Remember when people were freaking out about the Blazers? Tonight — and the expected optimism of tomorrow — was a good example of why it’s best to remain patient with the day-to-day of the NBA.
Feels like we’ve had quite a few disclaimers, as the early season tends to provide us, in the last few games, and tonight wasn’t very different. With Kevin Love out and the Timberwolves turtle crawling their way to an understanding of the triangle offense, Minnesota doesn’t always resemble a professional basketball team. They made their shots against Boston the other night and stuck with them, but I stopped taking notes halfway through the second quarter because the Wolves had neither that certain je ne sais pas nor that “I know exactly what it is and they don’t have it.”
Playing well above their normal pace — around 25 possessions more by first-glance math — the Blazers had the rhythm of downhill skiers all night and they weren’t stopping their “SHOOP-SHOOP-SHOOPing” for anyone. Five players had at least four assists and 10 players had at least one as we saw the most consistent ball movement of the year. The Wolves are a very mediocre defensive team and couldn’t keep up with their rotations, but the best way to dominate lesser teams is to overwhelm them with talent — talent which is freed by the tempo. What you want to see now is the same fluid offense on the road against Memphis and Minny before going to New Orleans for what’s sure to be a half-court possession-fest.
Defensively there wasn’t much to talk about. Oden did well in his isolated defense with Al Jefferson (4-for-11) and the Blazers kept the Wolves below 45% shooting. When the Wolves aren’t hitting their jumpers, they don’t have anyone who will consistently test your help rotations so the Blazers get their paper handed back to them with a gold star and everyone moves on.
We’re being nice to the Wolves at this point, but at no point was this game anything resembling an NBA contest. It was more like an on-rails carnival ride and the theme was the first half of the Space Jam game when the MonSTARS are stomping the Looney Toons and MJ hasn’t given anyone his secret sauce.
Since this wasn’t a complete basketball game and it was such a team offensive effort, I’m not going to single anyone out. Everyone gets to go to Roundtable Pizza tonight and have their coach say something nice about them. We’ll go with some assorted notes.
We should all do well to remember that Greg Oden can pass the ball, especially when you find yourself thinking about Zach Randolph. This will be a bigger deal in a few years as Oden matures offensively, but expect to someday hear network broadcasters remarking on his underrated passing ability … Brandon Roy taking 6 shots is an easy explanation for the nature of tonight … Andre Miller deserves plenty of credit for orchestrating the breaks, but Steve Blake is playing very under control and it’s admirable that he’s not trying to do more than he’s capable of while his competition does the flashier stuff … 27-of-30 from the stripe and Aldridge going 9-for-9 is a story I want to hear every night before bed … There was a fairly seamless transition from starters to bench and Rudy Fernandez is a big reason for that … Let’s see what Bayless does against better competition, but I imagine he does many of the same things … Martell really wants to make those highlight reels, no?
Tonight was all good fun and exactly what you want to see out of the Blazers against a team like Minnesota. Going on the road will make things more difficult, but if the passing and pace keep up during what should be at least a three-win week, you might literally hear everything go CLICK.