Thursday, December 27, 2007

Praise never gets old

There have been quite a few "These Blazers are suprisingly good" articles written during this 11-game win streak (knock on wood). Are you tired of them yet, because I know I'm not. The latest piece to fit in this category comes courtesy of contributer Randy Hill. It's quite good and here are some of the highlights.

On the particulars of the win streak:
With Roy ringing in as a two-time Western Conference Player of the Week, the Blazers have defeated seven teams with winning records. Eight of these 11 triumphs have occurred in Portland.

The Blazers defense has limited the opposition to 95 or fewer points five times, including a stingy 89 and 91 in victories over the point-happy Utah Jazz. The Blazers offense has been efficient enough to produce 50-percent field-goal accuracy in five games, which is nice because Portland managed to lose the rebound battle during each of the first seven games.

The Blazers have won the fourth-quarter battle eight times, suggesting that McMillan has been putting young players in positions to succeed.

On Travis Outlaw's improvement:
One of the most important upgrades has been provided by the 6-8 Outlaw, a fifth-year preps-to-pros alum who has gone from 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds to 12.1 and 5.2. During the streak, Outlaw is averaging 15.5 points and has scored 20 or more points five times.

His improvement can be tracked to seasoning, which — in the hands of a premium talent — always leads to better things if that player is diligent. But Outlaw also has benefited from McMillan matching him almost exclusively against power forwards, a tactic that provides an even greater quickness advantage.

Partial credit for discovering Outlaw's comfort zone should be credited to Oden, who — had he not injured his knee — would have coaxed the Blazers into using a two-bigs alignment with Aldridge and keeping Travis at the three.

On the zone defense:
An interesting bit of polished strategy is the judiciously used Blazers zone defense, which seems to have been tweaked through McMillan's exposure to the defensive insights of co-Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim. (On occasion, you'll also see bits of the Suns' spread system of offense, courtesy of co-Team USA assistant coach Mike D'Antoni.)

But McMillan, who played for innovator zone-maker Jim Valvano at N.C. State, also receives input from top assistant Dean Demopoulos, an apprentice to match-up zone master John Chaney at Temple.

I'd like to get some of your opinions on what the most important facet of the win streak have been. The effectiveness of the zone defense? Brandon Roy? Travis Outlaw? Something else? Lets hear it.

1 comment:

thedanman said...

You definitely can't attribute the win streak to the play of any single individual because everyone has stepped up their game.

On the offensive end, we are doing such a good job of screening, cutting, and finding the open guy. Basically our movement is helping create a good rhythm that has allowed us to shoot the lights out of teams. Our passing has improved dramatically since the start of the season.

Defensively we appear to be communicating well and understanding our responsibilities in the zone.

On both ends we have done a better job of sustaining aggressive efforts throughout the game. We are now playing a full 48 minutes and aren't allowing runs to alter our focus.