Everybody needed the morsel of fresh air this game offered, and despite a moment or two of doubt late in the game, all things involved with the 33-point lead combined to create a brief on-court paradise relative to the last month of Blazerdom.
Yes, the Blazers took their foot off the gas late in the fourth quarter and allowed Milwaukee to get within 11, but was that really that much of a surprise to anyone? That sort of thing happens in nearly every NBA game, and it’s not as though the Blazers roster is defensively constructed to hold leads for entire halves. It was a little better than a fool’s gold run from the Bucks, but it still belonged in a fool’s purse. Call it fool’s platinum.
The lead was built on that defense, which gave up 16 first-quarter points and limited the touches Andrew Bogut was getting in the paint. Ersan Ilyasova isn’t one to make a team pay for doubling up Bogut with efficient shots, and though he finished with 24 points, he scored exactly one basket at the rim. When Bogut only gets eight looks at the rim, the Blazers can live with that. I’d like to say the Bucks were forced into bad shots, but their offense looked OK in the first quarter. Portland just collected some timely turnovers and ran with it, aided by Brandon Jennings’ being thrown off his game — or just playing a sloppy version of his game — by Andre Miller taking him into the post and old-man’ing him.
The offense was all checkmarks. Less than 20 attempts from 16-23 feet. At least 20 shots at the rim. 42 points in the paint. At least 40 percent shooting from downtown. And every player that was on court for at least 18 minutes contributed at least a point per possession used. On a typical night, one or two Blazers might achieve that mark. Tonight, almost every single player. Good stuff.
The Bucks didn’t have much of an answer for team ball. Mbah a Moute never had great position to guard Brandon Roy because the Blazers never let him by moving the ball and moving Roy. Ilyasova was fundamentally decent guarding Aldridge, but LaMarcus had his mojo working so it didn’t matter. The Bucks are 5th in defensive efficiency but allowed 127 points per 100 possessions, which relative to the rest of the league would be, the worst. A great offensive night for Portland without them doing anything they don’t normally do, and without Milwaukee’s two best player doing much on offense, like going to the grocery store, buying all your usual items and somehow saving 20 dollars more than the norm because you hit sales on the big ticket items.
@hurrakane212: Great win, though it’s disheartening to keep losing leads like this.
@blazeoflove: Aldridge had his classic “pretty” game, but the 1 free throw attempt is further proof of his one-sided game.
@theblazerguy: Amazing how reassuring it was when Miller re-entered the game. He’s been solid lately.
Brandon Roy really, really needed a night to just chill, do his thing and go home. How do I know? I don’t, but nobody gets through a season unscathed doing as much as he’s been doing. Of course, he managed less than 30 minutes and still had to go to the locker room for hamstring treatment, but it sounds like it’s nothing horrific. And he still scored 22 points on 10 (!) shots. Efficiency, you have pleased SJ.
Aldridge looked more himself than he has since returning from the ankle injury, which is nothing but a good thing. He didn’t mix things up a whole bunch in the paint, but the shot was falling in all forms — enough to work the offense through him — he was active on defense and dished a season-high six assists. Some of the high-low passes to Juwan Howard gave me, and I’m sure plenty of other folks, flashbacks (forwards?) to Oden days.
Juwan Howard made it tough on the bigger body of Andrew Bogut and made his shots. Surely he will sleep soundly in his hyperbaric chamber tonight.
Andre Miller was the biggest influence on things not getting out of hand in the fourth quarter, settling the offense and getting to the line a few times to slow things down. That long two he hit when the Bucks were within 13 might have been the shot of the game, but the oop to Aldridge was just as big.
Four assists and no turnovers for Steve Blake, who had his best game since pneumonia. He even ran a nice fast break in the first half to get Jeff Pendergraph a layup. Kudos.
Pendergraph was a defensive standout, blocking a pair of shots while keeping the Bucks from consistently getting anywhere they wanted inside. Not a box-score kind of night, but a good one if anyone in the world had the means of correctly calculating defensive production.
Jerryd Bayless got bailed out shooting a couple bad jumpers and mostly didn’t look as aggressive as we’re used to seeing from him. It was a little odd that he got just 18 minutes and played so little in the second half, but Steve Blake was the better player this evening. There, I said it. I’m so edgy. I should be on talk radio.
Rudy Fernandez looked spry and fleet footed for most of his 15 minutes, but it was clear that 15 minutes was enough. It will likely take him some time to get his body groovin’, but he mostly looked like himself.