Friday, October 30, 2009

Trail Blazers @ Thunder: Game 4

Here we go again Blazer fans, yet another sputter out of the gates by the Trail Blazers. Last year was expected, because of the massive amount of road games being played early on, but the October/November schedule, on paper, looked like a huge gift for Portland to take advantage of and get a jump start on the rest of the Western Conference. I'm not ready to hit the panic button just yet, because Roy has looked all-world the past two games and Aldridge showed flashes of his own brilliance last night, but I do expect this team to struggle throughout the rest of the month.
As the armchair coach, I believe the problem lies within chemistry and the rhythm of the team, especially at the point guard position. We need to start treating Steve Blake like we do with Travis and Rudy, whom are both very effective but do so in limited roles, sometimes getting extra minutes if they are having a great showing on a particular night. There is no way, shape, or form that Blake should be starting, let alone playing 24 mpg. He is great in spurts, and I love his shooting, but his deficiencies in all other aspects of the game make him a major liability if he is playing anymore than a quarter a night. We signed Andre Miller for a reason, and that was to get us out of the first round. He isn't going to be as effective as he can be if he is not allowed to get into a rhythm. So, until Dre gets the nod as the starting point guard and is playing over 30 minutes a night, don't be surprised to see Portland fail to play up to their potential.
Unfortunately, I see Durant and Westbrook just taking us to the woodshed tonight. To make matters worse, we have no Batum to at least bother Kevin on the perimeter, which could mean a long night on the bench for Thrilla and G.O. if our wings allow KD to blow by them which will force those two to pick up fouls. Could Portland win? Most definitely. But I have just not seen a consistent effort to get the ball down low to Greg and LaMarcus this season. Just like every game we have played this year, we have a monumental advantage down low, but do open the door when opportunity knocks? No.
Game 3 Prediction: Trail Blazers 92 Thunder 107
Post Game Thoughts
So, I call out Blake, and he is one of the main reasons why we were fortunate to pull out a tough road game against the upstart Thunder. If that wasn't enough, I predicted a huge blowout with Durant and Westbrook running wild on us, yet we win in a grind it out affair that saw KD shoot a pathetic 3-21 from the field and Westbrook turned the rock over 7 times. I love it when the Blazers prove me wrong.
Although the win was U.G.L.Y., nearly every member of the team had a major hand in this victory. Greg set the tone early and was a force on the glass all night long, Marty just blew up in the 3rd quarter to extend our halftime lead, not to mention his superb defense on Durant all night long, Travis, minus the traveling violations, really stopped the bleeding with his 3's, and Blake had his typical Blake game, meaning when we needed a shot in the arm, he was able to keep us afloat.
This team is just a different animal once they get Greg involved early and often. He gets a bounce to his step on defense and plays with a swagger about him. Outside of Howard and O'Neal, Portland should be able to dump it down low at will against opposing big men, and it needs to continue Tuesday night against Atlanta who still features Al Hordford as their starting center. But the real star of the game was Webster. Even if Durant was hitting his shots, he was still right in his face, challenging every shot and battling down low for post position, making him work for every single thing. It wasn't just all about the lock-down defense on Durant, as Marty hit some open jumpers and had a thunderous dunk on the break to really juice up the squad. When our other wings, not named Brandon, start hitting shots and becoming a threat to the opposing defenses, it opens up Roy for isolations against players who have no chance to check him one on one.
Box Score

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