Nov 18

Blazers Fight Off Angry Bulls

By mikebarrett
The Chicago Bulls are a very well-coached team.  They are also tough and physical, and are prideful.  So, you knew after getting hammered by the Clippers in L.A. on Saturday night, they would come out fighting at the Rose Garden on Sunday, a place where they've had very little success in recent years.  

We're also continuing to learn more and more about the Trail Blazers.  They, too, have shown a gritty side as of late, and the defense is perhaps starting to follow the same learning curve as the offense.  

On Sunday, not only did the Blazers score 102 points on a defense that normally allows 93 points per game, but they held Chicago below its average on offense (just barely).  Best of all, for Blazer fans, they saw some toughness, some more balance, and saw their team win its third-straight game, 102-94.

It was another night where we saw all five Blazer starters score in double figures, led by Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum, who each put up 21.  LaMarcus Aldridge, who was challenged all night by Joakim Noah, scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.  And, Damian Lillard, who is becoming more of a focal point for opposing defenses, ended with 16 points and shot better than 50 percent from the field.

Portland's bench is also showing improvement.  Friday night against Houston, Meyers Leonard was the hero of the second unit.  Tonight, it was Jared Jefferies and Ronnie Price who stood out.  Price ended with 10 points and five assists, and Jefferies, who's effectiveness can never truly be shown on the stat sheet, had four points and four rebounds.

The Blazers, on several occasions in the second half, seemed poised to take total control and knock the Bulls completely out of the game.  They led by as many as 15 points, but had to sweat out the final two minutes of the contest, as Chicago never rolled over.  

With the game tied at 73 early in the fourth, the Blazers ripped off another of those offensive spurts we're becoming accustomed to seeing.  This one was a 14-2 run.  With just over five minutes to go the Blazers enjoyed a 12-point lead.  But, the Bulls took advantage of some sloppy play by the Blazers to draw to within four with 14 seconds left.  But, it never became a one-possession game (which is truly nervous time), and the Blazers ended up winning it by 8.

The only slight blemish at the end came when Lillard scored a meaningless basket in the final seconds that infuriated a couple of the Chicago players.  The unwritten rule in the NBA is, you don't take a shot, let alone a dunk, in the closing seconds when a game has been decided.  Lillard, perhaps not knowing better in this particular moment, drove to the hoop and dunked as the final seconds ticked off.  

Two Chicago players in particular, Taj Gibson and Noah, took immediate exception to Lillard's basket and aggressively approached him near mid court as the final horn sounded.  Teammates from both sides stepped in and nothing came of the confrontation.  

Instead of spending his time in the locker room talking about a solid win, Lillard ended up explaining himself for quite a long period to writers and reporters.  He even sent out a tweet after the game that said "made a rookie mistake at the end.  Didn't mean any disrespect to the Bulls.  Much respect for that team."  

Lillard explained to reporters that he found himself with the ball in the final seconds, and as he saw a couple of Chicago players running at him decided to just finish the play at the rim.  He implied that it was just instinct that led him to put the ball in the basket to end things.  Lillard is well-respected in the league, and no one denies that he's a very quality and classy guy, so I don't expect this to carry over.  Lesson learned.  Turn the page.  The only time it'll perhaps be a story again is when the Blazers play in Chicago on March 21st.  NBA players don't forget stuff like that, and are always looking for ways to motivate themselves with stuff like this.  But, again, Lillard is not the showy type, and rookies have gotten free passes for much worse.

I hated to take so much time after such a great win explaining something that didn't factor into the ultimate outcome, but people were asking exactly what happened, and that's why it needed to be included.

The Blazers came into these last two games badly needing to build some confidence at home, and they've successfully done that.  The Houston win was much more about offense, and who would be hot at the end.  This win over Chicago, as we knew it would have to be, was more about scrap and hustle, and doing the dirty work to get the job done.  Nice to see the Blazers win at both styles.

We're now off until Wednesday, when the Blazers have a quick down-and-back trip to Phoenix to take on the Suns.  That will be followed by a home game against Minnesota on Friday.  After that, it's buh-bye Portland for a while.  We'll head out on a seven-game, 13-day trip that'll take us to Brooklyn, Detroit, Washington, Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Indiana.  That'll put a little hair on a young team's chest.  



  1. Thank you for your post. I felt pretty comfortable the whole night as I felt we had control of the game most of the time. I was expecting runs for Chicago and wasn't sure the Blazers could with stand them but was sure glad. Jefferies making the bell ring may be the best thing for the defense of the team.

    by Hg on 11/18/2012 10:51 PM
  2. A question Mike: WGN also carried the game tonight, it wasn't blacked out as I thought it would be. I admit I snuck over to the Chicago channel a few times just to see what their announcers were like (no comparison to you and Wild One!), and one thing puzzled me: their coverage was a few seconds ahead of CSN's. Does CSN operate on a delay?

    Tonight showed again what balanced scoring can do although I was somewhat disappointed in our low assist total. Our guys should be just as capable as the Bulls players of playing that crisp passing game, I'd like to see more of that from the Blazers and fewer sloppy turnovers.

    Tonight also showed that our bench is better than they have shown so far, primarily due to the resurgence of Ronnie Price now that he is near 100%. The intelligent play of Sasha Pavolic and Jared Jeffries also helps. This is the second game in a row where 3 Blazer bench players were + in the +/- category!

    Granted, the Bulls are shorthanded and Carlos Boozer played an unusually terrible game in the RG, but still it's a good win.

    PS: I wonder why Coach Stotts didn't play offense/defense late in the game when it was obvious the Bulls would foul whoever touched the ball? Seems to me he would rather have Meyers Leonard at the line rather than Jeffries. PPS: Thanks for the blog!

    by dgpdx on 11/19/2012 12:00 AM
  3. @dgpdx: That's typical of other networks being a few seconds ahead Comcast's broadcast. My guess for the slight delay is because they're trying to be in sync with radio broadcast.

    by Shem on 11/19/2012 12:14 AM
  4. Jeffries did look shaky at the line and handling the ball late, but tonight answered my question about why he is on the roster. If he can just teach the youngsters how to take charges like that, we'll in good shape down the line.
    My favorite moments were the two sweet hook shots LaMarcus made while cutting across the lane, and Nic's two emphatic dunks, though there were a also lot of sweet threes. The inside buckets seem like something safer to depend upon as time goes by. It does feel like we're building an offense that is genuinely multi-dimensional. Guys are building All-Star point totals while taking fewer shots than most stars put up.
    Wish I knew why the defense takes so long to warm up each game, but they're doing okay once they figure it out. Nice to see the bench production edging up too.
    Doesn't a .500 record seem pretty good for where we are right now? I know a few long road trips can send that back downhill in a hurry, but some of those will take us East where the pickings have to be easier than this tough start heavy on Western Conference contenders.

    by David Maclaine on 11/19/2012 12:19 AM
  5. @Shem: That's probably it, thanks.

    by dgpdx on 11/19/2012 12:25 AM
  6. Don and Shem: I have the NBA package, and have tried to listen to the game on the radio, while watching opponents announcers. The radio is quite a bit ahead of the opponents anouncers, but I haven't tried it when we are playing at home with Mike and Mike; I had thought that all TV was on a delay because of that Jackson eposode at half time at the Super Bowl.

    by Hg on 11/19/2012 5:26 AM
  7. @David Maclaine:
    It is great that we are at .500 after 10 games, don't forget that two of them were on the road; plus we were in the OKC game and the Dallas game until the end. So hopefully we are going to be a better road team then the last two years.

    Our defense is somewhat slow at getting started, although it appears to me that we do better when we start out slow on D and finish strong; of course I only have the SAS game to compare on because that was the only game that we started out ahead in and lost. Last year it was our offense that was slow starting, so it is hard to figure out.

    Do you suppose that being new with to little communication and not enough stamina because of playing a fast tempo offense that they have to pick their time to play lock-down D. Anyway clipping along at .500 with our schedule and new players, I am more then pleased.

    Oh one thing that I have observed and it is Only IMO, that our guards goes for steals and that sometimes lead to easier baskets by the opponent, but I like that and so far we shoot a pretty high % also, to maybe the high % isn't as important as keeping the ratio between the two teams close to =.

    One more factor that I think about is the style of the NBA teams is spreading the D with a good to great back court and super pick and roll offense. Needless to say, finally, opponents are having the same problem with us, even the super defensive teams of Chicago and SAS, along with the Clippers. So I worry not, so much about high % shooting and enjoy the entertainment factor of our scorers.

    by Hg on 11/19/2012 5:53 AM
  8. Mike,
    I felt bad for D Lill. An embarrassing moment. Lesson learned. Good thing it happened in the RG. Chicago will get over it.
    I've felt more joy in 10 games than I did all of last year. This team is fun.
    It's pick your poison with this team.
    Keep LMA off the block but don't let him shoot the midrange.
    D Lill, Batum and Matthews will shoot 3"s or drive the lane.
    Keep JJ off the offensive glass.
    Hard for any team to guard against that in any one possession.

    by Divotking on 11/19/2012 8:49 AM
  9. Loved the game and the energy.
    I just wondered why D Lill was bringing the ball in at the end. If fouling is going to happen, I want him on the line. He should be receiving the ball.
    Looking forward to Wednesdays game.

    by allie-oop on 11/19/2012 9:09 AM
  10. A quiet 29 points against Rockets.
    A quiet 13 boards against Bulls.
    It's a very good sign. As teams have multiple worries on their defensive end, the L-train will steam along. We are no longer a one trick pony.
    The Blazers are still flying under the radar. The longer we maintain this status the better. Something more than micro brews is brewing in Portland. Don't let the secret out. We're not done fermenting.

    by Divotking on 11/19/2012 12:48 PM
  11. Mike: When they made the correctly recently about giving Batum an extra basket which gave him 35 instead of 33 against the Spurs, any idea which player lost a basket? I was just curious.

    by Shem on 11/19/2012 3:38 PM
  12. Hg: TV delays have been around far longer than Janet Jackson ;-) It started back in the 60s when TV was nervous about announcers or someone near the mic said a "bad" word. Back then, delays were around 6 seconds to give an editor time to cut out offending stuff.

    by dgpdx on 11/19/2012 10:05 PM
  13. having read that just a week ago, joakim noah attempted a 3 pointer when his team was in a similar position as the blazers makes that dunk so sweet. more importantly it showed something about lillard's competitiveness. when in doubt, dunk it. this team has lacked a killer instinct for quite some time. this lillard dude shows no fear. i like that.

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 11/19/2012 10:08 PM
  14. reading that roy will go under the knife again makes my knees hurt. i wish he'd walk away from the game while he still can.

    by thedanman on 11/19/2012 11:39 PM
  15. @dgpdx: Are you saying that Comcast has a delay in its broadcast because they're a afraid of Mike Rice slipping in a profane word? ;)

    by Shem on 11/20/2012 12:19 PM
  16. Lacking enerJJy against the Suns. Missing our fire plug in the middle was clearly evident. Meyers played well. A step in his progression. The Blazers carved a turkey on that one.
    Next up, the Wolves. There is no Love lost. Batum's head will feel better. He will be in charge of serving the pumpkin pie with plenty of stuffing.

    by Divotking on 11/22/2012 8:40 AM
  17. @Divotking: The Blazers were the turkey in Phoenix. Need a good win against Minny to kick off the road trip!

    by dgpdx on 11/22/2012 10:57 AM
  18. @Shem: The Wild Thing saying a bad word? Never!

    by dgpdx on 11/22/2012 10:59 AM
  19. dgpdx;
    You are right. We could have used a pardon by the Prez.

    by Divotking on 11/22/2012 7:14 PM
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