Not sure how much the Blazers actually won this one as much as the Thunder just handed over the win and said, “Here, we really don’t deserve this.” We think the Blazers have defensive issues, but at times OKC players didn’t even seem to know where the ball was much less their own men. Portland wasn’t much better, but at least the radar was working.
As opposed to the prior two contests when Denver and Houston exposed certain weaknesses in Portland’s game for us to look at, there really wasn’t much to learn from how OKC played. They were either going to ride a hot hand to a win or just kind of hang around until Portland got its act together. And with Russell Westbrook’s 9 (!) turnovers offsetting his 23-point, 8-of-12 performance, the Thunder just didn’t have the horses.
Have I mentioned yet that Kevin Durant went 3-for-21? That’s not happening much more.
On the bright side Portland’s help defense was improved from the earlier games. Durant took a number of sweeping drives towards the right baseline and was met with a defender, forcing him into a pullup rather than a dunk (like Melo was getting before) or a trip to the freebie line (also like Melo). At times they overhelped on Jeff Green, but overall the team defense simply existed more than it had this season. Keep on climbing that mountain.
Greg Oden had a good game and probably deserved to be out there for more than 28 minutes. He’s still trying to block everything in sight and is making a nightly occurrence out of, “Oh, shoot, there’s a dunk, oh wait how the heck did Greg get there?” He was patient and efficient on offense and even displayed a nice counter to his current go-to move the “Quick Baseline Spin.” Sure, the counter was another spin to the paint, but he scored on it and looked good doing it. He also motored in the second quarter for an alley-oop attempt, and though the Blazers are still missing him inside, that might partially be because I’ve been very focused on Greg’s off-ball movement and am just noticing it much more.
Brandon Roy had a tough shooting night (5-of-17) but was in all the right spots offensively. His presence on the floor had as much to do with Portland winning as anything he did with the ball, that’s because…
Steve Blake probably saved the day with 18 points and four triples, including the game-clincher in the final minutes. Westbrook was sagging off mostly because he has the speed to close very quickly, but I have no idea what Kevin Ollie was doing at times letting Blake sit and shoot.
LaMarcus Aldridge looked very good early on before banging knees and being replaced by Juwan Howard for the remainder. He had five boards and a block in his 11 minutes, but more impressively had three pinpoint assists. We haven’t dug into this much yet, but this season and the next are going to be key in LaMarcus’ development as a passer and playmaker out of the pinch and high post. Once that comes, the two-man game between him and Greg could really blossom.
There wasn’t really a matchup Andre Miller could expose with Westbrook on the floor, but I’m still not sure he’s comfortable coming off the bench. Some guys just have trouble physically adjusting their trained bodies to doing something different, but lets give it another week or so before we even begin passing judgment on the Miller/Blake situation.
Travis Outlaw faded in and out of effectiveness and there’s nothing else to say. Right now he’s not doing much to change the game other than score.
Martell Webster played the second most minutes of any Blazer, guarding Durant for the majority of them. He did OK, but the best sign is that through four games he has remained aggressive on offense despite the tough defensive assignments. We need more, still, but the best way to put pressure on the man you’re guarding is to make him guard you.
Not much doing for Przybilla or Howard other than some solid help defense. As for Rudy, I’d like to start seeing him get to the rim a little more. When he’s taking guys 1-on-1 he always looks like he’s setting up a step-back jumper or, when he does get by his man, a lob to a big.
There will be many more games like this, but as long as the Blazers are winning them it doesn’t matter what insights we get or what we learn about the team. You take wins however you can on the road.