Monday, December 8, 2008

Today In Links: Home Again Edition

Before yesterday, no current member of the Trail Blazers had ever returned to Portland from a five-game road trip 4-1. That might not sound like a big deal, but with as difficult as it is to win on the road, especially for young team, I think you have to consider this road trip one of the most important achievements of the last five years. Probably just below last year's 13-game winning streak. You want to argue with that assessment?

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: What McMillan had identified was that the Raptors' defense was more effective when it had time to recover or adjust from screens or passes. So even when Brandon Roy, the master of pacing, would hold the ball and survey the defense, McMillan would shriek for him to move the ball. When the Blazers did so, the Raptors were often scrambling, making them more susceptible.
Blake processed all of that in the course of about a second and a half, and with 17,671 in the Air Canada Centre screaming. Yeah, he heard McMillan with his ears, but he also heard him in his mind, from earlier timeouts and sideline shouts.
"I felt good with the ball, and I felt confident," Blake said of his split decision to go for the shot. "But at the same time, I thought of how when we allowed them to set up their defense, we weren't getting good looks."
A timeout, of course, would allow Toronto to set up its defense.
So Blake pressed on.
"When everybody is scrambling around you, you can get good shots," Blake said. "I attacked and got (Jose Calderon) on his heels."

• Quick also has two good posts about Rudy Fernandez's potential for fatigue and Shavlik Randolph's disdain for air travel. I've found that letting Shavlik borrow your laptop to watch movies helps ease his fear of flying.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don't Lie: Portland just continues to impress the taste out yo' mouth. They could have given up several times over the course of this comeback win, even after Toronto appeared to stave off comeback after comeback, but the Blazers wanted to make sure they ended a five-game Eastern swing the right way. And it ruined new Raptors coach Jay Triano's home debut.
You have to love the way Portland is playing. Have to. Sure, wins over Detroit (reeling), Washington(stinking), New York (Knicking) and Toronto (changing) may not seem like a whole lot, but a trip's a trip. It ain't easy, and Portland took four of five.Now go home, work on Greg Oden (10 and 10 on Sunday), and work on that defense. Have to.
Portland just took advantage of all those made three-pointers (12-24). They're not going to continue to score 36 points on 24 possessions like that, but at the end of a road trip you take what you can get move the hell on.
Also, 18 offensive rebounds in an 84-possession game, a contest where you missed only 49 shots/free throws? That's frightfully dominant for Portland, and a frightfully poor performance from Toronto.

Elias Sports Bureau (via Greg Oden narrowly posted his seventh double-double in 14 games, scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds in the Trail Blazers' 98-97 win at Toronto. Oden has posted twice as many double-doubles as any other NBA rookie this season except the runner-up, Brook Lopez of the Nets, who has four.

Michael Grange, Toronto Globe and Mail: Greg Oden looks old, walks old, runs old. He's not baby Shaq, because when Shaq was his age he was a once-a-century combination of mass and quickness. For all the hype about Oden, he's not going to be that kind of player. And there's something about the way he moves that makes me wonder if he's not going to be some version of hurt all the time, but as the late-great Sam Mitchell would say, "I ain't no doctor." But for this team? He's perfect. Giant. Doesn't need the ball. And yes, he can anchor a defence. One early possession was about as good an offensive possession as the Raptors could hope for: Bargnani in the post against Batum; he passes when the defence helps; ball keeps moving. Bosh gets it, pump-fakes Aldridge in the air, takes an eight foot pull-up J only to have Oden block it about 12 feet in the air. A few plays later Parker makes a steal and is alone on the break when Oden basically grabs it out of the air with two hands. Then he draws a charge on JO in transition. He definitely makes an impact and on a team with so much talent having a guy to do so much with so few touches goes miles.

Dave, BlazersEdge: Rudy Fernandez turned this game around when it threatened to spill over into Boston Redux territory. One of the problems with Toronto’s defense is that once you get past their initial defender they don’t have an effective second layer between you and the rim. Rudy did a great job of recognizing this and used his quick first step better than he has all season to create a couple opportunities deep. Not only did this break the defense, it freed up all kinds of shooting opportunities. Without Rudy breaking the ice we probably don’t win this game. If he can fill that igniter role consistently this will become an extremely dangerous team. 16 points, 5-8 shooting, 3-4 deep, 3-3 from the line, and 8 rebounds.

• A discussion regarding whether or not Steve Blake pushed off on Jose Calderon. The overwhelming consensus: Hell no.

Wendell Maxey, HoopsWorld: On Sunday against Toronto, Portland knocked it out of the park. After trailing by as much as 16 points in the second quarter, the Blazers fought back and endured a Raptors rally with Steve Blake hitting a go-ahead three-pointer with eight seconds left to win the game.
But Blake never would have gotten that chance if it hadn't been for Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez all keeping the previous rebound alive in the waning seconds.
That aggressive attitude helped Portland win the game as much as Blake's bucket. That's the aggressive attitude a defense-first head coach absolutely loves.
"It's just changing the mindset," McMillan said.
"It will come. It will come."

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