg of the future! Flynn has a great attitude & energy + he'll prove 2 every1 including himself that he deserved to b a top pick in his draft."

    by Simpson on 4/2/2012 10:09 AM
  8. Hey Mike, I do think that Kaleb should start LA and JJ together with Nic, Wes and Ray rounding out the 5. If that happens, I believe they have a real shot at making the playoffs.

    by blazerdarren77 on 4/2/2012 3:23 PM
  9. Islander:
    Mike has two blogs going at once, I commented on the other one that I was sure JJ was a keeper, as a back up for LMA and Playing with LMA when we go small. It almost seems to me that we have just got us a younger and maybe more skilled Crash. Well at least as a four.

    You have to remember that Flynn is still young, He had a great rookie year, then had hip surgery, was traded and played his second year off the bench while recovering from surgery; he is healed up and ready to go and just needs some playing time. He may or may not be our PGofTF, but in my opinion he is already good enough to be our back up. I think Nolan will be our 3rd string PG until he gets more burn. What would you think of a line-up of
    Elite PG
    Wesley
    Batum
    LMA
    elite center

    Flynn
    E Williams
    Babbitt
    JJ
    Freeland
    Bench fillers
    Nolan, draft pick, FA Joel, filler.

    by Hg on 4/2/2012 3:27 PM
  10. blazerdarren77: and what is wrong with making the play-offs for confidence and experience for our young players?
    I know you want to tank, I want to win,

    by Hg on 4/2/2012 3:29 PM
  11. hg, I don't want them to tank, I want the best players out there for this final push. I believe JJ and LA compliment each other real well. Believe me man, I WANT the Blazers IN the playoffs.

    by blazerdarren77 on 4/2/2012 9:27 PM
  12. felton-felton-felton.

    he's not gonna let nic take the blame because he's a leader? wow, what a swell guy he is. way to take one for the team felton. but seriously, he patted himself on the back for taking the blame, implying it was nic's fault. i think it's time for a new leader. i saw the play and felton did not angle his body to protect the ball. he was complacent. basketball 101: protecting the ball, go to the ball and put your body between the man and the ball.

    he is getting a lot of heat and i do feel bad for the guy on some level but his tough act is just adding fuel to the fire. of course if he owned up and said, hey, i came to town out of shape and unprepared and i'm having a lousy season, that would infuriate fans also. it's a lose lose situation with him. i was so excited about getting felton after watching him tear it up with denver but this is what we got instead, floundering felton. he's a disappointment like sean kemp was but on a smaller scale.

    matthews had the touch and i don't blame him for shooting in the end. feed it to the hot hand. johnny flynn is fun to watch. it's nice to see a quick guy wearing a blazer uniform.

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 4/2/2012 11:56 PM
  13. thedanman: the Utah announcers said he looked like he was asleep. So he definitely was complacent. Boy, that was unbelievable turn of events.

    by Hg on 4/3/2012 12:08 AM
  14. Love your starting lineup, Hg, but just how do we get both and elite PG and Center by next season? Sure we could get both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams, but it would cost LA, Batum, EW, Babbitt, both our upcoming draft picks, and a large chunk of Paul Allen's fortune ;-) I'd be satisfied with one or the other.

    Nice thing about Luke Babbitt is, now that his shot is falling, he's opening up his game to other things, fighting for boards, blocking shots, etc. He's not yet a real good defender but, with more game minutes, he can get there.

    I've changed my profile pic and it shows up on my page, but can't seem to get rid of this nose shot when I post. Anyone else ever have this problem?
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/3/2012 9:36 AM
  15. Don;
    I guess, I am using elite wrong. Maybe a All star of the future is more to the liking. We were going after an elite back court player, to go with LMA, but I was wondering if Flynn could be that Elite player with his speed, passing, court vision and moderate shooting ability.
    That would leave us free to go after a big time center, use Freeland next year and get an adequate PG to go with Flynn.
    I think E Williams and Wesley will be fine at the 2; Batum and Babbitt at the 3; LMA and JJ at the 4 and Freeland and Joel at the 5, but we need someone in the range of Thalbeet in height

    by Hg on 4/3/2012 10:18 AM
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