If you’ll remember from the Blazers vs Clippers Highlights and Recap there were a few key issues I talked about that, if reversed, would give the Blazers a chance to win @ OKC. Some of these were obvious others a little more subtle. First was cut down on turnovers; back to the 10-12 range. The Blazers committed only 9 on the night. There were still a couple of weak perimeter passes, but the passing into the post was strong for the most part. This led to taking care of issue number two, which was keeping LaMarcus established in the paint. More on L.A.’s game later.
The 3rd on 4th issues on my list were constant switching and “extending but tightening” rotations. The Blazers still switched a lot, but their overall rotations to cover were better. OKC helped out by missing some open shots, especially in the second half. While Coach Nate didn’t extend to 10-11 players he did give Craig Smith 12 minutes of burn, which although not spectacular on the stat sheet were solid. McMillan also returned to the Walace-Batum combo which produced excellent defense when paired with Wes Matthews and Raymond Felton.
Fixing these key issues and playing 2 1/2 to 3 quality quarters overcame the rough shooting start in the 1st and gave the Blazers a big-time road win (their first). The Blazers dug out of their 30% 1st to finish at about 45% for the game and a healthy 40% from deep. Though down on the boards early the Blazers ended up taking the rebound column by 6 at 46-40, continuing their streak of out-rebounding opponents. 20 Assists on 29 FG makes is also nice to see along with a decent 38 points in the paint.
There are plenty of things to praise in this game. Gerald Wallace has a rough shooting night, and at point-blank range no less, but all is forgiven thanks to some excellent defense and rebounding. Don’t forget Nicolas’ crucial blocks and timely three-pointer. But, the man of the night is clearly LaMarcus with 8 boards and 30 points, including 10 of 12 from the charity stripe. L.A. was aggressive, even tangling with Kendrick Perkins late in the game; he didn’t back down and showed some fire and some hops that we haven’t seen in the first 4 games.
This is a glimpse of what the Trailblazers are capable of, winning on the home court of the popular pick to be Western Conference champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder. I still don’t think we’ve seen this squad at their best. Imagine a game where Wes, Nic, L.A., Gerald and Crawford all have it going, that has the potential for some real excitement and a huge amount of points. Great win Rip City, next up are the Lakers and an opportunity to extend their division-leading record to 5-1. Go Blazers!