mikebarrett

Dec 20

Blazers Make It Four Straight

By mikebarrett
Yep.  It was weird, it was unattractive at times, and it was certainly unconventional.  But, it was also a win over a quality opponent from the Northwest Division, and it came on a night the Trail Blazers were playing without their leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge.

Earlier in the season we brought up the fact that there simply is no margin for error with this Portland team.  That if and when injuries happen, this team could be in trouble.  After all, this team was way too dependent on its starting five.  Well, they went 3-0 when Wesley Matthews was down with a hip injury, and Thursday night survived without Aldridge.

Don't look now, but the Blazers have won six of their last eight games, and are 12-12 through 24.  All things considered, I'll take that and run.

In what turned out to be one of the stranger games in recent memory, the Blazers led wire to wire and beat Denver at the Rose Garden 101-93.  That's back-to-back games that Portland hasn't trailed for a single second of a ball game.

I've tossed this stat out there before, but Portland came into Thursday night's game just 2-11 when they shoot under 45%.  We've said time and time again that the Blazers simply won't be able to win ugly.  They have to shoot well to win.  Even that theory was debunked on this night, as Portland shot just 36% from the field, and lived to tell about it.

So, call it a good defensive effort, or perhaps you could say they came up against the gang that couldn't shoot straight.  Maybe it was a little bit of both.  Denver missed a lot of contested shots in this game, and they missed a lot of uncontested shots in this game.  

Ten days ago the Trail Blazers set a new NBA record by going 0 for 20 from behind the three-point line, but still won.  That record was broken by Denver in this game.  They went an amazing 0 for 22 from behind the arc to break the record.  But, that wasn't the half of it. Denver shot 1 for 32 outside the key.  That's mind boggling, I know.  

I wasn't even that shocked that the Nuggets scored 74 points in the paint.  That's what they do. But, the fact that it took them 47 minutes and 22 seconds to score from outside the key, was amazing.  They ended with 74 points in the paint, 17 from the foul line, and two points from outside.

Terry Stotts was back in his office, following his press conference, and we were talking about how odd that truly was.  He said he'd never seen anything like it, and I agreed.  But, we also agreed that the most important thing was that the Trail Blazers were able to put together enough offense, playing without their leading scorer, to get the victory.

Nic Batum led the way with 22 points for the Blazers, hitting five three pointers in the process. Wesley Matthews, who told me he's still far from 100 percent, scored 20 points, and Damian Lillard had 12 points and 10 assists.  It was an off night for Lillard, who was just 3 for 14 shooting, but had a huge three pointer late in the game, and had a highlight dunk in the second half.

And then there's JJ Hickson.  After going for 24 points and 16 rebounds against New Orleans on Sunday night, Hickson went for 18 and 18 in this game.  It was his sixth-straight double-double, and his 14th of the season.

Portland got another very solid performance out of Luke Babbitt off the bench as well, as he scored in double figures for the third-straight game.  Babbitt finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, and has turned into a reliable option off the bench- something the Blazers badly need.

The Blazer offense wasn't outstanding in this game, but it was good enough.  The fact that they shot 36 percent, and went over five minutes without a field goal twice in the second half, and still won, was remarkable.

This home stand, that started with an ugly loss to Sacramento, has now turned into an early-season-defining stretch.  We've learned that they can absorb an injury or two, can turn to the second unit for big performances, and can win ugly.  

Next up, it's Phoenix on Saturday night.  It'll be an opportunity for the Blazers to make it five-straight wins, and a chance to get over the .500 mark.  It's unclear whether Aldridge will return for that game.  But, this win showed, once again, that the Blazers have other options.  That could be the most valuable lesson learned over the past week.


17 Comments

  1. Hey Mike; great post.
    You forgot to mention Mike Rice dancing with the girls. Actually he was pretty good for an old fart like me.

    I am glad to take this win, I don't know if Denver took us lightly or not, I surely wouldn't think they would. Did the Blazers actually play that good of D?
    Well I waited up for your blog and it was worth it. This game should give confidence to the bench in upcoming games.

    by Hg on 12/21/2012 12:50 AM
  2. Hi Mike! Hi Hg! I have never seen a game like this in my entire life! I was watching and with all those misses by the Denver team, it is amazing we only won by as much as we did. BUT..even with the win it does exploit a weakness in the Blazers defense! Without LA we were not able to defend the two or close to the hoop....we are very lucky we came away with a victory tonight!!!!

    4 in a row is nice my blazer fans....but can we keep up "basic" basketball through the next few games? I sure hope so and I do have faith in this new rotation! 12-12 my blazer fans....who would have thought this?

    peace out,
    daddylogan

    by daddylogan on 12/21/2012 12:25 PM
  3. IMO, this was a very exciting game early on, I thought Denver was sleep walking at the beginning, like they didn't really have to put in an effort to beat Portland. When Dre came in things changed quickly, he is old and wise and he knew the Blazers are for real as all NBA teams are. I can't imagine Denver taking Portland lightly in the Rose Garden and a somewhat of a rival in the same Division.

    I don't know for sure why Lillard was not hitting, I don't know why the Nuggets couldn't buy a basket, but I am sure glad we had Nic and Wesley back. That was a nice dunk by Joel, he is getting better and he does play a little D.

    I thought we defended against the dribble penetrating very well, it was dishing off to the bigs that was killing us. But then, they wasn't doing a real good job of scoring either.
    JJ was again the presence inside that helped sway the game to give our shooters time to square up.
    Us winning a game like this, I thought I may have been wrong about the world coming to an end as I was sure the end was near; Denver may have thought that and said why bother.

    by Hg on 12/21/2012 6:37 AM
  4. hey MB! as ugly as it was at times, i'd take this and run as well. Any time you beat a team of quality - which i too believe the Nuggets are - you've got to be happy.

    i appreciated your comments about the guys contributions, but Luke in particular should receive additional mention during this stretch. he's averaging 12.0 points over the last three games and, while i haven't looked specifically at his rebounding numbers, my educated guess would be about six during that stretch. it still baffles me that so many seem to want to bash him or withhold the credit he deserves. i realize Meyers is often the first guy off the bench, but is appears to me that Luke has become this team's sixth man- and that's obviously for good reason.

    JJ is a monster in there. when a team is down a player (especially a guy like LaMarcus), everyone needs to step it up a little. JJ does that in abundance. he continues to prove why he deserves a contract extension. Nicolas' night seemed quiet for the most part to me, but he was still a leader out there. you could see it in the huddle and with some great play in the 4th quarter.

    last night, it seemed as though everyone contributed something. everyone was hustling out there and played... well, almost 48 minutes. the chat erupted when the Nuggets missed their 21st three-pointer. made it for an interesting game to watch.

    over the next week, we have a chance to not only go over. 500, but to go three games over. who would have predicted a 15-12 start? wasn't the first third of the schedule supposed to be the toughest third? hmm.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/21/2012 7:19 AM
  5. JJ's mind is in a very good place. Everything that comes at him he sees as an opportunity.
    That was an un George Karl like performance.
    Every successful season you need breaks go your way. The Blazers are getting a few. Finally.

    by the golden ladder on 12/21/2012 8:14 AM
  6. Makes you wish we had gotten a multi-year contact with JJ.

    Batum continues to justify his salary. Many times players slack off after they get the big contract. He's out to show us he deserved it.

    Kassandra: Luke is not only being a shooter, when you watch him he's working hard. Positioning and running to rebounds, blocking out, setting picks and yes playing defense.

    Seems Freeland does a lot of things that don't always show in the stats.

    Lillard did have an off night and yet I'd take that for an off night.

    Leonard's monster throw down on McGee shows his freakish athleticism, I just hope he's not another Travis Outlaw. He doesn't seem to be learning.

    by Ancientone on 12/21/2012 8:54 AM
  7. Hey with trade season officially open and Denver having ample amount of bigs that can get rebounds, but need an outside shooter and Portland has ample out side shooters but is need of a experienced big, could there be a trade happening? Or do we wait for Joel and Leonard to develop?

    @Ancientone: Leonard has been in the NBA 2 month, Travis has been in the NBA over 5 years. Leonard works hard and Travis would rather go cat fishing. I feel Leonard will get much better, if they could carrel him to rebounding and shot blocking, But being a 7'1" player with out side shooting skills and free throw shooting ability has many merits too. I would not trade Leonard for Howard for just that reason. IMO, he will learn to play D and not get in foul trouble, but from what I hear from you BB guru's that is a difficult task that sometimes takes more years to develop than fans are willing to give.

    by Hg on 12/21/2012 11:02 AM
  8. Its been awhile sence iv commented on here so i might be alittle rusty..I would like to say that i am happy for both our rooks this year. Lillard is polished and a fun rook to watch develope. Im glad we drafted him. meyers takes some heat but he is still so young with even less experience as a basketball player. He has all the tools to become a good center in the nba. He also has skills that most bigs take awhile to learn freethrows and midrange shooting. His rebounding and defence needs to be better but that will come with time. Your looking at a guy who has done well in collage (for one year) purely out of being big and more athletic then anybody on the floor. In the nba he will have to learn to position himself on defence and rebounding instead of out jumping his opponent or using his jumping ability to block shots instead of moving his feet. Nba players are use to having big athetic shot blockers on pretty much every team. He will be a better player than he has shown once he catches up to the nba game.

    I like how nic has stepped up his game and his leadership ability. I see him getting after players during the game when they are not playing as hard as they can or not being in the right position on offence or defence good to see.

    That was a weird game to watch last night but i'll take the win everytime. the blazers are 12-12 now with a chance to win the next three games and four would be wonderful (Fakers). One game at a time.

    Also on babbit, Ive been wait for him to figure out the nba game for a couple years. Iv all ways liked him and been rooting for him to get it together. i can tell he has been working on his game alot. one dribble pull ups, pump fake one dribble step back threes ect. his defence has come around plus he rebounds and plays a physical brand of basketball. It seems to be coming together for him.
    GO BLAZERS

    by Miller on 12/21/2012 12:07 PM
  9. Love all of the combinations that coach comes up with.
    Someone usually steps up.
    JJ is a phenom in my book. He provides so much energy.
    Glad to see Nic playing well.
    Glad Wes is back albeit not totally healed. Gotta love that commitment.
    I'll take Luke and Meyers anyday. Let's grow them.
    I don't really care what the game looks like if the score shows a win.
    And, totally loved the allie-oops!!! she says.


    by allie-oop on 12/21/2012 4:16 PM
  10. Records are meant to be broken. Well done Denver. 0-22.
    What a fun team the Blazers are. Workmanlike. Blue collar. A unified focus. They are so young, new, fresh, the only way they can go is up. How fast and how far is yet to be seen. They have some interesting pieces. Stotts is putting the puzzle together.
    The Blazers have so many areas they can improve in. Yet they continue to win ball games.
    Ancientone;
    Freeland has great hands. He can't leap out of the gym but he is more athletic than he appears. Once he gets comfortable in the NBA, he will be a steady player. The type of player that coach can count on to do his job night in and night out.

    by Divotking on 12/21/2012 5:03 PM
  11. @Ancientone (et al): it's clear Luke has been working hard on all facets of his game. he's intelligent and wants to get better. i think that aside from the end of the season last year, he's finally really getting a chance to show what he can do. he was hustling on both ends of the court, and holding his own when it came time to box out Faried. it's like we're watching him get better every game. and yes, Julianne still has a little crush on him!

    @All: i distinctly recall the weeks leading up to the draft when many thoght we'd take Meyers or Tyler Zeller at #11. the breakdown was that Zeller was more nba-ready, but that Meyers had a higher ceiling. Meyers is learning, working hard and suffering some growing pains. this is nothing we shouldn't have expected. he certainly has a future in the league and with the Blazers; it's just going to take a little bit of time. he's already doing some good things on the court so i'm not too concerned right now.

    @allie-oop: speaking of Meyers, nice way to work your name into your comment! as you alluded to, the most important stat is the final score.

    however, i'd just like to point out that JJ is averaging 17 rebounds over the past two games!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/21/2012 5:21 PM
  12. Kassandra: I am with you on giving Leonard some time. There are so many that wants it all right now, even as NBA ready Lillard is he has a long ways to go. But, I think the main thing is hard work and dedication that we are getting from all our players.

    Success feeds success, so Babbitt is getting better in front of our own eyes.

    by Hg on 12/21/2012 6:06 PM
  13. I guess that Lillard coming in and growing with every game gave me unrealistic expectations of Leonard. Hg and Kassandra; I stand corrected.

    by Ancientone on 12/21/2012 7:51 PM
  14. Hi Mike,
    Did you by chance see the CHI - NY game. A throw back from the old days. Rockem sockem. Love it. Noah manhandled the inside. NY cracked. I had a feeling they would be fragile.

    by the golden ladder on 12/22/2012 12:42 PM
  15. There is a new sheriff in LA. The Clippers. Riding a 12 game winning steak. It makes the Lakers the step sister.
    Is Mike Rice ok? It looked like he may have injured himself at halftime.

    by the golden ladder on 12/22/2012 12:56 PM
  16. I see that Cousins is suspended for our game Sunday. He may be a talented player but don't you think that they wish they had JJ back instead?

    by Ancientone on 12/22/2012 4:29 PM
  17. tone;
    Can you say head case? Whatever the team needs right?
    Makes me really appreciate what we have here.

    by Divotking on 12/22/2012 10:34 PM
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