It’s going to be easy to over value Portland’s gritty and gusty win against the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night. There are still a lot of obvious problems with this team, there’s still nobody to rely on to run the offense with LaMarcus Aldridge on the shelf, there are still major holes in the defense. But, if you look at the season as a whole, every game up to and including this one, Wednesday’s might just be the biggest win of the season.
Like I said, it’s going to be easy to over value this one. But think about it. If Golden State gets a good look at the buzzer for a tie and wins it in overtime, or hits a game winning three as time expires and Portland falls to 1-10 in games decided by five points or fewer, what are we talking about right now? Who is going to be the Blazers’ coach after the All-Star Break. Do we clean house and start over or trade a bunch of guys to borrow a point guard for a chance to get bounced in the first round of the Playoffs. Should we rest LaMarcus Aldridge for the rest of the season since this one is clearly over and done with. And that’s why beating Golden State was huge.
Portland didn’t play a perfect game, far from it, but they did what they needed to do to win, and that’s huge too because at this point they’ve haven’t done that very many times. A commonality of the Blazers’ recent losses has been getting a late lead but being unable to hold it. Portland reversed that trend too in Oakland. The Blazers grabbed a 91-90 lead with a minute and two seconds left in the fourth after surrendering it only a few minutes earlier. Jamal Crawford got the go-ahead bucket with a three over his 206 brethren Nate Robinson.
The best part of Crawford getting the bucket to take the lead and then the two free throws to seal the deal is that he’s been playing less than awesome since going for 31 against the Hornets in NOLA. The best best part is that his three with a minute to go was that it was his first three ball of the evening. Crawford couldn’t hit anything from the floor, but I’d rather have him miss shots in the key or attacking the rim than chucking long balls.
Speaking of long balls, Gerald Wallace had one of those nights when he hits threes. Four of the actually. Four threes on four attempts. Not bad. Probably not great either, since that means next time out he’s not going to be able to repeat it and he might try, but once again it was what the Blazers needed to win. And I’ll take the win.
LaMarcus Aldridge was absent Wednesday night, and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll miss Thursday night too. Portland will have the benefit of the crowd when the face the Clippers, but they still are going to have to find a way to get offense without their main guy. Wednesday they spread it around, five guys got into double digits in scoring and Wesley Matthews had nine, but a couple of Blazers couldn’t find their way at all. Matthews hit his first four shots then missed the rest, finishing 4-of-12 and 1-of-6 from three. A couple of his looks in the fourth quarter weren’t even close. He needs to keep firing when he gets open shots because eventually the pendulum will swing the other way and he won’t want to miss it. That being said, Wednesday night he didn’t look confident at all in his shooting. Raymond Felton continued to struggle (4-of-15 from the field 2-of-5 from deep), and Nicolas Batum couldn’t follow up his big night against the Wizards (7-of-13 from the field 2-of-5 from deep), and apart from a big three Crawford wasn’t great either.
Those are the problems that need to be addressed. Less jump shooting, more attacking the basket. In part because more drives to the hoop means more free throws. Portland hit 15-of-17 from the free throw line. If they can get there more often, they can take advantage of the fact that they very rarely miss.
So the Blazers have things to address, clearly, but now they also have that win under their belt that says they can play good enough without LaMarcus to get a victory. They also have that win that says they don’t always have to lose close games. They also have that win that says they can win on the road in a hostile environment. That’s three things from one win. Once again, big win.
Couple of quick things:
- Last time Portland lost in Oakland Stephen Curry went off for 32, winning the game practically on his own. Wednesday Steph had eight; 3-of-10 from field 0-of-2 from three. Not sure how much of it was defense from Portland, but like every thing that happened Wednesday night Portland should take it and not ask questions.
- Nate Robinson did his best Jeremy Lin impression, although he did have a big turnover on the game’s final possession. Nate finished with 21 points, making eight of his 15 shot attempts. Watching Nate in the final minutes of this game I was reminded of the night he went off in Portland with the Knicks in 2008-09. That night Nate went off, gave NYC a big lead, then couldn’t stop shooting, and sunk the Knicks in the fourth quarter. That game was won by Brandon Roy. This game was won by another Seattleite. Coincidence? Yes.
- The Blazers really have to work on scoring at the rim. Portland missed a ton of layups that could have made this game a little less tense at the end.
- Minutes Watch: 2:30 for Chris Johnson (first guy off the bench!) and 8:07 for Elliot Williams. Neither did anything, but it did make it look like Portland gave up on this right away. Nice to be proven wrong.
- Standings Watch: Every game changes the standings. But not this one. Portland came into this one in the eight spot (dropped to nine midway through) won and finished at eight. There’s work to be done still.
Email: mike.[email protected]