Establishment. Aggression. Paint. Scoring.
In the second half of the Trail Blazers 98-91 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland came out and performed exactly as Head Coach Nate McMillan requested.
They established themselves. “It comes down to defending, rebounding the ball and scoring,” said McMillan.
The aggression came in the form of Rudy Fernandez. From his monster put-back dunk
in the first half to the hustle plays of the second Rudy was everywhere. The drive he brought to the court was infectious to teammates and you could watch the feeling spread to his teammates. They were going to push this one to the end.
McMillan praised the acrobatic guard for his contributions, “We needed to get aggressive, we needed to get closer to them, get into the ball defensively. I thought Rudy came out again tonight and established that for us, getting pressure on the ball and we got some guys to respond.”
While Rudy handled the aggression LaMarcus Aldridge took it upon his shoulders to dominate the interior. “LaMarcus did a really nice job in establishing the paint,” said McMillan. “We got into the penalty early and we got to the free throw line.”
Aldridge knew exactly what he was doing down low. The management of Kendrick Perkins was his main concern. Closing down the middle was the task he assigned to himself during the half when he realized the Trail Blazers weren’t in control of the ball game.
Aldridge said of his tactics, “Trying to be aggressive, going to the basket. Trying to force them to either double-team or have to try to clog and get Nic and Wesley open threes and I think that’s what I did, and I tried to force my issue going to the basket.”
The last piece of the establishment trifecta was Nicolas Batum. He blended the efforts of Rudy and LaMarcus to cover both ends of the floor. “I thought Nic was really good at both ends of the floor, defensively as well as offensively and providing some scoring for us,” said McMillan of Batum.
Nicolas helped keep the Trail Blazers in the game with his 14-point first half. The energy he demonstrated from end to end and with a put-back slam
of his own infected his teammates in the push for the win. “We tried to get excited. Put some life on the court, we didn’t have no life in the first half,” said Batum.
Batum credited the Rose Garden crowd as a sixth man in the victory. He said, “The crowd start to get crazy, so able to get crazy. Crowd, coach, players. Start to work and get some fast break points and play good defense and we won.”
Controlling multiple aspects of the game was the key to victory tonight. And the Trail Blazers established.