Gerald Wallace scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers over the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 at the Rose Garden. All five Blazers starters in double figures with Aldridge and Matthews scoring 18 points apiece. Marcus Camby finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Raymond Felton contributed 17 points and 8 assists in the win. Portland shot 51 percent from the field and led as many as 11 points in the game. The Blazers will host the Orlando Magic on the second game of a back-to-back tomorrow night at 7:00PM.
“It was a tough game between two pretty good teams. We were more mentally ready than they were. We felt we let the game in L.A. get away, so we wanted to jump on them from the start, to take them out of their comfort zone on offense.” – Gerald Wallace
“I made good plays and bad plays, and I also hit free throws down the stretch. it happens. I’m not perfect. Try to be, but I’m not.” – Raymond Felton
Blazers vs Clippers – Extended Thoughts
Nate McMillan was one of the many people calling for a faster start to the Blazers’ game and he got it, in what ended up being perhaps the most balanced attack from the team this year. After one quarter Raymond Felton had 6 assists and Marcus Camby had 6 rebounds to go along with 6 points. Gerald Wallace also came out on fire in the first half, driven by the raucous Rose Garden crowd.
Checking our keys to the game from the Blazers vs Cavaliers Recap and Highlights rebounding was the first thing mentioned. While the Blazers did not take control of the boards as I’d hoped, they didn’t lose the battle by much of a margin. The second key was to keep turnovers at 12 or less and the Blazers ended this game with eleven. Another key and a consistent issue with the team was knocking down open shots at a rate of 47% or better. The Blazers hit on slightly over 51% of their FGs and 36% from three. Mixing in a healthy does of steals (8) and some quality defensive rotations and double-teams and the result is a Blazer win.
Still there is some room for improvement and things to think about. Firstly was the issue of Chris Paul foul trouble, this is not always going to be the case. Secondly were some untimely turnovers and missed FTs several of which came from Raymond Felton, though he did make up for them with an important steal and two resulting free throws from that forced turnover (and a clutch three). The Blazers need to play a “full 48 minute game” as we heard from coach McMillan afterwards. There were several stretches of poor and inconsistent play. If this a road game, without the RG crowd backing them, the tide could of and most likely would have completely turned when Chris Paul brought the Clips to within two points late in the game.
One final thing to watch is again the Nicolas Batum issue. Batum was aggressive, had two nice buckets and hit all five of his free-throws. Despite this, he received a paltry 16 minutes of play on a night when Jamal Crawford looked to be clearly off of his game. I understand that Nate was riding the hot hands, something he sometimes says he won’t do. However, this results in 40 minutes for Matthews and the upper 30s for all the starters. Maybe not so great considering we have Orlando tonight on the back-to-back. Still, I think the overriding thought, and rightfully so, was to get back the first loss against the Clippers.
More of this balance, all five starters in double figures and two off the bench with nine, would be nice. That kind of distribution is possible, though hard to produce consistently. Things to watch for at Orlando: Check on Marcus Camby, he was high-energy in this game can he keep it through the back-to-back? Wes, Gerald and Raymond all played near 40 minutes and worked hard on the defensive end, watch out for fatigue. Rebounding will be big; fresh legs vs tired and Dwight Howard in the middle. Look for the Blazers to try and pull Howard out from the paint whenever possible. Blazers getting out-rebounded combined with a game at 43% FG shooting or less is a recipe for disaster (on most nights, even moreso on a back-to-back).
Home court is big, particularly before a six game road-trip. Prediction: Blazers by 5 or less, hitting 8-2 before their toughest stretch of schedule yet this season, six games in nine days. This is a perfect scenario for Batum to come out and produce big. I hope this is a breakout game for him. Come out loud Rose Garden crowd, you will be the energizer for our squad tonight!