mikebarrett

Apr 01

Blazers Get Defensive in Second Half

By mikebarrett
It's a funny game.  Sometimes the opening minutes of a contest set the tone for the entire night.  We've seen the Trail Blazers dig themselves deep holes in opening quarters, and spend the rest of the night struggling to dig out. Other times, early double-digit leads are completely meaningless. 

On Friday night at the Rose Garden, Oklahoma City shot out of the gates like a well-oiled machine.  They were hitting everything they threw at the rim, seemed to get every bounce, and had their way with the Trail Blazers.  They shot 68 percent from the field, and easily built a 12-point lead. 

Perhaps the Blazers, who looked a bit tired, and were slow to react to everything, needed to get clubbed across the head like that.  Seeing the Thunder run wild seem to wake up Portland, even if it did take a quarter and a-half.

At halftime the Blazers trailed by six, and it seemed amazing they were that close.  Then the defense kicked it into high gear.  Adjustments were made at halftime, certainly, but it simply appeared that Portland flipped an intensity switch, and slapped the handcuffs on the Thunder players.

Everything that came so easy for the Thunder in the first half, was totally taken away in the third.  The Portland offense, triggered by the defense, ripped off 15-straight points, closed the third on a 21-5 run, and put the game away in the fourth, winning it 98-91.

Nate McMillan went with a new starting lineup in this game, and while it seemed to take the team a while to adjust to it, things clicked in the second half.  Gerald Wallace was put back in his natural position at small forward, Marcus Camby was back in the middle, and LaMarcus Aldridge was back at the four.  Nicolas Batum came off the bench. 

In the past, Batum would have likely taken that as a demotion, and wouldn't have been aggressive enough to get himself into the game.  Not tonight.  Batum responded perfectly, and finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and played excellent defense. 

Aldridge was brilliant, scoring 32 points while grabbing eight rebounds.  Wallace locked up Kevin Durant in the second half, and Andre Miller was clutch, as usual.  The Blazers held the Thunder to 10 for 39 shooting in the second half, and took excellent care of the basketball.  The Blazers had five turnovers in the first half, and ended the game with five.  That's right, zero turnovers in the final two quarters.

Portland undoubtedly will stay with this lineup on Sunday when they host Dallas, but the minutes won't always be handed out this way.  On this night, the guy who had to sacrifice time was Wesley Matthews.  He played just 24 minutes.  Rudy Fernandez, who did a fine job disrupting the Thunder offense, was used down the stretch in the fourth quarter, logging 26 minutes in the game.

Durant was held to 9 for 24 shooting, including just 3 for 14 in the second half.  That was nothing new.  Wallace did the same thing to him last Sunday.  But this time, Russell Westbrook was held in check as well, shooting just 5 for 15 in the game.  That was the key.

The Blazers didn't exactly light it up in the fourth quarter either, shooting just 4 of 17, but had enough in the tank to finish the job.

To listen to McMillan's post-game comments, click here.

With the win, and the New Orleans loss to Memphis, the Blazers moved back into the sixth spot in the west.  The magic number to clinch a playoff spot was reduced to two.  It was nearly reduced to one, but Houston rallied to beat San Antonio.  That was the only thing that didn't go well on this night.

Six games to go now, and things are still very much up in the air.  Watch out for Memphis.  Considering their schedule, they could easily move into sixth, and leave Portland and New Orleans to battle it out for the seventh and eigth spots.  Eight could get you the Lakers, as they won again and the Spurs lost.  Seventh could still get you Dallas, but most likely will earn you a series against the Spurs, who are really struggling, losing their sixth-straight game Friday night.

First up, it's Dallas, then Golden State, and then a trip to Utah on Thursday.


Previous Story: Seven To Go

28 Comments

  1. Hey Mike awesome win . I have a question for you whats the puzzle piece shape thing you and Mike R and Scott Brooks wore on your suit jacket by Lucas number 20 . Nice win go blazers on Sunday.

    by jyp on 4/1/2011 10:51 PM
  2. Great win for us! Still have a roll-coaster ride ahead of us though!

    by Anees on 4/1/2011 10:58 PM

  3. can we get back on the sean marks bus?
    there is an open roster spot, and we could use some kiwi power.
    the 30 days should be up, and we need another 4/5 guy!

    by reverse on 4/1/2011 11:06 PM

  4. nice win. 15 asst from miller, roy and camby equaling okc's team total.
    b-roy is looking good as a back-up pg.
    i think he'll add some explosiveness to his efforts in the playoffs.

    by reverse on 4/1/2011 11:10 PM
  5. Excellent win!

    I'd much rather them be hot in the first half than in the second like Westbrook was last game.

    MB, I told you it was a little early to give up on the 6th spot. You are suppose to be a Blazers homer so you should have more confidence in the Blazers. :)

    by mgb on 4/1/2011 11:13 PM

  6. rudy led the way with his energy, which was great.
    lamarcus did the right thing and beat them with his top of the key jumper.
    the whole team played their roles and put together a big game.

    by reverse on 4/1/2011 11:14 PM
  7. Well, we got an important win, so I can't complain about the fact that our guards all shot badly while Patty spent the whole night on the bench, about the team being badly outrebounded, or about how many shots the guys missed right at the rim (I stopped counting after seven). Durant missed ten threes, the Blazers refused to turn the ball over--though they took some bad shots with the clock running down--and the team played agressively enough to go to the line more often than the Thunder, who looked a little miffed that their usual referee mojo wasn't working. What makes me happiest of all was the great night by my two favorite Blazers. Aldridge was the man again, and Nic posted a little reminder of one reason Gerald Wallace can't expect that many minutes at small forward, whether he starts there or not. Now it's time to show Dallas why they should be worried about facing us in round one of the playoffs.

    by Islander on 4/1/2011 11:22 PM
  8. Mike to sleepy to read the full blog. I will read and react tomorrow. It was a great win and one we needed.

    hg

    by Hg on 4/1/2011 11:52 PM
  9. Great win when we really needed one. Also very nice to get off the schneid against OKC!

    I noticed Coach Rice agrees with me that Nic Batum should get some minutes at the 2. If we want to go big, lets go really big! Durant is supposed to be a 3 now with Green gone, but he plays more like a 2 anyway, so Nic could just stick with him all night. Same thing against other teams with big SGs.

    by dgpdx on 4/2/2011 1:20 AM
  10. I only saw the second half. It was good to see LaMarcus take over and Batum play with focus.

    Go Blazers!

    by thedanman on 4/2/2011 3:49 AM
  11. @islander: I'll make the direct complaint regarding the use of Mills. His talents and energy are being wasted on "the pine." I know it's frowned upon to gripe about anything after a victory but your observations were warranted and dead on. If we want to make any kind of noise in the playoffs we need to address and improve on our imperfections in spite of important victories. Mills gives us an uptempo rhythm that this teams often lacks and desperately needs at times. I understand it's challenging for McMillan to juggle minutes while maintaining continuity but tightening the rotations doesn't seem to be working. I'm seeing up and down performances from everyone. Mills can help this team. He's a "spark" guy and we need that every night.

    Go Blazers!

    by thedanman on 4/2/2011 4:20 AM
  12. OH RATS HG THE BRATS BACK:

    I am happy, happy, happy for the win; although islander and thedanman is concerned about the talent of Mill being wasted, it was still a well coached game. This is a team game and everybody has got to contribute and sacrifice.

    As far as talent being wasted, CJ has talent, Babbitt has talent, and Armon "The Hammer" has talent. I cannot go against the coach’s decisions because I am not a coach, but I am comfortable going with experience right now as the room for error is small.

    I agreed with Mike R, on Batum playing the 2, that was the question answered on chalk talk yesterday and one that I have also been thinking about. Also if you wanted to go all defensive, gotcha MB, you could put Nic in as PG, with Wesley, GW, LMA and Camby. Nic can set up plays pretty well and has a little better handles then Wesley.

    Regardless of all that, I will enjoy the win and leave the coaching to Nate and crew. It seems as though the name of the game is really “getting defensive”. That makes up for some of our streaky outside shooting.

    by Hg on 4/2/2011 5:15 AM
  13. MB:

    I feel that Nic's ferocious put-back dunk, and the swagger afterwords put the fire into the crowd and the team and that by itself was the turning point of the game, although I know there was many great plays, that one really stands out to me. Oh, have I ever told anyone that Nic is my favorite player. Well besides Greg, BRoy, GW, (eat crow) Dre, LMA Wesley, Camby, Rudy,Mills, Armon, Chris, Babbitt and Williams. All around great team

    by Hg on 4/2/2011 5:28 AM
  14. I agree with Hg. I don't believe it either! :) There is a numbers crunch time wise and Mills is the odd man out right now. Don't mean he won't be seeing any mins, but Nate is getting his rotation down for the playoffs and right now Mills isn't part of it. All of the players need mins to get consistent and even as it is players in the rotation are suffering some.

    by mgb on 4/2/2011 7:27 AM
  15. Mike, forgive me because I spend most my time online looking at the NBA standings, forums, these blogs, talking about the Blazers and all that good stuff. Anyways, the Spurs actually have lost 6 in a row, but that number is fairly deceiving. They have played Portland twice, the Celtics, and the Rockets. Those teams are dangerous teams. The Rockets want a playoff spot, and the Celtics want to send a message. So, I do hope people aren't thinking the Spurs are vulnerable, especially because of this deceiving 6 game losing streak and going 3-1 against them. Sure we've won like 12 of the last 13 matchups, but I don't feel comfortable about them.

    And how many times do I got to say this. The Blazers are bringing out the brooms and SWEEPING April. They're beating LAL, Utah, Dallas, Memphis, and whoever else we play. We're beating them! Only game I'm concerned about is the last game of the season, which I don't think will matter so we might rest our guys (Which I think is a bad idea btw. You always want to finish the season strong, and we only play 8 guys so we gotta play some of them.

    As for this win, HUGE. BIG. It's about time the Blazers accepted help from the league. It seems like most the time when we hear good news about other games in the league this season, the Blazers end up losing, so the loss becomes more acceptable. It's nice to get a lot of help from Memphis (of all teams) and get a big win for ourselves.

    Also, I just got to say, I love the guy but Wesley Mathews is an overrated defender. It's about time Nate sticks with Batum and Wallace. Mathews is a good defender, but I don't see him being on the same level as these guys. He was the best defender on the Jazz, but he still allowed Kobe to eat him alive. He also allowed Westbrook to do the same on Sunday. Tonight, besides the 1st half, the "big 3" of the Thunder were SHUT DOWN (Harden, Westbrook, and Durant). That is how you beat them. 11 point 3rd quarter? I nearly died when I saw that stat.

    by Herr on 4/2/2011 8:56 AM
  16. My Blazers fandom reached it's zenith last night.

    An old favor was called in and our crew had got in to see shoot-around. The first player out there, and by far the hardest worker on the team, was Armon Johnson. Bayno had the pads out, and those two were going at it. Bayno doesn't give an inch, but the little he gave AJ was enough. Armon was working on two things: jab-step jumper, and driving...to the right! That right hand is developing well, but still looks a little forced (Bayno was yelling for a foul). From what I saw, AJ is still in the running for PGotF. Next on the floor was Batum.

    The kid in me wanted to call my favorite Blazer over for an autograph, but looking close I could see that there was a lot on his mind. I'm sure he had KD's scouting report racing through his head, determined not to get torched, and needing to prove himself worthy of his old starting spot (I didn't know he was coming off the bench until intros, but it was obvious something was getting under his skin). He wasn't hitting his 3s, but the elbow jumper was automatic (he buried a couple in the game). After Nico, Roy hit the court.

    As diminished as Roy is these days, when he took the floor my heart stopped. Time slowed, staggered, and fell. He was walking towards us. One of my comrades had called him over to sign a basketball. I tried to think of something to say but I had stars in my eyes, so I let my dazed grin to the talking. Know this floks: Brandon Roy is as humble, classy, and genuine as he appears on TV. There's nothing fake about him; I couldn't write a better hero. Seeing him face to face was so thrilling that I hardly noticed when Terry Freaking Porter came walking up to our crew.

    My friend Mel, who had organized the whole event, came with a sign that read, "Put Terry In!". They wanted to get it on TV, so Terry came striding over, shook everybody's hand, and got the shot. It was like the life-sized poster from my childhood jumped off the wall, stepped into a suit, and looked me in the eye. I somehow felt as though I'd come full circle, back to the beginning of my lifelong fandom--the years between had never happened. I was a kid again. The rest of shoot-around is a blur: Rudy and Patty clowning around, LMA knocking down jumpers, and the security guards kindly ushering us out of the front row and back to the Heritage Suite.

    We took the elevator to the suite, and when the doors hissed open I saw a cheese-eating grin that I know all to well--Mike Rice, in the flesh. All twelve of us tried to pile in the elevator, unaware that it was going the wrong direction. Rice was cornered, but remained unflappable. After a moment of confusion, we filed out of the elevator, but Rice held fast in the corner. I saw my moment and struck. Stabbing my hand at him, I met those glassy eyes, and said, "You're great!". He took my outstretched hand in his (Rice has pretty big mitts), gave it a pump, and said, "Thanks!". Color blurred, I turned away, and Mike Rice floated down into the bowels of the Rose Garden.

    Finding our suite, we tucked into the snacks like starved refugees. I felt like Lazarus, freshly back among the living, enjoying the first chicken wrap since his chat with St. Peter. Then came the game, and we know how that went. All I'll say about that is that I'm so proud of this team and it's coaches (but I'd have started Batum over Matthews!). The fourth quarter was as gripping as any I've seen. At about 6 minutes to go, the door to our suite opened, and Bill Shonely walked through it with 4 Blazers Alumni in tow.

    I'll be honest, I don't know the era before my time. I was born in 1983, and haven't yet seen any documentaries about the Golden Age. To my shame, I didn't recognize any of the players (my dad told me one of them was Bobby Gross). I sure did recognize The Shonz though. Taking that delicate, ancient palm in mine, I sensed the history of hundreds of games--victories and defeats, heartbreak, heartmake, and heartfakeituntilyoumakeit. I told Bill Shonely it was an honor to meet him, and it truly was.

    Bingo-bango-bongo. I didn't sleep a wink.

    by 500Dogs on 4/2/2011 10:13 AM
  17. This was an ENORMOUS win and hopefully goes far in restoring confidence in themselves for the Blazers.

    The game flow was very strange and when it was over, it was almost like having watched two different games between two different teams. In the first half, the pretend Blazers played a Super Thunder team that couldn't do anything wrong against a team that seemed to only resemble the Blazers on one end of the floor. But the second half...well...here finally we were treated to the game we all thought we were going to see for 48 minutes on a Friday evening :) Suddenly, the True and Fantastic Defense-and-Talent-Loaded TRAILBLAZERS (!!!!!) emerged from the locker room and revealed that the Super Thunder were in fact the pretenders. The stats for the Thunder, and especially for KD (who make no mistake is an ultra-talented player, clearly set to be one of the best SuperStars this league has seen in a long while, meaning he is actually a decent guy along with massive talent!), in the second half compared to the first half are just crazy. That they went from shooting 56.4% in the first to 25.6% in the second is a testament to just how effective that new starting lineup can and will be. The Thunder are nothing if not very difficult to disrupt offensively, but the Blazers' D managed to shut down every first half hot Thunder player, keep any others from getting hot, and got several players into serious foul trouble (most importantly Mr. Kendrick Perkins). This second-half team is who I want to see on a game-to-game basis, and if they manage to actually become the "normal" Blazer squad, there is almost no one in this league that will be able to stop us, even without the Invisible Man (that be Mr. Greg Oden).

    Lamarcus showed us all that his beast mode did in fact NOT disappear. The Beast just needed a little rest and revitalization. Thank goodness! Cause man, I missed him :)

    by SisillaRiann on 4/2/2011 10:15 AM
  18. @500Dogs Awesome story! I saw that sign during shoot around and praised it from across the court.

    What a fantastic night. I'm smiling as I live it through you.

    Thanks for sharing!

    by sarahhecht on 4/2/2011 10:19 AM
  19. Wow Dogs, I am officially the most jealous I have ever been in my life (well, other than every time I have seen footage of all those girls that got hauled onto stage to be sung to directly and intimately hugged by The Gloved One). What an amazing night for you and your friends!!! An incredible blessing and fantastic game for a True Blazer fan! Good for you :) That was very nicely written btw, a compliment that is extremely rare for me to hand out.

    by SisillaRiann on 4/2/2011 10:23 AM
  20. I'm sure Nate's excuse for sitting Patty would be to knock his defense, and since we won with D, I can't argue that. I did, however, notice Brandon's man zipping right past him a couple of times, so I'm a tad skeptical about how much extra defense we get from playing the bigger, slow guy versus the shorter, very quick one. I really don't see any sign that Brandon is regaining his full command, and using the stretch drive to work on his rehab seems dicey to me.
    500 Dogs: Touching story. You left me with a funny image though; I suddenly thought of an ad for chicken wraps with Lazarus holding one up on the TV screen saying "I'd come back from the dead for one of these!"

    by Islander on 4/2/2011 10:44 AM
  21. 500dogs, when I first seen your post I thought 'damn he's wrote a book!', but it was a very enjoyable read. Sounds like you had one heck of a time!

    by mgb on 4/2/2011 11:06 AM
  22. @500dogs, thanks for sharing your experience. i really enjoyed it and was able to dream. well done!

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 4/2/2011 4:59 PM
  23. mgb you're right that was a two snack epistle.

    by Ancientone on 4/2/2011 11:19 PM
  24. I got a notice from the Bonneville Power that power would be shut off from 10 PM until 6 AM and was wondering how much of the state that included. There has been many post since that time so I see it didn't include the whole state.

    500dogs, wow what a story and as EA said very well written and would get you an A+ in writing 121.

    EowynAmarie: I agree that the game had the two-game in one look. In fact in one of the many blogs that I follow trying to beat you to, I said that It seems to me as though, if the fellas are behind the first half, they remember how they are supposed to play ( I see the Sarge here), and come out with vengeance. but if they are ahead in the first half, they say oh hum this is in the bag so I think I will practice my 3 pt shots and forget entirely what got them the lead in the first place.

    Islander: It isn't that I disagree with your post because you have some good points, but it seems as you are on a mission to discredit BRoy and give props only to Patty and that to me is distasteful because in fact they are all Blazers and all need to contribute. I have no problem with Patty and I too love to watch him, but it is not my call, lMO, the reason for BRoy is for game shape and more experienced player, it is not about a contest between BRoy and Mills.

    Ancientone: LOL Two snack epistle.

    All, OKC losing last night might be the results of us taking the starch out of them. They are not much different then our beloved Blazers after all in losing to them and then dropping of the intensity to NOH.

    I don't know what to think about Dallas losing again, Did the embarrassing LAL loss destroy them? Maybe we will find out why tonight, I never heard of any suspensions being handed down.

    Ancientone if I don't quit writing you will gain another pound with more snacks.

    Kassandra and DTV, where be Thou.

    by Hg on 4/3/2011 4:47 AM
  25. Thanks for the positivity, everyone. I had a good time writing that yesterday morning, and I'm glad y'all enjoyed it.

    HG,
    Hopefully it will do for Writing 240. I'm considering turning that in as a homework assignment, but I'm thinking it might be a little esoteric. I'm not sure if the average reader will enjoy it without knowing who everybody is. If I turn it in, I'll let you know how I did (although most teachers in Oregon don't give out +s or -s with grades anymore, so A+ might be out of the question).

    by 500Dogs on 4/3/2011 6:57 AM
  26. OMG! Being a Blazer fan is quite a rollercoaster ride this year. It was like watching 2 games against OKC. First half we looked like we just weren't at their level , then second half I think they were on a 17-2 run- how fun was that! This team, though we all know is inconsistent, can beat any team out there. With the addition of Wallace, I am very excited for the playoffs! It seems our coaching staff is doing a much better job with half time adjustments this year , and the team just seems to have this "die hard" attitude, no matter what the score (similar to that of the Lakers). If we get past the first round in the playoffs , that confidence builder may be all we need to put together another Finals run! Another great day to be a Blazer fan!

    by RipcityTodd on 4/3/2011 10:12 AM
  27. great half by the blazers. it was sure ugly in the first half. glad we saw the new LaMarcus in the game, and i love how Nicolas and Andre responded to this challenge. it was great to avoid the sweep.

    i'm really thinking we can win about four or five of the last six. the level of competition will help us prepare for the playoffs, and the home crowd will help us win. dallas tonight concerns me, as does golden state in the season finale. it's going to be tough, but we can beat them.

    as for the rest of the five, we need to get into a groove headed into the playoffs, and maintaining the sixth seed. we know we can do it; now it's just a matter of getting it done.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 4/3/2011 1:43 PM
  28. Grizz game could be really a big game too.

    by mgb on 4/3/2011 4:37 PM
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