mikebarrett

Dec 26

Blazers Finally Figure Out Kings

By mikebarrett Posted in: Kings
This was more like it.

The recent five-game winning streak was nice, but the fact the streak had bookend losses to the Sacramento Kings didn't make the Blazers feel very good.  They fell to the Kings on December 8th at the Rose Garden, ripped off five in a row, and then lost in Sacramento on Sunday.  

Wednesday night, looking to win a rare season series from the Blazers, the Kings instead ran into a different Portland team- one that got serious on defense.  Allowed to shoot 56 percent on Sunday, Sacramento was held to 41 percent shooting at the Rose Garden, trailed by as many as 26, and lost the game by a final of 109-91.

The Trail Blazers coupled that tougher defense with 51-percent shooting at the offensive end, and badly outrebounded the Kings, 53-35.  As usual, the Trail Blazers were led in that department by JJ Hickson, who pulled down 14 rebounds and also had 17 points.

This is becoming expected, but don't lose sight of what Hickson is doing.  Not since Kermit Washington in 1980, has a Blazer put together nine straight games of double-figure scoring and double-figure rebounding.  Hickson has 17 double-doubles on the season, and is now chasing Bill Walton's record of 14 consecutive double-doubles.  Any time you talk franchise history and have to go all the way back to Dollar Bill, you know you're doing something special.  The fact that Hickson got number nine against the team that had no use for him last season, made it that much more significant (at least to him).

That was one-half of Portland's dominance on the front line in this game.  The other stellar performance was turned in by LaMarcus Aldridge, who ended with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Aldridge took just 21 shots to get his 28 points, and that shows darn good efficiency.  

Then, there was Damian Lillard, who was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in November, and they might as well start engraving another trophy for him for December.  Lillard came within two rebounds of his first-career triple-double in this game.  He had 17 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds, and badly outplayed Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas.  

Nic Batum continues to have turnover issues, but that's because he's making such a concerted effort to be a facilitator.  He had six miscues in this game, but also had 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.  As long as he's close in the assist-to-turnover ratio, I can live with it.

The Blazers were able to win once again without Wesley Matthews, and will likely be without him again on Friday night when they play the Lakers in L.A.  I spoke to Wesley outside the locker room after the game, and he just said the hip isn't feeling right yet.  Being his desire can never be questioned, I get the impression he's still in a lot of pain.  This is becoming a bigger concern, but he simply doesn't want to comeback again until it's feeling better.  I think we're all for that.  I just don't know when that'll be.  The four-game road trip that lies ahead in the coming days will be brutally tough, and I don't want to think about the Blazers not having Wesley for that.  So I won't, yet.

The Blazer bench had its moments in this game, and did provide 29 points, but was also a bit shaky near the end.  After the Blazers had built a 26-point lead, Terry Stotts pulled his starters and attempted to give them a bit of a rest.  But, the Kings quickly chopped that lead in half, and Stotts had to put his big guns back in the game.  He didn't want to have to do that, but he also didn't want to take any chances.  The starters quickly restored order, and that was that.

Will Barton has earned a lot more trust (and playing time) from Stotts in recent days, and as long as Matthews is out, that'll continue.  Barton had a career-high 14 points against the Kings, and was 6 of 9 from the field.  He still finds himself in the wrong place too often on offense, and that frustrates Stotts, but he's aggressive when he's in the game, and his ability to rebound and create makes it tough to keep him off the floor.  For now, that's all you can ask of him.

Meyers Leonard was also active in this game, posting 7 points and 5 rebounds in his 16 minutes, and just needs to keep showing he can be trusted with time like that.  

The win put the Blazers back over the .500 mark, at 14-13, but given the difficulty of the schedule over the next couple of weeks, it'll take a huge effort to stay there.

The Blazers are now looking at 6 games in the next 10 days, with 5 of them on the road.  It starts Friday night with a game against the Lakers in L.A., where the Blazers have lost 9 of their last 10.  Then, it's home for a game against Philadelphia (who pulled off an impressive and dominant win in Memphis Wednesday night), followed by a trip that'll take us to New York, Toronto, Memphis, and Minnesota.  Nothing will be easy about that trip.

But, that's down the road.  Wednesday night the Blazers did what they had to do- they beat a team they're supposed to beat at home.  And, did it in convincing fashion.

 

12 Comments

  1. Good to get back to winning the games we're supposed to win. It was also nice to see the steps forward the team needs. The rookies are getting their experience and the ones who need a lot of work but have a lot of upside-- Barton and Leonard--seem to be edging slowly in the right direction. The Matthews injury has hurt, because the team is thin at guard, and missing Nolan hasn't helped there. I think part of Nic's recent turnover trend is related to him starting at the 2, while Victor strives vainly to fill his regular 3 spot. He gets to handle the ball more, but tries to do a bit too much. Hope to see improvement there. It's also nice to see that Babbitt has moved into the rotation to the extent that he's no longer on the floor with the garbage time squad. That's because he's already getting his minutes, in a well-defined role. The team's record may well head south for a while, but if the players keep learning we'll be okay down the road.

    by David Maclaine on 12/27/2012 12:51 AM
  2. Hey Mike; I thank you for the update and your great analysis of the game:

    I responded to Tone in his blog that I agreed with him totally on believing in the Blazers. IN fact, I for once had no doubt that the Blazers would win, not because of being an expert in that field, but because I know the Blazers, they will continue to have bad games, but when the pride of the Blazers are on the line, they come out fighting. Not to take anything away from the Kings, but when push turns to shove they are just not a dominant team. You want finesse, we will give it to you, you want physical we will show you. Well as long as we have JJ at the anchor.

    Also Mike, I do not worry anymore about the upcoming road trip then I do for the whole season as I am still in the camp of this being a learning year and boy have we had a learning experience. We as fans and announcers seem to dwell on our unfortunate losses as you and the seldom blogging other Mike said after the game, that the team might easily look back someday, and say only if we had taken care of business with the Kings, that is definitely true, but the team seemed to have moved on and learned whether then dwell; I like that.

    As you know, I am not a stats kind of guy; I go by the way the Blazers respond, plus keeping in mind of the immediate problems with our health. For instance, the last game against the Kings, LaMarcus was playing on a very tender ankle, he was still able to keep his stats up, but on the defensive end he was toasted because of the lack of lateral movement that doesn't show up in the stats, and although players has stepped up to replace Wesley on offense, they haven't been able to hold a candle to him on defense and that is where Matthews is really being missed; Plus the fact that Nolan has been sick has thinned our guard rotation a might; nevertheless, the young Blazers are learning and growing fast on D. It is true as Mike Rice and you have pointed out that the bench cannot be fully trusted, but I would bet that house that Wheels don't own, if we had just JJ in there as our anchor the rest of the bench would have done great, That is not a knock on Leonard, that is that he is not a beast down low as JJ is, any way,
    , not yet, but he is learning.

    OK ancientone, you can finish your snack in peace; although I am still wound up from that great performance, it is time to shut up.

    Happy New Years, I am hoping for a win over the Lakers to end the year, and a win over the Knicks and that rotten Felton to start the New Year and give me a happy New years EVE, birthday present.

    Harold G. Mangum

    by Hg on 12/27/2012 4:47 AM
  3. don't want to be a downer out here, but i think the title says it all. there's no excuse for losing the previous two games to the Kings. They are simply not that talented and really don't have any match-up advantages over us. that said, it was good to win this like we did. sure, they made their run,but as we've commented hundreds of times on this blog, teams will do that. we responded and, as MB said, that was that.

    a lot of the guys really turned in great performances, but the punch Will provided of the bench was special. LaMarcus, JJ, Nicolas, Damian & Meyers all came up big at times. great job of doing.... well,what we should do. even if we are to have lowered expectations, there still are teams we should beat every time out. the Kings are one of those teams.

    i'm curious what will happen against the Lakers; without Wesley, will we start Victor or Will? i'm really thinking of the matchups here. on one hand i like the length Victor brings and even putting him on Artest while having Nicolas cover the Kry Baby doesn't seem like a bad idea. on the other hand, forcing the Kry Baby to chase Will all around the court doesn't seem like a bad idea either. i hope i get the chance to watch it.

    MB, on a bit of a personal note: i have to say i've enjoyed watching these last few games with you and that other Mike. i love Wheels & Tone while at school, but i suppose the old saying is true: there's no place like home.

    heading to the bay this weekend to help bro & sis-in-law move into their new house, then it's to so-cal for new years to see Stanford in the rose bowl. with that, still going to try & catch these next few Blazers games any way i can!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/27/2012 7:23 AM
  4. A great victory...
    glad to see us scoring points in the paint finally instead of all those outside shots. Keeps the opponents guessing. Great for LA to having a team that contributes. Keeps the double teaming off of him a bit more. DLill continues to add new thrillers to his resume. Love the allie-oops he's throwing up there. Just totally fun to watch.
    Love me some Trailblazers!

    by allie-oop on 12/27/2012 7:58 AM
  5. Great article and it was great getting that dignity win over the Kings. Puts a little swagger back on the court. It was also a TEAM win which I always like. Good to see Barton produce and play with more confidence as well as Ronnie finding his shot and Meyers playing better defense. I was surprised to see so little of Joel Freeland last night after he closed so strong in the Sac loss (which I am trying to erase from my memory at this moment) It's great to see big guys in Blazer uniforms that can really jump...what a dunk fest! Hope Wesley gets better soon because we really need his defense out there on the road. Go Blazers!!!!

    by riverman on 12/27/2012 10:30 AM
  6. I like Victor starting. He is accepting a purely defensive role which we need with the starting core missing Wes. He's got better instincts on defense than Will and will is a much needed 6th man if he keeps it up. Victor and Joel are 2 of the better screen setters in the paint and if they find their shots, they'll be real valuable spot players. Also with Victor starting, he can absorb some of the fouls in the starting unit and keep our scorers on the court out of foul trouble. To his credit, Will Barton played the best game of his NBA career. I think we'll see more of him and Victor on this road trip. If Ronnie shoots well and keeps up the defensive pressure he'll be a big boost too. Compiling my New Years resolutions for the roster and coaches now..!

    by riverman on 12/27/2012 10:36 AM
  7. Will Barton. I call him a snake rebounder. The opposite being a body rebounder. He finds little gaps and gets up high in traffic. A good pick at 40.
    Fun fun Blazer team.

    by the golden ladder on 12/27/2012 11:48 AM
  8. Here is Damian Lillard's highlights:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16kzyqEstnA

    by Shem on 12/27/2012 12:10 PM
  9. Hey Kassandra: this is the third time that you said you don't want to be a downer, but you are being truthful, we all know that there was no excuse for those two losses to sactown: but you have to admit that is the NBA. Batum said it once, that you just can't be up and ready every game for 48 minutes. You have to pace yourself and that effect the games. You also have to admit that Portland is playing some great BB even if they take occasional games off, but that sure is a downer; just when I start getting excited, BAM, we lose one of those games we should win, but then just as I get to DOWN from it, BAM, they win one of those games we penciled in as a loss. I just hope in the end that it all balances out; being about 500 is better then I expected, and it does show balance in wins and losses, DUH. We are a little behind in being road warriors, but better then last year; so I am not to much of a Debbie downer. In fact it tickles me that the teams that went out and spent all that money for stars end up in the same boat or worst then we are as far as new players learning to play together, and getting synergy. That synergy is what JJ and Batum has, Lillard and LaMarcus, we are finally getting synergy on D between the whole team, including Lillard and JJ; not saying they are bad, they were just the newbies and needed time to Gel with Wesley, Nic and LaMarcus. So things are looking up.

    I have often thought of turning on the radio and listening to Wheels and Tone instead of watching with opposing announcers, but I like the visual test. I tried turning down the volume on the TV and listening to the radio, but Wheels get so excited that he is about 3 seconds ahead of TV LOL.

    If the great Howard is out for the Lakers, it gets more scary, every body else can make their free throws LOL. I think Nic will play the two on offense and maybe guard Steve Nash if Lillard runs into trouble. that way if we have to switch on the pick and roll Batum can guard the big rolling to the basket and LaMarcus can bother Nash.

    Kassandra you have a way of giving me diarrhea of the mouth, I just keep pooping out all kinds of data LMAO. But twice in one day may put to much weight on ancientone to quick or give him a belly ache.

    by Hg on 12/27/2012 12:13 PM
  10. I am pretty happy with this win. I am pretty happy with any win. I like how a lot of the younger guys are improving and guys like Hickson are battling hard. I agree with my sister that we should beat teams like this on a regular basis. We are going to lose some games but those we can win we should. It is not even a matter of a guy or two having an off night. It seems like most of our guys have an off night on the same night. My favorite part of last night's game were the many many dunks. It seemed like every time you blinked your eyes, one of our guys was dunking it. Last year we didn't dunk the ball enough and ended up missing a lot of layups. My sister told me that if we just would dunk the ball then we could make sure to turn more of those shots into points. She is pretty smart on that kind of stuff.

    Hg, I think you probably know this by now but my sister will always give you her opinion no matter how blunt it is. She is not down. She is really more critical than anything else.

    by Angi on 12/27/2012 1:35 PM
  11. Angi: I wasn't being critical of Kassandra, not in the least, she was the one that said She didn't want to be a downer out here, I was just agreeing with her, she wasn't being a downer out here as the whole Fandom feels the same way.

    She is absolutely right about dunks instead of lay-ups, but that also comes with a price. You burn a lot of energy dunking and the high flying act creates knee problems that BRoy, Rose, and foot problems like Travis, Elliot and others. Besides that some players just can't dunk. Any way you put it those dunks looked great last night. I have no problems with Kassandra, and I am sure she has very little with me, We often debate, because that is my way of picking her brain and although I usually lose the debates, I do learn by them. You are right, she is smart for a woman LMAO. Ask her about the origin of that.

    by Hg on 12/27/2012 1:54 PM
  12. DLill , a quiet near triple double. Scary.
    JJ , consecutive double doubles. Incredible.
    This team plays free on the offensive end. Everyone has the green light within the system. Stotts ball is fun to watch.
    GO BLAZERS !!

    by Divotking on 12/27/2012 4:16 PM
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