Blazers 102, Magic 87 Re-Thoughts

Adding another improbable win to a long list of improbable wins, this was an evisceration of the Orlando Magic. Perhaps it’s time, with all this injured list success, that we really shouldn’t be so surprised by Portland winning at home, but I’m not ready to go there yet. Not after beating a Magic team that arguably matches up better with the Blazers than any team they’ve beaten — considering L.A. didn’t have Pau — and not only winning, but owning the game the whole night through with Mr. Roy.

Everyone deserves credit, for making shots, for impacting the games in other ways than scoring, for passing, for being smart, for taking care of the ball. But nobody deserves so much credit as the Magic, who were almost universally awful. The Blazers caught them at the perfect time of year, January, when most contenders are plodding a bit to the All-Star break, and the Magic didn’t do themselves any favors to make up for their general lethargy.

At first glance, seven shot attempts for Dwight Howard can be explained by his 10 free-throws, of which he made three. The Blazers wisely fouled him any time Howard and the ball and the hoop came within four feet of one another. But beyond that, it was unfathomable when watching the game live how little the Magic did to get Dwight the ball with only Juwan Howard between him and buckets. No cross screens to free him up, no ball movement, hardly any honest pick-and-rolls to get him in motion. It was either posting Howard 15-feet from the basket, or he was on an island with four shooters surrounding him, failing to draw Portland’s defenders out of the paint.

Orlando did have some good stretches looking for Dwight and creating open looks, notably at the beginning of the second half, but they could not sustain their own interest in playing good basketball. Didn’t help that even when they did get those open looks they were just off — they are better than a 7-for-30 team from deep no matter how stagnant their offense is — but five of their threes were assisted and only 17 buckets assisted overall. When your best isolation player is as effective as a compost pile sitting in a pool of salt water, that amount of ball movement — granted, they made good initial reads but had few three-pass plays — will sink you every time.

So thank Vince Carter for game-time deciding to play and hitting just one of seven putrid shots. Thank the NBA schedulers for landing a very good tean in Portland in the mucky muck of the season, and then drape as much admiration as you can muster over your Blazers.

Twitter Thoughts

@supersetgreg: orlando sucks. we sucked slightly less tonight.

: whatever pre-game routine LMA did today, let’s have him do that EVERY game day. loved the hustle from him & Marty+Blakey=WIN.

@shighkin: not a lot to say. The amount of heart these guys are showing is unbelievable.

@RockyG: NBA tv said this was rock bottom for orlando. They have to give the blazers some credit.

@travismargoni: just: wow. so many scorers on this team, so much hustle.

Individual Thoughts

This was one of those games when Martell Webster was so smooth and so accurate that you’re thinking, “Hey, when did Glen Rice circa 1999 get on this team?”. 24 points on 14 shots, nine boards, no turnovers and no hesitation on the jumper. A couple of weeks ago I was doing a major reconstruction of my expectations for Martell, now he’s sucked me back in.

LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the players making an impact all over the court despite a smaller offering on offense, scoring 14 points on 17 shots. He was a willing and effective passer once again and had a great first half of rebounding (11) which petered off after the break (14 boards in total). The ankle may not be 100 percent, we can’t know for sure, but he’s keeping mistakes to a minimum and turning his big cog in the system well enough, especially since the Magic used Roy’s absence to throw a lot of bodies around Aldridge near the blocks.

Juwan Howard gets a gold star and five more minutes of recess for not getting destroyed by Dwight like I thought he would. Vet tricks abound, including a couple attempts at pulling the chair, and solid decision making with the ball, Juwan played within himself and met the challenge. Not a glamorous night, but he wasn’t exactly making it incredibly obvious to the Magic that they should get their heads out of their you-know-what’s and utilize their assets.

Andre Miller had a team-high raw +26 on court and basically played the guardian angle role to perfection.

Four threes for Steve Blake, who probably shouldn’t shave that beard anytime soon. He was so money that for the first time this season, whenever he lined up to shoot I wasn’t rolling my eyes in the slightest. There was more, “OK, Blake, I see you, Blake,” tonight than in any other game this season. As for tough talking Howard, well, whatever works, just don’t try that against Boston.

Jerryd Bayless got into early foul trouble and was all kinds of blah after that. I brought this up before, but the refs have been a little generous to him these past couple weeks and sometimes it looks like he’s just diving willy nilly at the hoop expecting to get to the line. Check the totem pole, Jerryd. Dwight seemed to deter him from the paint after Bayless sent in some early feelers and once the long two becomes his primary option, his night is either going to plateau or plummet.

Might not be fair to lump Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham together, but they had nearly identical nights, forgoing box-score impact for hustle-type buzzwords. Some of the lineups Nate is throwing out there put both of them in uncomfortable positions, but zero combined turnovers tells you that there’s no panic.

Rudy made two threes and even a floater, but for reasons I cannot pinpoint he was -13. Not going to analyze him any more than that, it’s just good to have him relatively back.

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Tags: Andre Miller Blazers Brandon Roy Dwight Howard ESPN LaMarcus Aldridge Magic Martell Webster Recap Steve Blake

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