Physically, I suppose, the Kings are the type of team that could give the Blazers some trouble. They have the strength and depth inside to punish the relative scrubbiness of the Blazers bench bigs, and explosive scorers in Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans who can fill it up and beat some pretty good teams. In the first half, some of that was apparent. The Blazers came out flat on defense, the Kings were able to take advantage and score efficiently, and build a 12 point lead at one point in the first half. However, the Blazers were able to force enough turnovers to tie the game at the break, and there wasn’t really any doubt what would happen from there.
The second half was just about keeping up high defensive intensity and keeping cool heads on offense to not get involved in a slop-fest. The Blazers did that with aplomb. With Boogie Cousins acting as Portland’s best defensive player (used 39% of the Kings’ possessions, 77 oRating, zero assists), the Blazers pummeled a stagnate Kings offense, forcing bad shots, shot clock violations and handily winning the turnover battle for the second consecutive night.
Gerald Wallace was magnificent and everywhere. He scored 25 points on just 12 possessions, was second on the team with five assists, and was generally a terror scoring, defending and leading the break.
Strong individual plaudits should also go to LaMarcus Aldridge. Sometimes when faced with a tough and physical front line like that of the Kings, there’s a temptation to prove your individual mettle. There will be a time when LA needs to go out of his way to abuse defenders like Chuck Hayes and J.J. Hickson. A December game against the Kings is not one of them. His selective 25 points was just what the doctor ordered on a night where Gerald was driving the team and the team was sharing the ball to get good shots (25 assists on 38 field goals). LaMarcus was also rewarded with a light minutes night as the game was salted away early in the fourth quarter.
Finally, Craig Smith looked like a rotation player last night. Looking at his career statistics, his productive stint yesterday isn’t really surprising, but it is good to see he can get his own. The question remains what kind of lineups Nate will use to ensure his lack of size isn’t terribly exposed on defense. Either way though, with a player capable of that level of production on the front court depth chart, 40 minute nights for LaMarcus should become the exception rather than the rule.