Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trail Blazers at TimberWolves: Game 9

As Portland just got done playing the Wolves 3 days ago, the blueprint to get the job done against this team should be fresh on their minds: attack the rim, get easy points on the break, and limit Al Jefferson. Portland usually fares well against the Wolves anyway, but with Big Al Jeff coming off of a torn ACL last season and Kevin Love still hampered by his hand injury, the Trail Blazers lucked out by playing Minnesota 3 times before the calendar turned to December. Obviously, there are no such things as "sure wins", just ask Joel Przybilla, but if the Blazers can find a way to keep their focus on a one game at a time approach and generate their own energy in an otherwise church-like arena in terms of noise, they will succeed in starting off their road-trip with two straight wins.
The main key to victory tonight is to absolutely feed whomever the Wolves put Oleksiy Pecherov and Sasha Pavlovic on to defend the Blazers and exploit that match-up to the fullest extent. After watching the game on Sunday, these two make Sergio Rodriguez look like Gary Payton out there defensively. Outside of Corey Brewer, where is the defense going to come from, from Minnesota? As devastating as Big Al can be on offense when he is rolling, the comparisons to Zach Randolph have always been there, because of his lack of quality defense. The Wolves rank 25th in the NBA in opposition scoring by giving up 106 ppg on a nightly basis. If that wasn't brutal enough, they are also in the bottom 10 in opposing field goal percentage by allowing teams to shoot at a 47% clip.
Any win in the NBA is hard to come by, especially those on the road because anything can happen on a given night, but I would really like to see Portland erase all doubt as to who is the premier team on the floor tonight and do it quickly. As this is the first road trip of the season, the travel time will take its toll on the players, so the less playing time our starters can get, while winning games, is imperative to keeping our players fresh for the tail end of trips and frankly, throughout the season. Honestly, its not all about fresh legs though. Truly great teams will go for the jugular early and never let up off of the gas pedal. They have a killer instinct and don't toy around with inferior opponents, giving them hope and confidence that they can indeed play on the same floor as you. Once again though, this game will be tight at the half, but I believe Greg and Brandon will lead a tough Blazers charge in the 3rd period to ice the game.
Game 9 Prediction: Trail Blazers 104 TimberWolves 90
Post-Game Thoughts
Where to even begin? First and foremost, Greg Oden is a man-child. 18 points, 11 rebounds, 8-10 from the field, zero fouls, and this was all accomplished in only23 minutes due to the nature of the blowout. If the game warranted him needing to be out there, this could have easily been a 30-20 game for G.O. Not to take anything away from Mr. Oden, but how nice is it to have Andre running the show? This is no slight on Blake, but the team is just running so smoothly and efficiently with Dre calling the shots. 10 assists to only2 turnovers and it really seems like Roy and others are starting to get the feel for Andre's style of play and it is showing with all of these amazing lob passes.
Even though it was against the lowly Wolves, we all saw tonight how lethal this team can be when clicking. Portland only shot 10-25 from distance, but many of those looks came off of multiple passes and were wide open shots that are going to go in more times than not. The ball movement was sensational and it is such a joy to watch so many talented scorers play unselfishly for the greater good of the team and Coach Nate and KP need to be given a ton of credit for assembling this roster and managing them as well.
Flying in under the radar behind Greg's breakthrough season so far and the impact of starting Andre Miller has been the play of Rudy Fernandez these past few games. He looks much more confident and comfortable out there. Not only is it nice to see his jumper come back to form, but he leads the league in steals off of the bench and he has just been mixing it up down low much more. I have noticed a lot more effort on the defensive glass and these aren't rebounds simply landing in his lap, he is outworking bigger players for them.
Finally, the Trail Blazers are looking like an elite team once again. (I know, the Wolves) Whatever, great teams put away the patsy's of the league and do it in convincing fashion. I'm not ready to crown the Blazers 2nd in line, in the West, behind the Lakers just yet, as that will have to be proven with more road wins, in particular the next 3 against teams that could go either way, but these last four games have been a comforting sign after that rocky start. We will see on Friday just how far this team has come.
Box Score

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