I’m going to try and keep my post game reaction short tonight. There really isn’t a whole lot to take away from Wednesday’s win in Sacramento. I could chastise the Blazers for playing down to an inferior opponent, which they did. Or I could congratulate Portland for absorbing yet another tremendous blow handed down by the the fates of basketball and gutting out an important win, which they also did. I feel like those two modes have been all but done to death. Instead, here’s what I’ll do, I’ll look at what happened in Wednesday’s game, and try to give an assessment of what it all means going forward now that the Blazers are going to be missing yet another major component.
Let’s start with LaMarcus Aldridge. Losing Marcus Camby takes away the every present and dangerous high-low combination, and Wednesday night LA was having to work hard to get his shots, harder than he has to work when he’s got a seven-footer lobbing him passes at the rim. LaMarcus was hounded all night by the ageless Samuel Dalembert, but did manage to net an impressive 23 points. What LA seems to know, and what is becoming more and more obvious, is that he is going to be the only consistent option on offense. That means he’s going to have to keep working, regardless of whether his shots are falling or not. Wednesday, for the most part, his jump hook across the center of the lane left him. He kept at it though, and scored some very important buckets down the stretch. One thing LA needs to work on going forward is identifying who is guarding him, and switching up accordingly. Against the T-Wolves there wasn’t a guy on the opposing team that could guard LA in the post, and he killed them for it. Wednesday, Sacramento’s bigs were not leaving the paint on defense. A few more jumpers from LaMarcus would have opened up the lane nicely.
Moving on. Nicolas Batum had a great night. Portland could really use Nic to start rolling on offense. He looked great coming around picks and slashing to the hoop. If Nic can get his consistency up from the three-point line he might be the best bet for a second offensive option. Camby going down has an impact on Nic too, leaving him as the only real shot blocker the Blazers have. Nicolas and all of the Blazers need to work on their help defense. It didn’t happen often, but there were a few times when a player would come to help, leaving their man uncovered, and it ended up in an easy hoop. If an inexperienced team like the Kings can make that extra pass and get those easy buckets, imagine what a good team could do. Back to Nicolas. He finished with a team-high 24 points, which was also a season high, and provided a ton of energy and a pivotal rebound in the overtime period.
Another Blazer that looked good on Wednesday, and one that will continue to be a HUGE part of the offense, was Andre Miller. Dre is now the only elder statesman on the court for Portland, and his leadership skills are needed more than ever. Wednesday Andre led by example, providing huge buckets and a calming effect every time the Blazers need one or both of those things. The key to victory Wednesday was playing within an offensive set when the Kings were hellbent on turning the game into a free-for-all. Andre is as cool as they come, and Portland will continue to need that calming reserve as more and more teams try to break them from their rhythm.
Rudy Fernandez was key yet again, providing energy off the bench. Rudy ran himself ragged at the end of the game, and his effort yielded at least one game-saver. Portland needs Rudy now more than ever, good thing he’s till around.
Ok, I’ve covered the basic positive aspects of Portland’s performance Wednesday night. Now on to the few things that didn’t work so well. Wesley Matthews, Dante Cunningham, and Patty Mills didn’t contribute. I know it seems odd to say that three guys not contributing could be the difference between a win and a loss, but at this moment, three guys falling flat is more than Portland can afford. DC starting attacking early but then stopped, Wesley Matthews was ice cold, and Patty Mills didn’t really play enough minutes to be effective. Wesley contributed on defense, and brought energy in the overtime period, but he needs to really try and limit his off-nights on offense. DC and Patty need to work on being consistent. For every Blazer, even Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson, this is a time to show what they’re made of. There are going to be plenty of minutes to go around, and Portland can not afford to have guys out on the court that aren’t contributing.
Taking a look now at Portland’s depleted roster and the box score from Wednesday night, it’s hard to feel anything but relief that the Blazers leave Sacramento with a win. Losing Marcus Camby doesn’t mean the season’s over, just like losing all those other guys over the last two seasons didn’t either. Portland is now super thin at the middle, as they have been all year, and is without one of their most valuable and vocal leaders. The Blazers will go on, and if that means the second half of the season is full of gut-wrenching overtime victories, and wire-to-wire slug fests, then so be it.
Portland returns to the Rose Garden to take on the LA Clippers Thursday night. Love vs. Aldridge wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Aldridge vs. Griffin likely will be.
One quick though before wrapping it all up:
- Joel Przybilla will be the immediate beneficiary of Marcus Camby’s newly vacated minutes. Joel is on the comeback, and being on the court will likely speed up the recovery process. Pregame the talk was that Joel could expect to see the court for in the neighborhood of 20 minutes. He nearly hit the 30-minute mark. Joel collected 11 rebounds and didn’t score a point. Considering what he’s been through, his performance was pretty excellent Wednesday night. Joel’s offense is atrocious, but with more reps he’ll likely begin to fell more comfortable with the ball in his hands. One thing that everybody saw Joel do, that won’t make a stat sheet anywhere, was completely take DeMarcus Cousins out of the game. Cousins started yapping at Joel in the second half, and Joel got in his head, ending any effectiveness the rookie may have had. Cousins, who is volatile and a bit of a wild card, finished with five points, and was on the bench at the end of regulation and into overtime.