Friday, November 20, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. TimberWolves: Game 15

We've been here before. Portland is now playing the Wolves for the 3rd time in less than 3 weeks, with both meetings ending in 23 point blowouts for the Trail Blazers. There is no use rattling off statistics or analyzing potential matchups, because this game comes down to one thing and one thing only, heart. Golden State was severely undermanned last night, but they had the heart of a champion and simply wanted it more. The schedule makers have yet again offered up the Blazers another cupcake early on this year and it is up to our boys to go out and earn this win. Noting in the NBA is given and I want to see some fight in this team.
The Blazers will come away 10-5 after this game if they do these 3 simple things. First and foremost, take care of the ball! Turnovers take away chances to score and lead to easy fast break buckets for the opposition. When you are playing against teams that have a tough time scoring, the last thing you want to do is hand them points on a silver platter. Secondly, win the Hustle Board and do it convincingly. From attending nearly every single home game since the 07-08 season, I would guesstimate that Portland wins 75% of the games where they are the Hustle Board leaders. Greg and Joel need to man the paint, Rudy play the passing lanes, and we need a big rebounding night from Aldridge. Finally, attack the hoop. Quit bailing out the defenses with a plethora of 3 point shots, especially early in the shot clock. As we see night in and night out, officials give the benefit to the aggressors.
After such a bad loss, the Blazers need to toss the playbook out the door and just go out with there with some passion and energy and just have fun. I truly believe we aren't having fun out there and all of the aforementioned keys to the game will not happen if you aren't enjoying yourself out on the court.
Game 15 Prediction: Trail Blazers 106 TimberWolves 87
Post-Game Thoughts
Welcome back Martell! Webster bounced back from probably the worst funk he has been in since his rookie year to post his first career double double, scoring 21 points, on 4-7 from downtown, and pulling down an impressive 13 rebounds. It has become very clear that it all comes down to the mental aspect of Webster's game as to whether he will be in the NBA in 3 years or bouncing around Europe. When he just catches and shoots the ball with confidence, the shot drops in more times than not. It was a close game before Marty decided to take over. We all thought the Warriors loss was hideous, but losing to a team you have already waxed by a combined 56 points this year could have sent the Blazers into free fall. Game ball easily goes to Mr. Webster. Hopefully, he takes this momentum with him the rest of the season, because the one thing the team has lacked since Scottie was in town is a consistent scorer from the 3 position.
Its becoming just another day at the office for G.O., 16 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks and more importantly, only 2 fouls. What I liked most about the game, outside of Webster coming back to form, was Brandon Roy actually looking for Greg off of dribble penetration. It was probably just a coincidence, but it always seemed like Roy never got the ball to Oden for some reason. Greg comes out and production is going to drop off from the center spot, right? Not even close. The Thrilla has been amazing since an early season slump. In just 20 minutes of action, Joel gets an impressive 14 points, hauls in the typical 11 rebounds, and finds the time to swat another 2 shots. There is no better center tandem in the league, bar none. If Portland can get consistent shooting from Blake and Webster, the sky's the limit.
The big storyline pre-game was the change to the starting lineup, which took out Andre Miller and put in Martell Webster. I would have preferred Andre stay and Blake lead the white unit, but that's another story for another day. Obviously, I love the starting lineup change, because Roy is not a small forward, not particularly effective against the bigger forwards, and not happy being taken out of his natural position. I just hope there aren't a whole lot more starting lineup changes as I think the one thing holding this team back is rhythm.
Finally, speaking of rhythm, it never seems like all of the guys can get on the same page. Tonight, Roy, Oden, and Webster were playing sensational ball, but Aldridge got into early foul trouble again and was a non-factor. If the Blazers could only get all of these guys rolling together, they can truly take the proverbial "next step".
Box Score

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