The Blazers marched towards their fifth win last night, besting the Pistons 109-103 at home. The win was the Blazers’ third in a row, and leaves them in 4th place in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 25 points, while Brandon Jennings had 28 for the Pistons. Here are three key takeaways from the game:
Robin Lopez is Showing His Value:
I will fully admit I was in the camp that was unimpressed by the Blazers signing Lopez this offseason, but instead it seems as if every game I am happier and happier that he is on the team. I love his hustle. I love how he fights for the rebounds. I love how he plays like he cares, which is a blessing to have in a seven-footer.
With all four other starters capable of pouring in 15+ points on any given night, Lopez doesn’t even have to focus that much on scoring. With that being said, he still chipped in a tidy 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting, against the vaunted Pistons frontcourt to boot. This included seven during the fourth quarter, in addition to an assist.
He is by no stretch a great pick and roll defender, but as I have said before, I would hope that this improves as he becomes more accustomed to Terry Stotts’ system. Despite his shortcomings, shooting in the paint against a seven-footer will always be harder than shooting in the paint without a seven-footer.
Mo Williams is Mo Williams:
Mo Williams started the game shooting 7-7, ultimately finishing 7-9 and racking up 17 points. For all of the “this is the Mo Williams the Blazers meant to sign” comments that will inevitably occur, I simply chalk it up to a streaky shooter having a hot night. Five turnovers 32 minutes was also a killer.
I will grudgingly admit, however, that his presence on the roster allows Damian Lillard to get more rest. This is essential for season-long success, and something I am happy to see. Other than that, I’m not sold on the Williams experiment. I can certainly appreciate the great shooting night, but all too often his decision making seems horrendously suspect. Stotts can certainly help by finding the right schemes to play to Williams’ strengths, but Williams needs to prove that he can be trusted.
Rebounding Becoming a Strength:
During the offseason, there was a lot of lip service paid to the Blazers’ improved rebounding. Every team likes to talk up improvements, but so far it looks as if the Blazers meant business. Against an absolutely monster lineup featuring Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond, the Blazers still won the rebounding battle 44-42.
In fact, the Blazers have lost the rebounding battle only twice this season, to the Suns and the Rockets. If you are keeping track, those are, yes, the Blazers’ only two losses. While there is certainly no direct correlation, at a minimum, it shows that rebounds help.
Toward the beginning of the game, Mike and Mike made a comment about how the Blazers’ rebounding success was due to the team actually making a concerted effort – e.g. positioning, boxing out, etc. I started watching for this more closely, and to my minor surprise, Mike and Mike proved correct. The Blazers were really taking care of the little things needed to rebound successfully, which really comes down to being mentally aware. Much of the NBA comes down to these minor technical skills, and rebounding is no different. As of now, the Blazers are taking full advantage.