mikebarrett

Dec 29

Blazers Close 2012 With a Win

By mikebarrett Posted in: Sixers
Nic Batum showed his defensive versatility, once again, and then got offensive in the fourth quarter, leading the Trail Blazers to a 89-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76'ers on Saturday night at the Rose Garden.  Not only is the streak of seven-straight home wins impressive, but Portland closes the month of December with a 9-4 mark, following a 5-10 November.

This was a defensive, hard-fought game most of the way.  That's what we expected, as Philadelphia is in the top ten in the NBA in many defensive categories.  The Blazers' 89 points was their lowest point total, in a win, this season.

Both the Blazers and the Sixers played on Friday night, and both had to travel to Portland from California.  As I mentioned several times on the TV broadcast, the Blazers appeared the be the team showing obvious signs of fatigue in the second half.  Philly's defense had something to do with it, but nothing was coming easy for Portland, and the Blazers were having a ton of trouble dealing with Jrue Holiday, who put up 27 points through three quarters.

Then, Terry Stotts' switch of Batum onto Holiday began to pay off for Portland.  Damian Lillard was struggling to stay with Holiday at times, and  Batum's length, along with Philadelphia's small lineup, made it possible for Portland to make the switch.  Batum held Holiday to just two points in the fourth quarter, on 1 for 5 shooting.  

Batum, who has concentrated so much on being a distributor in recent games, needed to get more aggressive offensively, and ended up with 22 points.  As he has been doing lately, he filled other stat categories as well, grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists.  

Lillard had a strange stat line, for him.  He scored 20 points, including 8 in the fourth quarter, but ended the game without a single assist.  He stopped by our broadcast table on his way off the floor at the end, rolled his eyes, and said, "Not one assist?  Not one, single assist?"  He was obviously happy with the win, but also prides himself on involving his teammates.  It wasn't totally his fault, as quirky things have to happen for a point guard not to get a single assist in a game.  And, this was a quirky game at times.

JJ Hickson, who had his streak of nine-consecutive double-doubles snapped against the Lakers on Friday, will perhaps now begin a new streak.  He bounced back nicely, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.  And, LaMarcus Aldridge ended with 16 points.

The one guy who had a profound impact on this game, who's stat line doesn't jump off the page at you, is Ronnie Price.  He played 20 minutes, and turned in a game-changing performance on defense.  Because Philly goes small, Price and Lillard were able to play at the same time for extended periods in the second half.  Price ended with 3 steals, and had several hustle plays that kept the Sixers from getting over the hump.

The only negative on the night was Meyers Leonard badly spraining his right ankle in the second half.  The post-game x-ray showed that it was "just" a bad sprain.  That doesn't mean it won't keep him out for a while, but considering what we've been through in this city, it could have been a lot worse.  Leonard won't travel with us when we fly to New York on Sunday.

The main goal, as I was reminded by Stotts before the game when I brought up the road trip, was simply protecting the home court and getting a win.  The Blazers did that.  Now, we can focus on the trip.  It will be brutally tough. 

It starts with New York on New Year's Day, and then on the next night we'll play the suddenly-surging Toronto Raptors.  This is not the same Toronto team the Blazers handled with ease at the Rose Garden earlier this month.  They are rolling.  Then, we'll play the Grizzlies in Memphis (have you looked at their record?), and finally the trip ends in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves, who are getting healthy.  

Talk to you from the road.

14 Comments

  1. hey MB, quick blog! seems like the 76ers always play us hard. i was talking to my dad tonight about the connections from portland to minnesota, but we found there are a few connections from philadelphia to portland as well. Aaron McKie was drafted by us, ended his career with them and is now an assistant coach; Maurice Cheeks has coached both teams; Caldwell Jones played for the 76ers when we beat them for the championship then played for us in the late 80s; Doug Collins played for that 76ers team and is now coaching them (call me the statchecker!) and, of course, philadelphia is the team we beat for the championship. not really sure if any or all of those have anything to due with it (probably not), but they always play us tough.

    Nicolas was the stud in this game. LaMarcus was great, JJ had his double-double and Damian had 20 points, but it was truly Nicolas who took the reigns when we needed him to. this is what a lot of us fans had hoped he would be able to do. he's been such a reliable guy for us that i wonder why anyone questioned the size of his contract. he is earning it. great statline tonight and, in the radio interview, the thing of which he is most proud is that he had just one turnover (maybe he read your last blog!).

    i loved that Victor came out strong, though i would have liked to seen him show more after the first quarter. i'm not complaining though, he played well tonight. i thought Meyers battled tonight and i'm glad his injury isn't as major as we may have thought initially. we really don't need another first-round-drafted center to have injury issues. Ronnie Price is playing some very good ball right now. seems like things are coming to him much better these days.

    i have issues with certain parts of this team, but i have to say that i never would have thought we would be over .500 in the year 2012. gonna be a tough road trip but, if we finish it 2-2, we'll come home still above .500. that would be my goal.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/30/2012 12:24 AM
  2. I was really happy tonight to see Nicolas take control of the defense. In the last 4 games Nic has had 18 turnovers and seemed really out of the offence. He actually had me worried for a bit...but tonight he turned in a very good performance on both ends of the court. What still worries me though is why this does not happen on a night to night basis? That is what we need from Nic...consistency!!!! (actually from all the starting players!)

    I really do not understand the rotation right now. We had a good thing going when we brought Babbitt in with the starters (or at least a couple of them) and the last few games Luke has hardly seen any game time at all with the starters at all? We have been bringing Barton in instead. Why did that change? I do not understand that move at all. With Luke in the game with our big guns, it gives him an opportunity to shine by being a product of the double team on La or Damian. In any case, I sure hope that we get a regular rotation down that makes sense and works. Let us also hope Leonard heals fast...he is such a great talent that just needs to blossom some how...you can see it ready to happen but you also see the mistakes he is making. In any case, very happy to be above .500 heading into this 4 game road trip. I truly think we can take a couple which will bring us back home the same...even steven!!!!

    GO BLAZERS!!! (let us please shut Felton down...he is one Blazer I never cared for...)

    peace out,
    daddylogan

    by daddylogan on 12/30/2012 2:53 AM
  3. Hey Mike a great Blog:
    You worry to much about brutal road trips, and I worry to much about our rookies in places like Madison Square Garden and being too vulnerable to the big lights, anyway it seemed to effect them in the Staple Center. But we have to play every team at least once in their home, so like the players, I feel we just take the schedule as it comes. Batum does a great job of doing what we need of him. We have seen him shut down other hot shooters and other PG. It was strange for Lillard to get no assist, but with him taking the blunt of Phillies D, and having Batum and Price helping him with assist, he was still quite effective. Plus, he had his handful with guarding Holiday until Batum got on him. Nevertheless, as we are a team orientated offense, when they shut down one part, the other parts get better. Opponents can no longer stop just one or two of our players and get easy wins as Phoenix did with LMA and Dre. Although it is still a learning curve, Batum is doing OK playing Point-forward. Of course Kassandra and I have never doubted his talent.

    @Kassandra, great response as usual, not too bad for a woman tee hee.

    @daddylogan: IMO, the rotation changed because Wesley has been out and Barton has earned playing time in the second unit. Although I do agree by sliding Batum to the 2 and putting Luke in at the three would be quite effective, but Claver is doing great and needs to play more also. I think Joel will get more PT, with Leonard being out, Maybe if we are lucky we will get Matthews back to help the rotation from going south again.

    Every body that thinks a bad ankle sprain isn't bad, the should talk to Matthews, I have had some ankle sprains that hangs on for close to a year and needed constant care. In fact, I would rather break a bone then sprain a ankle. The one good thing is the taping of sprains makes it possible to play on it.

    One more thing, I read that Felton was going to be out due to a bad pinky finger on his shooting hand, does that seem a little too convenient?

    by Hg on 12/30/2012 5:22 AM
  4. Another fabulous win.
    I'm with Daddy Logan...where is Luke?
    The good thing about these rotations is it keeps our opponents guessing.
    The Blazers seem to handle it well.
    A good season so far. Much better than anyone predicted.
    Happy New Year everyone!
    Here's to 2013.

    by allie-oop on 12/30/2012 7:40 AM
  5. Lets take a minute to reflect on 2012. The lock out had just ended. Blazers were 7-2 and feeling good. You know the rest of that story. Fired the head coach. Got in the lottery. Cleaned house of some bad eggs. Hired a Gm. Draft day struck gold. Hired a coach. New season, new team, new feel.
    I like where we are headed.

    by the golden ladder on 12/30/2012 10:34 AM
  6. I agree with daddylogan: Felton was the bad egg, Of course Jamal ego wasn't great either.

    by Hg on 12/30/2012 11:36 AM
  7. Victor is starting for defense, our core takes over offensively and what we need is scoring off the bench. I'm impressed with Victors steals, defensive pressure and screens. He's a graceful player. Nic was great last night! It was a good win. I have gained a lot of trust in Stotts instincts when it comes to rotations. Ronnie Price needed playing time to jumpstart his game and it's good to see! Happy New Year to all and closing out the year with a win and over 500 record is a great thing!! Felton won't play against us, he's out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, finger or something along those lines.

    by riverman on 12/30/2012 12:35 PM
  8. 0 assists.

    by Ancientone on 12/30/2012 12:58 PM
  9. A New Year. Speaking of years. Our oldest player is 31 years. We are young.

    by Divotking on 12/30/2012 2:12 PM
  10. I want to make a comment about Lillard's ZERO assist stat line. The thing is about assists is that it takes two to give a player an assist. And several times players took shots that if they had gone in the basket, Lillard gets an assist.

    Another problem is the way the Blazers run their offense in Lillard's case. They're 28th in the NBA in points-in-the-paint. And the last time I checked, about 25% of Lillard's assists were for easy baskets in the paint. That's a low number.

    The Blazers rely too much on perimeter shooting so for Lillard to be averaging over 6 assists-per-game speaks volumes on how well he's distributing the ball.

    Then there is how teams are playing defense against the Blazers recently and trying to take the ball out of Lillard's hands and make someone else beat them. This again speaks volumes about how awesome Lillard is. The fact that every team seems to look at Lillard as the most important guy on the roster and we have LaMarcus Aldridge on it. Our rookie is the most important player on the Blazers' roster. Think about that for a moment.

    Oh, and after the game at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks Tuesday, Lillard will be the only Blazer to have appeared in every game this season. He was one of two at the moment and the other was Meyers Leonard.

    by Shem on 12/31/2012 2:03 AM
  11. @Shem: DLill was also playing the 2gd for quite a bit of the time with Price playing as the playmaker to punish the Sixers for playing Lillard so heavy. that is the reason for the 20 pts. Plus, Nic was also, being used as a Point Forward which also contributes to 0 assist. And if that isn't enough, we only scored 89 points many of those were in the first qter scoring on turn-overs.

    What baffles me is why LaMarcus didn't shoot more. He could almost score at will.

    by Hg on 12/31/2012 5:34 AM
  12. @Kassandra - hey great point about Nico. his greatest failure the past few years has been his reliability. This year, we can pretty much count on him to contribute in a few different categories every game. It still kills us when he doesn't show up once in a while, but I agree, he's totally living up to his contract (and beyond it)

    by joe.k on 12/31/2012 6:34 AM
  13. @shem - its crazy that the 2 guys who have played in every game until tomorrow... are our rookies! It's good to see we have some stability with our rotation

    @hg - totally agree with the lamarcus thing. I mean I love him, but there's something missing from being one of the most dominant PF's out there. He's not Kevin Love simply because he's not attempting to dominate 24/7. Maybe that's the coach's choice, but LA can most def be more of a beast!

    @riverman - remember when Nic started for us for defensive reasons too... that turned out pretty nicely! Do you think Claver will develop his ofefnsive game since he's out there a ton?

    by joe.k on 12/31/2012 6:39 AM
  14. Stotts is A rate

    by Divotking on 12/31/2012 4:18 PM
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