Ducked out of work a bit early yesterday in order to catch Portland’s first game in its entirety. Despite Portland’s lack of a real shot this year (both literally and figuratively), I think there are a bunch of exciting reasons to watch the Blazers this season; most of which we’ve covered. Nonetheless, on to game 1. Bring me my bullets! Bear in mind that I’m an out-of-towner, which means I’m watching on NBA Season Pass, which means when the Blazers are the away-team I’m stuck with the other team’s announcers.
- Loved Timberwolves point guard Marko Jaric out hustling Charles Smith and Zbo to the tip off, snagging the ball and scoring a quick up-and-under. Waty to get the season started.
- To that point, however, you had to love the energy and the offensive setups that the team started out with. They already looked like they were at least running plays, which is four steps better than last year.
- The game started out a little sloppy, with both teams turning the ball over and fumbling around a bit. Marko Jaric was creating a little havoc for the Twolves. And speaking of Jaric, these Twolves announces just informed us that “he’s just as big in Europe as Michael Jordan”. Call me crazy but I’m going to go ahead and doubt that.
- Blazers looked good in the first quarter, with the exception of Telfair. They drew two fouls on Garnett, took smart shots, and had a lead as many as 9.
- Juan Dixon looks terrible, and he shoots FAR too much. Juan - stop shooting.
- Rashad McCants was Minnesota’s first player off the bench, and he looked okay. He’s clearly hobbled by that sprained ankle but managed to knock down a couple of open jumpers.
- It’s sad to see how much Theo Ratliff’s defensive presence in the paint has deteriorated. He's wortheless. The bottom line with him these days is that he needs separation from the player he’s guarding if he wants to affect the shot; a player with any sort of size puts their butt into him and he’s helpless. In the first half alone, Wally Szczerbiak scored right over the top of him and Kevin Garnett threw down a huge dunk right in Theo’s grill (and bloodied his nose in the process to add insult to injury).
- STOP SHOOTING, JUAN.
- Portland’s shot selection faultered significantly in the second quarter, and it showed as Minnesota turned an 11 point deficit into a two point deficit in just a few minutes. Juan Dixon hit a couple of long jumpers, but is a bit of a mad gunner and needs to do more passing.
- Richie Frahm entered the game in the second quarter and formed a nice backcourt with McCants for the Wolves. They had a combined 18 points in the quarter and sparked the Twolves. The announcers couldn’t shut the hell up about how much Frahm reminded them of Fred Hoiberg.
- Zach Randolph had six field goals in the first half, and half of them were long jump shots. Not what we’re looking for from Zbo.
- Charles Smith has no business being a starting wingman in the NBA. During four consecutive plays, he airballed a three pointer, failed to block out on a rebound that Szczerbiak put back in, then turned the ball over and fouled a Wolve on the other end fast break. Thanks for that.
- Portland’s defense really started falling apart in the third quarter, and Nate tried to put a stop to it after Minnesota had built its lead to 9 points (in my opinion, Nate was about two possessions too late but you can’t blame him for seeing if they could pull out of it on their own). Darius Miles’ scoring (he had 20 points with five minutes left in the third) kept Portland in the game, but he cooled off and they were down 13 heading into the fourth quarter. Miles, however, is having a phenomenal game. Nobody has ever questioned his talent, it's his effort that's been the issue, and tonight's bringing an exceptional amount of effort.
- STOP SHOOTING, JUAN!!
- Portland came out hot in the fourth quarter, and closed to within four with nine minutes left. They traded baskets for the rest of the game and ended up losing by four; they’d have had a real chance to win the game if Zbo hadn’t had a layup blocked with about 24 seconds left that would have cut the lead to 2.
Nonetheless, a nice game for Portland. Granted, Minnesota isn't a playoff team and the Blazers still lost, but they brought a ton of effort, Miles was spectactular and if Juan Dixon hadn't sabotaged parts of the second and third quarters, they may have snuck out a win.