In order to keep you from falling asleep while reading this recap, I will refrain from discussing the first half of tonight’s game. If you didn’t witness the most boring first half in recent NBA history for yourself, all you need to know is… well… not much. The Blazers led the Cavs 42-35 at the half shooting 39% from the field while Cleveland was shooting 32%.
Luckily, things turned up once the team took the court for the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge lit up, scoring 14 points in the third quarter on 4-8 shooting, 6-6 from the line and four steals. Both Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews added even more cushion to Portland’s third quarter lead as well, and the team headed into the fourth quarter with a 69-57 lead over Cleveland.
The Blazers continued to extend their lead in the fourth quarter thanks to more scoring from Aldridge, Wallace, Matthews and Nic Batum. Even Craig Smith did a little bit of scoring. Finally, once Aldridge’s 18-foot jumper put Portland up by 22, Coach McMillan emptied the bench with three minutes left, giving Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams and Chris Johnson a little bit of playing time. This playing time included a whole lot of fouls and a beautiful three-pointer from Williams. Ultimately, after a sloppy, sluggish first half, the Blazers ended with a 98-78 win over the Cavs, putting them at 6-2 overall and 5-0 at home.
Following tonight’s game, LaMarcus Aldridge tweeted, “Big bounce back win. Way to have our back Rose Garden.” Not to be a Debbie downer, but I would not categorize tonight as a “big bounce back win.” Yes, the Blazers defeated the Cavs by 20 points after losing to the Suns by 25 last Friday. Looking only at the final scores, I suppose a 20-point home win would be viewed as a “big bounce back win” following a 25-point road loss. However, looking past the scores and more at the type of game Portland played on these two occasions tells a different story.
The Blazers have a strange habit of either lowering or raising their level of play based on that of their opponent’s. Obviously this doesn’t happen every single game, but it happens far more often than it should, and they’ve been playing like this for years. Whenever they play really good teams that should be extremely tough matchups, they play extremely well. Whenever they play the league’s worst teams that shouldn’t be much competition at all, they play pretty poorly. Yes, I realize these are bold statements that don’t apply to every game or maybe even half of the games played each season; however, it’s something that happens often enough that it’s worth mentioning. It makes me wonder if there needs to be a bit of a shift in the team culture and the way they approach each game specifically.
Tonight, Portland lowered their level of play significantly. Certain guys played very well, especially in the second half, but the team as a whole did not reach the potential we all know they are capable of achieving. If you want to know why I’ve been a bit hesitant to praise the Blazers very much this season, games like tonight are a prime example of why. Yes, we won by 20 points, but it was not a great win. Some of the guys looked like they weren’t even taking the game seriously during the first half, which was reflected in the halftime stats. For me, even when we win games, watching the team play so far under their potential is still disappointing to watch. I understand that the team won’t have the most aggressive, entertaining wins every night, but sometimes I wish the team as a whole would push themselves more every single game, regardless of who their opponent is.
Other Random Thoughts:
- Tristan Thompson is really fun to watch. He had a few nasty blocks tonight that definitely caught the attention of the Rose Garden crowd.
- I’m happy to see LA getting himself to the line more in these past few games. He got himself to the line four times tonight and made all eight of his free throws.
- After scoring only two points in Friday’s loss to Phoenix, Gerald came back tonight with 16 points on 7-13 shooting. He also had six rebounds, four assists, three steals and one great block on a shot by rookie point guard Kyrie Irving. I know it’s early, but so far it appears that if Gerald plays well, Portland wins. I’m thrilled to see him being recognized as a crucial part of this team’s success.
- In addition to his eight rebounds, Marcus Camby had a great block too. It was “block city” in Portland tonight. (Sorry, the cliché of the most overused term in the NBA right now was too easy to resist.)
- It appears as if Nic is slowly but surely getting his confidence back. He looked strong and confident out there tonight, scoring 11 points on 4-9 shooting (1-2 from the perimeter) and 2-2 from the free throw line. He also had four rebounds, one assist and two steals.
- Portland scored 28 points on 24 Cleveland turnovers tonight. My expert analysis: this stat demonstrates why turnovers can be so deadly.
- Craig Smith had six points on 3-4 shooting. Do work, Rhino!
- Due to the condensed season, McMillan needs to begin resting the starters when he can. There was no reason for any of our core guys to be in the game when they were up by 15 points, especially with that large of a lead in the fourth quarter. Fatigue clearly played a major role in Friday’s loss to the Suns, and the toll this condensed schedule is taking on the players’ bodies will only become more prominent as the season goes on. I understand McMillan doesn’t like to play deep into the bench and has some strange issue with giving rookies playing time. If ever there was a time to push that strange hang-up aside, this is it. Please, Nate, for the good of Rip City, when we have a 15-plus point lead, allow our core players to rest. Any additional time on the bench will aide their bodies a significant amount in this season of schedule chaos.
- In Blazers-related D-League news, the Idaho Stampede defeated the Bakersfield Jam 114-104 last night. Our own Luke Babbitt scored 35 points, shooting 13-23 from the field, 5-9 from the three-point line and 4-4 from the free throw line. He also had 11 rebounds and six assists. D-League All-Star team, look out – Babs is comin’ for you. Armon Johnson, who doesn’t get to start (so sad!) but did get t0 play 25 minutes, scored 10 points and dished out nine assists. Way to make Portland proud, guys.