mikebarrett

Mar 04

Offense Carries Portland Over Charlotte

By mikebarrett Posted in: Bobcats
It was another very good outing by Portland's starting five, another solid contribution from the bench, and another relatively easy home win.  Yes, like Saturday, that was expected.  And now, it's off on the road for a very difficult three-game road trip as the team continues to cling to hopes of hanging in the race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The win wasn't perfect, and you can't expect 60 percent shooting very often, but at the end of the day the Trail Blazers will take the 122-105 win over the struggling Charlotte Bobcats.

Before you start thinking that the win should have been even easier than it was, a little credit is due to Charlotte on this night.  They haven't been competitive lately, and have been getting absolutely destroyed on the backboards.  I half expected them to roll over and not even put up a fight on this night, as their road trip was coming to an end and they were playing the second of a back to back.

But, this overmatched team played a hard, scrappy game.  On Friday night in Utah the Bobcats were out rebounded 62-24 in Utah.  Sunday night in Sacramento they were outboarded 60-31.  In this game, they actually ended up outrebounding Portland 44-41, including a 21-11 edge in offensive rebounds.  The Blazers aren't a bad rebounding team, in fact they sit somewhere in the middle of the pack.  The Bobcats simply earned the edge in this vital category and that's the only reason this wasn't a 40-point Portland win.  I would imagine, even though disappointed once again, Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap had to be proud of his team's effort on this night.

In the end, because of their offense, the Blazers were able to absorb the defeat on the boards and still win fairly comfortably.  It wasn't only because of their offense, but again, was because of their bench too.  Terry Stotts appears to have settled on an eight-man rotation, and it worked well again.

That's the funny thing about a bench unit.  We've talked Portland's bench all season.  Sometimes all it takes is one player to really turn things around.  Right now it appears the Eric Maynor trade was a huge victory for Portland.  Not only has he been a calming influence, but his steady hand has coincided with the arrival of Meyers Leonard as a dependable backup big man and Victor Claver's continued consistency and productivity off the bench.

Maynor scored 10 points, Leonard had a career-high 15, and Claver was very solid in his 18 minutes.  Those three players were a combined 13 for 21 from the field, and added 10 rebounds and 7 assists.  You get that each night from the second unit and you've got a chance to win every game, because the starters have shown they can play with anyone in this league.

Damian Lillard, who many expected to hit a rookie wall at some point, has actually seen his numbers improve here the latter stages of the season.  He had 20 points on Monday night, and also dished out 7 assists.  For the first time this season, Lillard is averaging 19 points per game, and is on his way to his 5th consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award (I know, March just got started).  I don't see any sign of Lillard getting anything but better the rest of the way, and that's saying a lot.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who has seen his rebounding average take a little bit of a dip lately, grabbed 14 rebounds against Charlotte and also scored 23 points.  JJ Hickson had 15 and 8, Wesley Matthews scored 14, and Nic Batum shot the ball better than he has in weeks, hitting 8 of 11, and scoring 20 points.

Portland improved to 10-2 on the season when shooting over 50 percent in a game.

The Blazers remain three games in the loss column out of the eight and final playoff spot in the west.  Yes, it's a longshot, and they'll likely need help, but the fact that we're still talking about this is notable.  If you keep waiting for them to raise the white flag, you're going to be waiting a little longer.  No one on this team has conceded anything yet.

The old cliche in this league has to do with taking things one game at a time.  At times Stotts has divided things into sections, into road trips or homestands, but right now, with the margin of error so thin, you're going to see the Blazers totally go back to simply trying to win the day. Start chipping off wins, only focusing on the next 48 minutes, and seeing if they can live to fight another day.  

That next day will be Wednesday in Memphis, when the Blazers take on the red-hot Grizzlies. That'll be followed by a game at San Antonio, before the road trip wraps up with a game in New Orleans.

Talk to you from the road.


15 Comments

  1. Hey Mike: I got to watch you and Rice tonight. I thought both team played well tonight. I think Charlotte was more serious then we were, because of our reputation of not playing tough to losing teams
    I think this road trip will be good. Every body on the team will get plenty of experience playing away from the the RG. Not that they didn't learn before, but now they can take what they have learned and put it to work, getting better at it at all times.

    by Hg on 3/5/2013 12:19 AM
  2. ever since the Wallace-Pryzbilla/Cunningham trade, i've followed the Bobcats, thanks to our friends on the east coast, such as BlockParty and others. They're team is having a rough time of it (probably shouldn't have traded away Crash!). I talk to their fans and Blazer staff counterparts about their team, and even enter their game chats when i can. i'll tell you this: the Bobcats are usually over-matched, but they always try to put it together and play hard. obviously, it's not showing up in the win column, but i think they are young and striving to improve.

    i seem to remember a much more local team doing the same a few years ago.

    Minnesota is injury depleted and Charlotte has the worst record in the league, but these are a couple of good wins. they weren't complete blowouts, but we took care of business. i probably have us at a higher ranking than maybe we deserve, but i'm not going to discount any solid win.

    i'm just gonna throw this out there: Meyers is averaging 13.3 points and 6.3 rebounds as a 21 year old. yes, i'm going to mention, yet again, that he & i were born on the same day. now, i'll admit that in that same span, i am averaging ... well, let's just say, fewer points and rebounds! okies, back on track. prior to our birthdays, i raved about Victor as being the first rookie to break out with some consistently strong performances. now, Meyers has quickly followed. forget that these were not strong front-line teams, maybe Meyers should have done this against them. here's my point, he DID it against them. the going is going to get rougher on this road trip, but i seriously think he can make a positive impact. that's all i really want him to do. i love the points and i love the rebounds, but mostly i want to see Meyers contribute in a positive way for us. the match ups will be more difficult, but let's not forget, he had the first of these strong games against the Nuggets, who are not exactly slouches on their front line.

    i hope this doesn't seem backhanded, but Victor was the only Blazer (who attempted a fg) who shot under 50 percent. however, 2-5 isn't exactly tragic. we all know Victor brings a whole lot to the table all around. Eric is quickly entrenching himself as a fan favorite; he's attained double digits in the past two games (assists vs. Minny & points vs. Charlotte).

    Loved how our starters played, especially Nicolas. he was on fire tonight & was absolutely awesome. LaMarcus simply took over in the fourth quarter. In fact, Matt, Casey Holdahl's Bobcats counterpart, entered this in their chat (i was following theirs a little bit while centering on ours): "Aldridge is just to tough to guard inside." well, i've never seen Matt talk about Bosh being that tough!

    so anyway, i'm up way past my bed time, but i'm a pretty happy Blazers fan right now. i merely hope that happiness continues over this road trip.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/5/2013 1:09 AM
  3. OK Kassandra: you out done me in the novel department too, I can't believe Ancientone can stay thin with you and me both getting in the writing mode. OBTW, It was a great to the point post, I'm loving it.
    I agree with you on Meyers new aggressiveness, but I want to remind you that he was doing OK before that bad ankle sprain, and is just now getting confident in it to test it out; regardless of all that, he now has a taste of success and he will continue to get better now; I'm lovin that too.

    Since you started preaching about Victor, I have been watching his play more closely; to me he is a lot like Batum of past years, he didn't always score a lot but he always contributed in many ways, plus he is Long, slinky and has great BB skills, and I too believe he is a keeper.

    Like you I had no problem with Price as our back-up PG, but he needed time off to let his ankle to heal and get stronger, and we just didn't have enough players with that experience to cover the gap, so like the rest, I am becoming a fan of Eric, partly because him and Meyers play together a lot on the bench play and he is looking for Leonard all the time which thrills me to no end. ( you noticed i omitted the old Clichè thrilled to death LOL.)

    Good post Miss Kassandra, I haven't gotten to your Blog yet, but going there about now, see you on the other side, LMAO.

    by Hg on 3/5/2013 6:35 AM
  4. The Blazers seem to be playing with more freedom and joy since the LAL game. In a way, I think being such an underdog in terms of making the playoffs has freed them to just play the game they love. I've certainly enjoyed the last five games (even the losses to LAL and Denver) more than the previous whole season.

    by DeVinMzM on 3/5/2013 7:43 AM
  5. @DeVinMzM: Thanks for sharing that, it does seem like they are relaxed and having fun, and that may be the enjoyment I am getting from the last 5 games. Win or Lose, they are playing their game and are not such a YO YO team

    Thank you

    by Hg on 3/5/2013 7:51 AM
  6. The Blazers have had a lot of practice time the last week and a half. They have been served up two cupcakes in a row. Minny and CHA. Now comes the test.
    On the road against good teams. This will be fun. Lets see how the new look Blazers do. A Blazer team with a bench.

    by the golden ladder on 3/5/2013 8:28 AM
  7. My play of the game: Leonard rebounded and fired a pass to Lillard in the fore court and Lobbed a pass to Claver who dunked it. As the Schonz says, bingo bango bongo. I loved that outlet pass.

    by Ancientone on 3/5/2013 8:31 AM
  8. Don't count our boys out. They have another run in them.

    by Divotking on 3/5/2013 5:26 PM
  9. 122---a lot of offense
    105-where is the "D"

    I too love watching Meyers Leonard.
    I'm looking for a few more allie-oops.
    Gotta love that.

    by allie-oop on 3/5/2013 5:50 PM
  10. I just wish they could put in an invisible fence so that Leonard couldn't keep running behind the the backboard. He does seem to be learning. Maynor seems to be a great facilitater. We are potentially much better since we got him.

    by Ancientone on 3/5/2013 6:51 PM
  11. Portland is 28-31. 23 games left to play. What is the playoff number to get in ? I would think 44/45/46. At the very least Portland must go 16-7 the rest of the way. It can happen. If it comes down to one night, one game, winner goes in I put my money on Portland. They've shown us this year what kind of fight they have when their backs are against the wall.

    by Divotking on 3/6/2013 9:30 AM
  12. @Divotking: It really is hard to say what numbers it will take to get in, but the biggest challenge the Blazers will meet is keeping their fight alive. I can tell you this though, up hill battles bills strength, courage, and stamina so if they get close to 46 wins they are still building a championship team regardless of whether they make it to the play-offs or not. Regardless of how many wins it will take to get in, we are still on the outside looking in. I think the teams we need to jump will be Utah, maybe GSW, and the Lakers, so in that respect we need other teams to help us.

    by Hg on 3/6/2013 9:41 AM
  13. Hg;
    Getting 16 wins the rest of way is a tall order. Tough teams, tough schedule ahead. Stranger things have happened. What other teams do is out of our control. The Blazers have a few things going for them. For the most part they are healthy. Wesley won't be right for the rest of this year but he is a player than can be effective at less than 100%. Bench rotations are solidified. Roles are well defined. Maynor will get even more comfortable in his role. Portland is poised to make a run. What better time to get hot. We'll just have to wait and see. If they find some lightning in a bottle what a story it will be.

    by Divotking on 3/6/2013 11:00 AM
  14. @ Hg, 46 is what it took last yr. & I'm thinkin' it will b the same this yr.; IF we or any other team gets 46... they'll get the 8th spot ;)

    About Maynor, I responded to u in another blog about seeing Maynor & Dame playing together; I said @ the time, that I thought it was the way but we wouldn't c that until near the end of the season (I said this because I thought it would take Maynor a while to get acclimated & for Stotts to have enough trust in him to put them together ;) HAPPY 2 c that Stotts put these 2 together MUCH sooner than I had expected; Maynor looked confident & comfortable "being thrown into the fire!" :) ONLY after Maynor's 2nd game w/ us & Stotts said, "[Blazers] ran better [w/ Dame & Maynor on the court together!]" Love it my friend! :) I DEFINITELY believe Maynor is OUR guy to get us to 41 wins (we miss the playoffs BUT I'd STILL b VERY proud of OUR guys :) & his presence is necessary in even getting us a chance @ 46.

    Can't remember exactly what the particulars r 'bout signing Maynor but IF we can re-sign him this summer to a 3yr. contract for ~$3mill/yr., we DO IT! Even IF he were to cost us ~$4million (I know that this cuts into/down on the ~$13 million we have to get a center BUT all we need is 1 that costs us ~$10-9million max; I've said all along, patience w/ Meyers because he IS OUR 5 of the future; so we DON'T need a super awesome expensive center, all we need is a defensive center that's good & can mentor Meyers), we DO IT! Maynor IS EXACTLY what we've been asking for; a guy on the bench that CAN b TRUSTED to facilitate EFFECTIVELY that makes ALL of those around him better AND can occasionally score; not to mention Eric IS good enough to b a starter in this league on MOST teams; we hit the jackpot w/ Lillard BUT IF we didn't have him, Maynor would b our starting pg & he'd b a good 1 ;) Maynor won't even reach a 100% of what he can do this yr. but look @ what he's done/is going to do for us the rest of the way?

    by Simpson on 3/6/2013 11:42 AM
  15. What I am saying is we are 3.5 games out, we play only one game against the Lakers but tied with them in the lost column, if we beat them then we would be in 9th spot, and that leaves Utah 3.5 game ahead of us, we play them just 2 more times, so someone else is going to have to beat them twice to get ahead of them and GSW will have to lose five games so for us to get in somebody else is going to have to beat those two teams for sure. In that respect we cannot control our own destiny to the play-offs, but we can still build for a better team by winning as many games as possible and not giving up. I believe in these players and where-ever they end up if they find the maturity to stay with the program, they will be winners in my book.

    @Simpson, I am thinking that we could spend some of that money and retain JJ. and even use Joel next year. We may already have our team for the championship now that we have Maynor and Leonard coming off the bench, also you are right with Maynor,, !@#%**$##, if Lillard got injured we have a able body to move in.

    We have a tough road to go, but those are the roads that build champions, if it was given to us as in MIAMI, we wouldn't appreciate it as much when we get it.

    I like everybody else, I want us to make the play-offs, but like Lillard says, this is not a make or break year, so if we don't get in we will get to see some fun BB this year and be stronger next year with our rookies being better, our starters getting true grit and our coach and GM having one year with us notched in their belt.

    by Hg on 3/6/2013 2:32 PM
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