If asked to sum up the first “real” game of the Blazers 2010-11 season in one sentence, I would submit this: The Clippers did themselves a favor by not showing up. LA was down from before the tip, playing without their leader Baron Davis and arguably their best player in Eric Gordon. For Portland, Tuesday’s game was more a chance to get a look at players in real time, in situations that sort of resemble game speed and game play. Sort of resembles game play in the sense that it is preseason, and no matter how many wins Portland gets the record resets to zero before the end of October.
Portland looked smooth early, moving the ball around and finding open shooters, although it was in the first quarter that the game was the closest. LA’s largest lead of the night came on a 17-footer from Clippers center Chris Kaman, putting the visiting team on top 10-7. From there it was basically all Portland, finishing the first quarter up 11, the first half up 28, the third quarter up 31, before sliding just slightly in the closing period to achieve a 29 point victory. Tuesday’s final: 115-86, on to the next game.
There were many things taking center stage Tuesday night, and if one theme could be singled out as the main story line it would be lineups . Nate McMillan showcased a variety of different five-man sets throughout the course of the game. My favorite back court of the evening featured Wesley Matthews running the point guard, Brandon Roy at the two spot, and Nicolas Batum playing the three. Rudy Fernandez was featured in a similar back-court lineup along with Jerryd Bayless. Lots of combos, lots of offense. McMillan had this to say about those guys and the seemingly unlimited back-court options at his disposal
"We can take advantage of the fact that all of those guys can handle (the ball), and all of them can score. These guys are interchangeable. This is an opportunity to look at some different things we want to try to run with those groups."
Many talented guards only makes Portland that much more dangerous.
Some thoughts on the game as a whole and individual players
- Brandon started out the 0-of-5 from the field but connected on 4-of-6 in the third quarter and finished with 12 points. I guess it’s not just the rookies with first game jitters.
- Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are in a dead heat for both fan favorite and second best guard. Batum finished with 10 points after hitting his first two three-point attempts. Matthews led all scorers with 20 points, and was basically automatic for stretches of the game from all over the court.
- Rudy Fernandez played like a man that loves his home, and his home is Portland. Rudy was greeted with a loud ovation when he stepped on the court, and treated the fans to 5-of-6 from deep, finishing with 15 points.
- Speaking of the deep ball, Portland’s going to stretch out some defenses this season. As a team the Blazers shot 16-of-27 from three. Brandon had two, Bayless and Matthews each had three, Rudy knocked down five, and rookie Luke Babbit shook his gun-shyness and hit one for himself.
- As for the rookies, both teams had plenty, and their talents and preparedness for the big stage ran the entire spectrum. For LA: Blake Griffin is a beast, full on one of the best athletes I’ve seen. He started and played 22 minutes, finishing with 9 points and 7 rebounds. Not outstanding numbers but they’ll get better. Al-Farouq Aminu, on the other hand has a ways to go. His stat line in his first NBA action: 17:47 minutes played, 0-of-3 from the field, 0-of-2 from three, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 personal fouls, 1 point. For the Blazers: Armon Johnson looked strong in his 11 minutes, and could give Bayless night terrors over his status as the back-up point guard. Elliott Williams played only six minutes, didn’t score but managed two field goal attempts, one foul, and one turnover. Babbit hit the aforementioned three, and didn’t draw iron on more than one of his other 5 field goal attempts. These guys too have a long way to go. Look for Johnson to lead the pack, and for the learning curve to be steep.
- Final note on the rookies, the evening’s final 10 featured 6 rookies, something that won’t probably be repeated again once the preseason ends.
My big highlights from Tuesday night’s game: Nicolas Batum’s steal turned into a breakaway slam from practically the free throw line-look for it on this season’s Opening Day highlights package that’s a freaking guarantee-and Rudy’s three at the end of the third period from practically out of bounds.
One last thing about Rudy Fernandez. If this quote from Nate doesn’t put the whole thing to bed, then I don’t know what will.
"I will coach what I see, and what I’ve been seeing from Rudy is what we saw tonight. He’s playing the game when he’s on the floor, as long as he continues to play the game hard we are going to try and take advantage of him. Tonight he shot the ball well"
I figured out how to shoot video in a way where there would actually be audio, so check out this video of Brandon Roy addressing the media following Tuesday’s big win.
Check out Fully Clips for their recap from the other side of Tuesday’s game.