The Blazers Turn it Up
I’ve spent quite a bit of time last week talking about how the Portland Trail Blazers may just be one of the best teams in basketball at the moment. They’ve improved their depth this year and their starters seem even more confident with their roles. It was really evident last night as they battled back against the then 1-loss Pacers to an impressive win at home. In the process, they also happened to survive a diabolical performance from Paul George who somehow made another leap this season, potentially by selling his soul to the devil.
The improvement that I like the most is their bench, who were able to come in and give the starters a well deserved rest. Mo Williams in particular had a stellar 2nd quarter to help keep this team afloat through a very poor performance overall. All the way until Lillard and Aldrdige decided to turn it on. It was great to watch Portland run a lot of their schemes and toughen up defensively.
The added benefit of this Trail Blazers team is that their pretty good defending the perimeter. For one, they have Wes Matthews, who has been getting a lot of big assignments lately, and handling his own on. They also happen to have a guy I consider to be a top 5 defender in the league. Nicholas Batum is long, lanky and athletic. That is a combination that is sure to bother pretty much anyone on the wing. So much so that I wondered why he wasn’t guarding Paul George during all of that ridiculousness. No offence to Wes, but lengthwise, Batum is just a better match up to stick on PG24.
Where Portland will live and die however is on the three. They are built to be a drive and kick inside out team. Whether it’s Lillard slicing on or LA taking control of the block and kicking it out to his perimeter players, Portland is very dependent on the three-ball. When it goes right, it’s a beauty to watch. Lillard, Batum and Wes all have a very good touch from out there and Mo Williams and Dorrell Wright shore up the bench production from the arc as well. Unfortunately, when teams know how to guard this, or the Portland touch is off, it will be tough to get buckets and we saw that not only yesterday in the first half before Lillard hit big buckets in the fourth, but also against the Lakers on Sunday.
Overall, the Blazers are for real, and topping possibly the hottest team in the NBA proves that they have more than enough to compete. Will they still be there come Spring? I don’t know, but right now, it’s a tough call to count them out.
Pick and Roll
1. Chicago woes
While I still think Chicago can make the Playoffs (by virtue of being in the East) without Rose, the team is still a shade of itself. Their offence is hard to watch even with the superstar on the roster, but now it’s becoming unbearable. There is definitely a bluntness to their schemes that makes me watch it like this:
The thing is, you need a point guard to engineer your offense, especially when your offence isn’t that impressive to begin with. Kirk Hinrich was 0-8 from three last night, and Marquis Teague and Mike Jones are a combined 1-20 since Rose went down. You can actually see this team’s Point Guard situation falling apart before your eyes. Nate Robinson sure looks good right about now.
2. Paul George superstar and Orlando Johnson what are you doing?!
Paul George showed everyone why he is a Superstar with the capital “S.” While Indiana enjoyed a strong first half, Portland roared back to eventually take the game behind stellar performances of Lillard, LA and Mo-Gotti off the bench. However, in the process, George almost took the game over. Well, he did take the game over:
That’s crazy. Some of the threes, he had no business making. And let’s acknowledge a really good defensive job by Matthews (I still think it should have been Batum) guarding him, but George didn’t care. That’s what superstars do, they come into the game and take over when their team needs them to. They also take the last three for the win, especially when they’ve just made about 5 of those. Not you Orlando Johnson. Enjoy the pine for the next few weeks. And possibly a beating.
3. Commentator HOF: Chicago
I figured every time I hear an announcer be a homer or give us the magical tidbits we can’t live without, I should point it out. Last night, not once but twice did the Chicago commentary used the words “he is like Larry Bird” when talking about Ryan Andersen. Now, as much as I like Andersen and think he is good at what he does, you just compared him to this guy:
How dare you.
4. Does Tim Duncan dream of electric sheep?
Actually a very valid question. Yesterday, Timmy D became the oldest player to ever record a 20/20 game with 23pts and 21reb. As much as my fantasy team is thankful for those kinds of outbursts, I have to worry for Tim’s health. I mean, seriously, what kind of chemicals has Gregg Popovich been pumping through those veins? It’s funny because every year we think to ourselves “yes, this is the year Duncan becomes a former shade of himself, just like KG” and every year Tim goes out there and methodically does what he does. Like knocking down a game winning elbow shot on a play that Pop definitely drew up just because he could:
5. Your weekly “Knicks are pretty bad” reminder.
The New York Knickerbockers only have three wins this season. This means that after Utah put one over the Rockets last night (somehow), the Utah Jazz have more wins than the New York Knicks. Does anyone else hear Melo leaving town cursing and screaming come end of season? This guy does
6. Get it together Easter Conference.
The Wizards are at .500 for the first time since 2009. I mean, that’s a pretty big reason to celebrate. Another big reason to celebrate if you’re a Wizards fan is that your team is in third place in the East. Outside of Indiana and Miami there are no teams in the East with more wins than losses. Detroit is currently 8th at 7-10 (.412).
Compare this to the west where the 8th best team is Golden State. GOLDEN STATE! And they are sitting at 10-8 (.556). If this season does not expose how arbitrary and terrible the current play-off and conference structure is, I don’t know what will. This is just sad. I think the NBA should ban all teams in the East not from Miami or Indiana from entering the playoffs this year, or at least until they get their s@!t together.