Blazer page No. 2
Blazer page No. 2, which includes last week’s report card, a look at Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge’s improvement, by the numbers, game of the week, and a profile of shooting coach John Townsend.
Last week’s record: 2-2
Recap: Another week without All-Star guard Brandon Roy, and another week in which the Blazers continue to hold their ground. Portland coach Nate McMillan said his team is in the “fight of our lives.” It is hard to dispute his assertion when it is considered that the Blazers are still in the Western Conference playoff chase, despite playing without Roy for 10 consecutive games and 12 out of the last 13 contests.
Bright spots: A 96-93 home victory over San Antonio on Thursday. Down 74-66 heading into the fourth quarter, an inspired Blazers team pulled off a stunning rally that saw Portland outscore the Spurs 13-6 during the final four minutes.
Low point: A 99-82 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday at the Rose Garden. Not only did Portland’s nine-game home winning streak over the Lakers come to an end. But the loss served as a harsh reminder that the Blazers’ resilient heart will only carry the team so far against the premier teams in the NBA. Despite playing without Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles easily dismantled Portland. And it is hard to believe the scenario will be any different should the Blazers face teams such as the Lakers, Denver or Utah in the playoffs.
LaMarcus Aldridge: It all comes down to growth. Aldridge has stepped up big time with Roy on the bench. And the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft is beginning to utilize his size, strength and quickness to form a potent combination that demands respect on the perimeter while punishing opposing defenders on the low block. Aldridge averaged 22 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and shot 50.7 percent (35 of 69) from the field during a four-game run. But the biggest number was 40 — Aldridge’s average minutes per game for the shorthanded Blazers.
By the Numbers
That is how many games Aldridge has scored 16-plus points. The fourth-year forward has carried Portland while Roy has been out of the lineup, and he played his best ball of the season last week.
The total missed games due to injury this season for the Blazers. The number continues to climb upward, and it will only grow now that Roy is out of the lineup through at least the All-Star break.
The number of offensive rebounds Portland recorded during a 99-82 home loss to the Lakers on Saturday. The mark set a franchise low, and it said everything about the Blazers’ inability to control the paint while the team continues to live life without a true center.
Game of the Week
Tuesday: Thunder at Blazers, 7 p.m. at the Rose Garden (CSN, 37)
Key matchup: The Blazers’ defense versus Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. The third-year forward is tied for second in the NBA in average scoring (29.7), and he is grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting a smooth 48.5 percent from the field. For Portland to have a chance, the shorthanded Blazers will have to slow down Durant.
Key stat: Attempted free throws. Oklahoma City averages 26.0 per game, which ranks ninth in the league. Considering that the Blazers are playing without a center and All-Star guard Brandon Roy, Portland cannot afford to get into early foul trouble.
To win: The Thunder like to run, and the Blazers must shut down Oklahoma City’s transition offense. Keep the Thunder and Durant out of fast-break mode, and Portland should be in it at the end.
Name: John Townsend
Position: Shooting coach
Years with team: 3
Job description: “To make sure everybody’s shots are on track. And if they’re not, what you do with the player to get them back on track. Whether it’s just a matter of coming out and getting shots, or it’s explaining what you saw that they did two games ago when they were on.”
Shot maintenance: “I keep track on a daily basis as far as what they do for shooting. Sometimes it’s a numbers thing. Sometimes it’s a routine thing.”
Keeping track: “A lot of it is watching and getting to know each individual player’s shot. Because Andre (Miller’s) shot is different than Rudy (Fernandez’s). And Greg (Oden’s) is different than Joel (Przybilla’s). So, I try to narrow it down to one or two tendencies when they’re on — what it seems like they’re doing correctly. So, when they’re off, I can just remind them what they were doing correctly.”
Most improved: “I think Martell (Webster) has done a really good job of establishing a routine on game days. I think he sticks out. I think Greg was on track at the beginning of the year from the free throw line to really stick out.”
Roy: “Brandon has, for a shot that plays — meaning taking guys off the dribble — he can really shoot it. … And he shoots tough shots. One-dribble pull (up); coming off the pick-and-rolls.”
Favorite part of the job: “I would say a lot of it has to do with the camaraderie. … You come to work everyday and usually you’re working with the same group of guys — it makes it a lot of fun.”
How it started: “Six years ago they brought me in to work with a couple players. And then when they brought (former Blazer) Josh McRoberts in, they brought me back. … Then there was other interest from other teams, so it got to the point where it was kind of pick or choose. And because of my relationship with (assistant coach) Bill Bayno, that’s why I chose this team. Obviously, it was a good choice.”
— Brian T. Smith