Keeping this short tonight since, well, this game was almost a carbon copy of the previous two. “Insert adjective similar to godawful” team hangs around for a little bit and then the Blazers pull away in the second half with good ball movement, an inside-out game and possession control. All good to see but very familiar. It can’t really be impressive that the Blazers are beating these teams, but on the plus side it’s not like the things Nate is trying are not working.
There’s only so many ways you can say it, but the Wolves, whether it’s due to injuries, roster construction or coaching, just are not fielding a professional level team right now. They have one player who can get in the middle (Flynn). One player who can score in the post (Jefferson). And then there’s a bunch of supposed all-around guys who really don’t do any one thing well enough to set them apart. Basically they’re the anti-Blazers.
Yes, the Blazers avoided the trappings of the back-to-back on the road, which is a mature sign from them. Yes, they are defending well even if it was like keeping a goldfish in the fishbowl. Yes, they are passing well against opponents with their difficulty set to “Rookie” mode. It’s all what you want to see from them in these sorts of games, and on the road the Blazers are playing better than they have in the past, but now we’re at the point where they need someone who can keep pace so they can truly find out where they’re at. My suspicion is that, with the Hornets looking pretty cruddy, the Hawks will be that team on Sunday, and the Blazers might not look so great. Then again, they still have that tendency to play to their opponent’s level, but as they grow older they are doing it for quarters or halves and not for entire games.
There was plenty to like individually . . . Blake threw some of the best, longest and most on-target lobs we’ve ever seen from him, which would be a major step forward but again nobody was really hindering those passes . . . Rudy woke up and had a very complete game, the type of game that gives him the right to want more playing time . . . Equally good to see Martell find his stroke . . . The Wolves dared Andre Miller to shoot the three, and he is, but I’d like to see what I recommended he do a couple months ago, step in for a shorter jumper or use the huge amount of space to gather speed and get into the lane to create, even if they are zone packing it in . . . Roy and Aldridge didn’t have to do too much, which is great . . . I can’t really tell if Bayless is earning himself any minutes once this Blake/Miller lineup stops and before Blake (possibly) gets traded . . . For some reason Ryan Gomes had a raw +12 tonight when the rest of his team was in the cellar.
Greg Oden Update: I gave Oden’s minutes a moves a quick second watch this morning and I can say that this game is up there with the most involved Oden has been with the rest of the team offense. Mike and Mike said it during there broadcast that guys, all the starters, were looking for Greg underneath the basket, when earlier in the season they were missing him when he had his best position. The dunks were powerful and we even saw Oden pull out the rare one-handed dunk, which might have something to do with confidence but let’s not read too much into it. His moves, as they’ve been all week, were patient and deliberate — he’s had few wasted dribbles or steps. Better yet, even though they accounted for his two misses, Oden is making quick decisions when receiving the ball in the paint but too far to dunk. He’s spinning over both shoulders — something we NEVER saw last year — and just dropping the ball in. There are more clever defenders waiting for him, but just like the rest of the team, being able to dominate lesser talent, and make it look somewhat easy, is a gigantic mark of growth.
Another Roundtable Pizza night for everyone. Super duper. It’s great watching them beat up on the dregs, but it does get old after awhile, no? The next few opponents are much deadlier, so if the defense and passing keeps up through the road trip then we’ll really have something to talk about.