Atmospherically speaking, the Rose Garden barely missed a beat tonight if comparing to last season. If anything, the lockout and delayed CBA may have caused more excitement for Rip City.
In the pre season opener, the Trailblazers simply out played the visiting Jazz team winning 110 to 90 with ease. With star player Lamarcus Aldridge sitting this game out, the Jazz may have assumed this one was already "in the bag" upon arriving, but it was the Trailblazers who showed up, and in a big way. Leading the charge was Wesley Matthews, scoring 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting with a pair of steals."We gave up too many offensive rebounds." commented Wesley after the game, "We gave up 90(points) also, We have a lot of work to do on the defensive end."
Off of the bench behind Wesley, Jamal Crawford in his first game as a Blazer, put up 8 points, 7 assists and 3 steals in 22 minutes. Very impressive tonight, was the play of Nicolas Batum. Nic filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, 4 Rebounds, 3 Asst, 2 blocked shots and a steal. Playing over seas with the french basketball club SLUC Nancy during the lockout, Nicolas appeared to be in very good shape tonight playing 21 minutes with confidence.
Early in the match it seemed like the same rookie jitters were affecting Luke Babbitt. Then a hustle play to save a stolen possession sent Luke to the ground. As if a switch was thrown, with the Trailblazer bench applauding him, Luke appeared to find some confidence. With a very tough assignment guarding Jazz's Gordon Hayward, Luke was surprisingly effective in his 26 mins holding Hayward to 2 of 10 shooting and just 7 points. Luke ended with 6 points, 2 rebounds and a block. In the second half of play, Elliott Williams was very productive contributing 13 points in just 12 minutes off of the bench. E-will didn't get to throw down a dunk tonight but connected on all 3 of his attempts from 3 point land. The most of any player tonight. As for the final spot on this Portland roster, I'd say Chris Johnson solidified his bid with 8 points, 6 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots like a professional. Earl Barron Did not play.
On the other end of the ball, Utah's leading scorer was Derrick Favors with 25 points. The Jazz won the rebound battle 41 to 33, 17 of them on the offensive boards but combined for just 41% shooting on the night. The visiting Jazz team was 1 for 12 beyond the arc, the only made 3 pointer coming from Raja Bell. The Jazz return to Utah with a lot to think about. The Trailblazers fly down to finish out the shortened pre-season on Wednesday at EnergySolutions arena, in Utah.
For a game that didn't officially matter, tonight seemed like the start of something very special. Something very exciting for Blazer fans. The word that comes to mind is Statement
. A statement
to anyone watching. A statement
to every team in the NBA. That we are rising, preparing and hungry. This Rip City Racket, is once again, growing very loud.