As the team heads out on the road I’ll share my thoughts on the highs and lows of each quarter and their importance to the game, team and season going forward. Let’s discuss!
Road Review: Portland Takes Conference Lead In Oklahoma City
By sarahhecht Posted in: Blazers, Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY 93, PORTLAND 103
Loved: Drawing fouls on OKC bigs, getting to the rim
Talk about getting to the rim! A move virtually nonexistent during the Clippers matchup proved to be important in the first quarter tonight against Oklahoma City. The Trail Blazers pushed inside from the jump and quickly drew two fouls apiece on big-men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. These fouls and Portland’s ability to get to the line—12 free throw attempts to OKC’s three—kept the Trail Blazers in the game as the Thunder shot 52.2 percent from the field to Portland’s 31.3 percent. Without those trips to the charity stripe to keep things close we may be looking at a very different outcome.
Keep this up fellas, it’s fruitful.
Loathed: Points in the paint, fast break points
I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but these categories are too important to ignore, especially when we’re changing our offense to be more up tempo. Zero fast break points in the quarter and only four points in the paint while OKC scored seven on the break and 14 in the paint isn’t going to hold up over time. Eventually we evened things out in the paint, but ended up getting worked running the floor with free throws leveling the field in that department. We’ve got to improve here.
Loved: Wesley Matthews
Wowza, Wesley. Matthews played all 12 minutes in the quarter and used his time wisely. He hit 100 percent of his shots in the period (he was 7-of-12 on the night,) with each coming at what felt like a crucial moment. He followed up the second quarter with another impactful run in the third nailing 3-of-6 from the floor and pulling down four rebounds.
I liked just about everything from Matthews. And I truly enjoyed watching him play a solid game without being the one player to shine. He’ll have his games to be the man, but getting reliable performances from him when he’s not the star of the evening is huge for this squad.
Six turnovers on the half is nothing compared to the 20-plus we’ve racked up over the last two games, so this point may be a bit picky. But the point here is that we had more in the half than the Thunder who only had four. We took care of the ball much better tonight but to continue to improve we can’t give up the ball to be converted into easy buckets.
Loved: Camby to LA ally-oop, smart passes
This was a fun quarter to watch. Russell Westbrook missed a dunk (classic on it’s own) that was converted to a Marcus Camby to LaMarcus Aldridge ally-oop. That little diddy was followed closely by Matthews taking it coast-to-coast and the tempo of the game picking up. The pace was flowing and was nicely complimented by better passing than we’ve seen in a few games. The improved offense was augmented by a tightening defense and a 78-74 Trail Blazers lead heading into the fourth iced the cake.
There wasn’t anything that stood out to me as we began to refine and polish our play. So I’ll chalk this quarter up to nice and satisfactory.
Loved: Nicolas Batum, defense, LA’s intensity
Nicolas Batum owned this quarter. He led the team in scoring with seven points (catch-and-shoot three anyone?,) yanked down three rebounds and had two monster blocked shots. It was another quarter where one guy dominated, but it didn’t feel like it. The entire squad stepped up defensively, made smart moves and got shots to the open man. It was a warm and fuzzy quarter with intensity. Odd mixture, but good in the end.
Get outta town Perk, and take your attitude with you. You don’t mess with Aldridge without repercussions. I’m not exactly sure what tipped off the little scuffle between the two, but you can bet the team leader will be the last to take any fluff.
Loathed: Westbrook’s scoring, missing lob dunks (yikes!)
Westbrook went off for nine points causing a bit of anxiety in Rip City. Portland did a thorough job in limiting the point guard to 11 points through three quarters, so watching him get hot at the end of the game wasn’t what the Trail Blazers were looking for. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
Missing lobs when open at the rim? Not good. And really not good in a close game.
Heading into tonight’s challenge in Oklahoma City I preached BALANCE as my big key to success. I’d like to take this moment to say, I told ya so! Portland was relatively even in every category aside from two. We lost the fast break battle and won at the free throw line.
Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the night and it’s not just because of the win. We played team ball tonight and it showed. We passed, we ran, we defended. And we still didn’t play our best game. Another encouraging aspect.
There are many other topics from the game to discuss, like Aldridge's 30-point performance and the defense of Kevin Durant. So let's get started, what did you love and loathe?