mikebarrett

Mar 16

A Front-Line Loaded Victory

By mikebarrett Posted in: Pistons
The key in the NBA seems simply to have an answer for what your opponent presents.  We like to use the "pick your poison" cliche.  

Of course, it doesn't always work.  But, in the end it's about adjustments and getting players to step up when other things you like to do are taken away.  For example, if an opponent decides they're going to concentrate heavily on taking Damian Lillard away, it's on Portland to find another way to be effective.  You'd like to be able to say, in each game, if you take one thing away we're just going to hit you with something else.

When it became clear early in this game that Jose Calderon was about to catch a cold from the breeze Lillard was creating by moving by him, the Pistons decided that their best chance to win was to load up on Lillard and take their chances with everyone else.  That's when LaMarcus Aldridge and JJ Hickson punched the clock and came to work.

Just the threat of Lillard on the perimeter started to expose huge holes down low, and the Blazers were able to take full advantage.

Aldridge, who had a very solid game against New York on Thursday, posted 31 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against the Pistons.  He was especially effective late, as the Pistons, to their credit, wouldn't go quietly.  While Aldridge was scoring on the pretty moves, Hickson was doing the dirty work.  He ended the game with 18 points and 15 rebounds, also picking up a double-double.

It was the 37th double-double of the season for Hickson, and the 31st for Aldridge.  No other two teammates in the NBA have combined for 68 double-doubles this season.

Even though Lillard saw his streak of games of 20 or more points end at eight, it wasn't like he didn't put together a productive night.  The league's best rookie ended with a hard-earned 14 points, and dished out 7 assists.  

Nic Batum also was big for the Blazers, scoring 17 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and handed out 6 assists.  On Thursday Batum showed he's starting to block his sore wrist out of his mind, and was aggressive again against Detroit.  Even if he doesn't make them, Batum absolutely has to shoot, or look for his shot, and when he's making them that's a big bonus.  Wesley Matthews added 17 points, as one again all five starters were in double figures.

The star off the bench, on this night, was Joel Freeland, who continues to show that given an opportunity he'll produce.  Freeland got some early action after Aldridge picked up his second foul, and finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in his 10 minutes of action.  That's efficient play, and something he's capable of doing more often.

Defensively, this was not a gem for the Trail Blazers, as they allowed the Pistons to shoot 53 percent for the game.  Even though they've only won 23 games, Detroit came in a very decent 15-8 on the season when scoring 100 or more.  They got 101 in this one, but were still beaten.

It also wasn't as comfortable a win as the Blazers would have liked.  It looked to be headed that way, but the Pistons got a season-high from Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey, who scored 32, and that was enough to keep them in the game.  After the Blazers appeared to have things locked up, leading 99-87, the Pistons reeled off 10-straight points out of a time out, and got the fans nervous.  But, the Blazers then went on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a Batum three pointer and put the game away.

It was the 31st win of the season for the Blazers, and even they are still facing very long odds of qualifying for the post season, remain in the conversation.  

Now, things really get tough.  On Sunday we'll fly to Philadelphia, and on Monday take on the 76'ers, who are playing their best basketball of the season right now.  They beat Indiana on Saturday night.  That's followed by games at Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City. But, the Blazers have shown all season they can get up to play against the league's elite teams. It's the games they should win that seem to cause them problems.

If that theory holds, and this will really put that to the test, the Blazers could have a shot to still be in the playoff conversation after the trip.

Talk to you from the other coast.




11 Comments

  1. I'm happy for Joel. Glad he got a chance and showed that he can contribute. Hope to see more from him soon.

    by David Maclaine on 3/16/2013 11:20 PM
  2. Joel showed he has the skills to be on the floor. Again the Blazers don't play defense until they are in a hole and a team that shouldn't have a chance thinks, we'll maybe, and makes the game more difficult.

    Does the plan actually call for Myers to be in the front row under the basket on of fence? If not would someone please slap him upside the head and tell him to get back on the floor or go sit on the bench. He always looks totally lost on defense. If you want to win play Joel more and get help for Leonard.

    by Ancientone on 3/16/2013 11:56 PM
  3. Hi Mike, thanks for the Blog.
    We have been playing pick your poison game for a while now. part of Lillard's problem tonight was his outside shot was off; nevertheless, you called it right, saying that they mugged Lillard.

    I have noticed lately, even with the losses that Portland has settled down to playing good BB against both good teams and bad; part of that is our defense is getting more consistent, even if it is slow starting.

    We need to just go out and play Blazer ball on this road trip and let the chips fall where ever, we just found out that even by winning big games, the Lakers and Utah comes up with big wins also. So let us do as Lillard is preaching, SHOW RESPECT and be accountable for ourselves and not worry about Lakers and Jazz.

    by Hg on 3/17/2013 1:05 AM
  4. Portland has become a team that just goes to work. They have a sense of calm about them. LaMarcus has become a man. Throw the soft label away.
    The Blazers will show up to work on this road trip. If they catch anyone sleeping they could come home with a couple wins.

    by Divotking on 3/17/2013 7:22 AM
  5. Love when all the guys come to play. Batum finally decided to "man up" and earn his keep. I still think our team needs more driving to the hoop instead of looking for the outside shots. Both are important but we seem to rely on the outside shot more.

    I for one don't care if we get to the playoffs this year. We wouldn't get that far anyway. We have a strong base and I would like to see us get a better pick in the draft. I'm thinking next year. What we have is exciting!

    Always a blazer fan!

    by allie-oop on 3/17/2013 7:41 AM
  6. allie-oop: it is as Mike said, the opponents picks their poison, if they dbl up on LaMarcus, Lillard, Wesley and Batum will destroy them from the outside, if they come out and blitz our guards, JJ and LaMarcus will score inside. Batum and Matthews is getting good enough to post up and drive also. Therefore, we can play the jump shooting, the driving, or the post up which is great. and our defense is learning to play the bump and grind or the up tempo. so we can play with almost anybody in the NBA.
    I am somewhat like you as to not worrying about the play-offs, but unlike you, I am excited about what we can do in the remaining games for experience. As you said, this is a very exciting team and we have still 17 thrilling packed games to play and I want to watch them all; next year is to far away and we can't control the draft completely because of the ping bong balls. Therefore I am all for going out and playing every game to win and develop.

    by Hg on 3/17/2013 9:26 AM
  7. toronto is a team we should beat. seriously, there really shouldn't have been much concern over taking care of the raptors. however, in Blazer fashion of playing at the level of the opponent, this game remained competitive throughout.

    our frontline has put together some solid games here. LaMarcus was the all-star we know him to be, J.J. grabbed pretty much every rebound in sight and i thought Meyers was good in his time on the court. then, of course, there's Joel. talk about a guy being ready for an opportunity! it seems we always hear players say things like that, but Joel certainly backed it up. i also think that with five games in seven days, we're going to need him in there.

    if i have one complaint as of late, it's several comments by fans who seem to be overly critical of Nicolas. we all know his injured wrist has affected him over the past ... say six weeks or so. my problem are the comments that he is "finally" earning his contract. let's not forget the first three months of the season when he had stepped up his game and was on track. injuries aren't fun, but i applaud Nicolas for playing through it.

    this road trip concerns me. the frequency of games can be a problem, and we're going up against some tough teams. don't think i'm gonna predict this trip -- but i would be ecstatic to win three of the five. i suppose the bright spot is that after this trip we'll have eight of our last 12 games at home.

    finally, i stick by my previous comments when i saw we've got to play every game like it's a playoff game. the playoffs are a long shot, but sometimes long shots come through. i love our guys win or lose, but if any one of them "mailed it in" or "tanked" games, i would lose all respect for him. these guys are professionals and that simply should not be in their dna.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/17/2013 2:31 PM
  8. When the Blazers learn to play defense for 48 minutes rather than 30, they will be one tough team to beat for anyone. We have a few excellent one-on-one defenders (Nic, Wesley, and LMA come to mind) but our team defense doesn't measure up to those individual efforts. I'm sure that will be a #1 priority for improvement nest season.

    One thing missing this year is the trapping defense between Nic and Wes we've seen in the past. Maybe that's due to injuries having slowed both of them, especially Wes, and maybe it's a different coaching philosophy, but I'd love to see it return. Other teams do it to us and none of them have any better duos than Nic and Wes.

    One big thing leading to last night's win was Nic's defense on Kyle Singler. Nic took him completely out of the game. Not only did Singler score only 4 points, but he had zero rebounds and zero assists as well! That's what I call great defense!
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 3/17/2013 9:19 PM
  9. @allie-oop: I agree about Nic Batum needing to go to the rim more often. Shooting mostly outside is fine if they're going in, but by doing that, he rarely gets to the FT line anymore -- and he's one of our best (maybe the best) FT shooters! We need him there more often...
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 3/17/2013 9:29 PM
  10. Don;
    I agree with you on every point.
    As the game progressed Singler was afraid to have the ball in his hands. Even when Batum was on the bench Singler was afraid he would block his shot.

    by Divotking on 3/17/2013 10:10 PM
  11. Philadelphia 2 points : 38/70 = 54.3 %
    Portland 2 points: 26/62 = 41.9 %

    No need to use words; here is the problem. This is where work has to be done.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 3/19/2013 12:07 PM
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