Clearly, he's getting there.
If you start thinking he's somehow satisfied, think again. He only half acknowledged that he'd played a good game, saying "I'm not saying my game is where I want it to be..." For other NBA teams, that's bad news.
Oden absolutely dominates the paint when he's in the game. We've known that. What we haven't seen is evidence of huge strides in his offensive game. We've got it now. He scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked two shots, as the Trail Blazers rolled over the Chicago Bulls 122-98.
Maybe the most amazing part of Oden's line on this night is that it only took him 8 shot attempts to total those 24 points. He was 7 for 8 from the field, 10 for 12 from the line, and led the way as Portland out rebounded Chicago 47-27. And, Chicago isn't a bad rebounding team.
I cautioned after Saturday's game not to get too jacked after a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. But, this win was impressive. Chicago was very motivated, after being publically called out by their coach, and played an efficient, sharp game. They exceeded their averages in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, and recorded 23 assists and turned the ball over only 6 times. In short, they played well. Numbers like those, for a team like the Bulls, should result in victory. On this night, it resulted in a 24-point loss.
Oden's highlight reel on this night only slightly overshadowed the one put together by LaMarcus Aldridge, who was tremendous. After battling foul trouble Saturday, Aldridge scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and hit his first three-point basket of the season. Brandon Roy was steady, as always, recording 18 points, and 7 assists.
The Blazers racked up 66 points in the first half and led by 15 at halftime. The Bulls, needing a strong start to the third quarter to get back in the game, hit their first 9 shots of the quarter and cut Portland's lead to five. But, the Blazers recovered, tightened the screws, and outscored Chicago 32-18 in the fourth to record their fifth-straight win over the Bulls.
All the talk after Saturday's win was about Martell Webster and Steve Blake, who probably played their most complete games, respectively, of the season. Even though those two were quiet offensively in this one, it didn't matter. Rudy Fernandez, who was 1 for 9 on Saturday, was 5 for 7 in this game, and ended with 13 points. Andre Miller added 16 points and 5 assists, and we saw Dante Cunningham get some meaningful minutes.
I've told you how impressive Cunningham was in camp, and how good he's been in practice, and in this game got an opportunity to show that he's ready for prime time. Getting back-up minutes at the pow
er-forward spot, Cunningham showed poise and demonstrated his shooting range and toughness. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of him in games to come.
This was just the second game with this new starting lineup, and it's here to stay. Not only did everything seem to click, but the substitution patterns were much more defined and conventional. Miller and Fernandez are developing a great on-the-court relationship in the second unit, and Portland's depth was on display in this game.
We expected this to be a much lower scoring game than it turned out to be. Chicago gives up only 95 points per game, which is 8th-best in the NBA. The Blazers, as you know, lead the NBA in giving up just 88 points per game. And, Portland's 122 points weren't achieved because they ran. They didn't, only recording 4 fast-break points. This was efficiency at work. That's a very good sign that the lineups are solid, the rotation worked, and people were comfortable in their roles.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.
Next up, it's New Jersey on Wednesday, as they'll be playing the second of a back to back after taking on Denver on Tuesday night.