Friday - Portland 101, Charlotte 89
The day we've all been waiting for: Sebastian Telfair's breakout game. I have to admit, that when Telfair started coming into his own, I expected that to be reflected in his assist increase and turnover decrease. The learning curve was anticipated to be something along the lines of inconsistency with flashes of brilliant passing in year one, consistent 8+ assist games in year two with the scoring starting to come around with more consistent playing time. Well, apparently that's not the case. Telfair broke out with a 23-point game on Friday night, leading the Blazers to a win over the Okafor-less Charlotte Bobcats.
We expected Portland to win this game, but not in this fashion. Telfair played in tandem with Damon Stoudamire (who also had 23 points and a very surprising 5 assists) for most of the fourth quarter, with the two taking turns hitting big shots. Sebastian's final box line:
24 minuts, 7-12 FG, 3-4 3pt, 7-8 FT, 3 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls
Not too shabby for a 19-year old rookie point guard. The areas where critics thought he'd struggle the most -- shooting, free throws, and defense -- are the areas he has been shockingly effective at. He's probably Portland's second-best on the ball perimeter defender (to Ruben, who's defense has been reinvigorated this year), and he's far better than either Damon or Nick Van Exel. As for his low assist totals, I've got two theories on this. The first being: Mo's offense.
Has anyone watched Portland's set plays lately? They don't have any. they're awful. The only time Telfair gets an assist is when he creates one by penetrating, drawing a double team, and finding the open man. Portland doesn't run any type of pick and rolls (how good would Telfair and Randolph look running that?), back door cuts, motion ... it can get tough to watch.
The second theory for why Telfair doesn't rack up as many assists is because nobody on this team can shoot the ball. Think about Portland's scorers: Randolph, who gets put-backs and post-up moves. Damon and NVE, who basically pound the basketball into the ground for ten seconds and then chuck up a long-distance jumper. Patterson, who gets all of his points via hustle and running. Not a lot of opportunities for assists there. What do you think? E-mail me your ideas on Telfair's play so far and we'll open up the discussion.
Anyhow, Portland played a very medicore game and it was actually a four-point game with about four minutes left until Telfair and Stoudamire bailed them out.
Other notes: Telfair hit a half-court three pointer as time expired to pad Portland's lead and tick off some of the Bobcats ... Derek Anderson's DNP was changed from "dental pain" to "sinus", I wish they had betting pools for stuff like this ... Miles and Randolph both came off the bench and were arguably Portland's two most effective players, with Randolph pulling down 12 boards and dishing out 5 assists (?) in 22 minutes ... Charlotte attempted 15 fewer free throws and only shot 36% for the game ... Worth noting: Stoudamire's 23 points came on 20 field goal attempts. Telfair's 23? 12 attempts.
Saturday: Portland 114, Sacramento 108
Didn't see the game. Was out enjoying San Francisco's nightlife. A few observations from the box score:
- Starting 5 was once again Van Exel, Stoudamire, Patterson, Ratliff, Pryzbilla. I can't tell you how effective these guys were, but it looks like Portland was up 12 at the end of the first quarter so something must have gone right.
- Nice of Mo Cheeks to reward Telfair with 12 minutes of play after bailing Portland out the previous night. But hey -- at least Stoudamire and Van Exel combined for 84 minutes and 34 shots.
- Randolph had 28 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in 33 minutes. Think this guy shouldn't be starting? Ratliff, who started in his PF slot, chimed in with 5 points, 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.
- Damon Stoudamire dropped a 30-spot on the Kings, apparently trying to keep up with Mike Bibby who had 35. He also had a surprising 8 assists. According to the recap, Portland was up 18 in the first half and then basically held on throughout the second half.
We're at five-out-of seven wins for the season. And for the second consecutive column, I'd like to add that I really don't want to hear any talk of the playoffs for this team. Regardless of whether they've got the talent to do it, it's not going to happen. Yes, they're only four games back, but until they put together more than a week's worth of quality play, I don't buy it.
Portland is off again tonight before finishing up the home stand vs New Orleans tomorrow, then it's off to Memphis, Houston, Charlotte, and Indiana. We might learn something about this team over the next week.