Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've hit another slump on the blog (if only I could clone myself!), but I caught the fourth quarter of Portland-Utah last night and was impressed enough with this young Blazers team getting a win that I wanted to quickly comment on the contest.

First, from the standpoint of the losing team, the Jazz should have two primary concerns right now: (1) they aren't playing any defense, and (2), they are becoming a two-man team. The former should be easily solved once Jerry Sloan comes out of his coma and replaces this run-and-gun doppleganger that is currently roaming the sidelines for the Jazz. The latter is a tougher problem to solve, even though it shouldn't be. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are a great 1-2 punch, but just a week ago this team had multiple dimensions on offense. Kirilenko was coming on, especially as a passer, Ronnie Brewer was emerging as the slasher they needed, and only Mehmet Okur was really struggling. Now they are all struggling it and it is making Okur's troubles more apparent. Utah desperately needs him to resume his 16-18 ppg productivity and take some pressure of the Big Two. As for Brewer, he needs to get it going again, if only so that Utah can keep Giricek off the floor. That guy is just terrible. (More on that below.)

As for the Blazers, I thought they did a great job of keeping their poise down the stretch, scrapping for loose balls, and just wanting it more. However, there were two plays in particular that really put a smile on my face (as a Blazers fan). The first was when they came down the floor in transition with the rare Webster/Outlaw combo on the floor. Webster caught a pass from Roy and had a wide open look at a three (and we know he's not shy about those), yet opted instead to push it ahead to Outlaw, who was slashing down the baseline. Outlaw then draw all the defenders in the vicinity and popped the ball back to Webster who now had his feet set and - if possible - was even more open than before. Of course, he nailed the three. It seems like whenever teams make the extra pass, baskets are scored. I can't be sure, but that might be the most simple truth in the NBA right now.

The other big play last night was when Portland was nursing a diminishing lead and Utah had just scored a basket. They obviously wanted to run something for Roy, who was being guarded by the woeful Giricek. The problem was GG was doing his usual "I can't guard 'em so I might as well maul them" routine" and making it hard for Roy to catch in the high post. So Roy just ran out toward halfcourt, took a handoff from Steve Blake, faced up on Giricek, and went to work. A feint, a power dribble, a crossover, and a pull-up jumper later and the Blazers had two points and Roy was making Giricek look like he was wearing skates. It was a thing of beauty and the type of play that guys like Kobe and T-Mac make against lowly (but physical and irritating) defenders like Giricek. It had to make Blazers fans happy to see Roy assert himself like that down the stretch.

Anyway. I thought it was a big win for this young team and I really liked what I saw from the Blazers. Utah on the other hand? Yikes.

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