March 15 Blazer page

Highlights from this week’s Blazer page, including an interview with assistant coach Bill Bayno.

Report card

Grade: A

Last week’s record: 3-0

Recap: The Blazers have regained their footing and smoothed out the kinks just in time.
Portland picked up an impressive victory over Golden State last week, as well as two wins over Sacramento. And while neither team is playoff material, each is the type the Blazers tend to struggle against when they are not on their game.
The biggest change for Portland as of late? Offense. After dealing with injuries and inconsistency all season, the Blazers’ offense has begun to find a new level. Brandon Roy is still the star. But everyone from Nicolas Batum to Juwan Howard has made significant contributions of late.

Bright spot: Marcus Camby. The veteran center has made a huge impact in a short amount of time. And while defense is the main part of his game, Camby has also begun to show a smooth offensive touch. He scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting in a home win over Sacramento, helping the Blazers fend off a late rally by the Kings.

Low point: The victory over the Warriors was not pretty. Portland shot just 41.9 percent from the field, while Andre Miller and LaMarcus Aldridge combined to shoot 8 of 29 from the floor. However, a 27-9 fourth-quarter run saved the Blazers. And Aldridge redeemed himself down the stretch, as the power forward discovered a stroke that had eluded him through the first three periods.

Game of the Week
Sunday: Blazers at Suns, 7:30 p.m. at US Airways Center (TNT, 54)

Key matchup: Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire versus Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge. The Suns power forward always plays big against the Blazers, and he should provide Aldridge with a strong physical and mental test. Aldridge will have to play Stoudemire tight, but he will also have to stay out of early foul trouble. A game in which Stoudemire is held below 20 points and eight rebounds will be a victory for Aldridge — and the Blazers.

Key stat: With Phoenix, it always comes down to shooting. The Suns lead the NBA in average points (109.3) and 3-point shooting percentage (40.4). Portland must patrol the perimeter and control the paint. Primarily, though, the Blazers just need to slow down the Suns and stay as far away from a shootout as possible.

To win: While it has been interesting to watch Portland hit the century mark on a consistent basis in recent games, the Blazers will be best served if they can stay away from triple digits in this game. Defense is Portland’s best asset, and the Blazers will have to play tough, scrappy ball to knock off the Suns.

Blazer profile

Name: Bill Bayno

Position: Assistant coach

Years with team: 4

Years in NBA: 6

His job: “(Wednesday), it was working with (Martell Webster) on his mid range. And he’s better going left, so getting him repetitions going right and taking contact.
With (Jerryd) Bayless, we do (it) everyday. We work on making contested shots. Everything: off the dribble, off the catch. Emphasizing really getting extra work with his left hand.
So, it just depends. Jeff (Pendergraph), just trying to continue to develop his post game and help him grow and give him different moves and counter-moves, to how the defense is playing him.
So, it varies from day to day. In the NBA, a lot of your work is pregame. Patty (Mills) and I will probably get 100 possessions live pregame.”

This season: “The thing I think gets lost — in having been a head coach and knowing how hard it is to put a team together; to get them to be unselfish — I just think it’s been lost the job that Nate (McMillan) has done with all of these injuries.
I would never, ever want to have to coach a team where we had all those injuries in the preseason. Then guys come back. Then they get hurt again. So, the chemistry has constantly been a challenge; it’s always been evolving. And I really think Nate doesn’t get the credit that he deserves, nor do the players. These guys have weathered this. They’ve stayed together. We’ve had some unbelievable wins on the road: San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix. And I think sometimes people take it for granted.
I think getting (Marcus) Camby has really helped us; he’s fit in. Getting Brandon (Roy) back — he’s still not totally got his legs. But we’ve got (13) games left, and I think we’ve got a shot to make a run in the playoffs. We’ve just got to continue everyday to get better and not to get complacent.”

In Focus
Rudy Fernandez: He has finally found his touch. And by playing energetic, spirited ball that has the Spaniard again looking like his rookie self, Fernandez has recently provided the Blazers with deadly range from the perimeter. In turn, Fernandez has reclaimed what was beginning to look like a lost season.
The second-year guard has averaged 11.4 points while shooting an astounding 60.7 percent (17 of 28) behind the 3-point line during his last five games.

By the Numbers
Blazers’ average points scored during their last 10 games. The mark is a 6.1-point improvement over Portland’s season average.
Roy’s shooting percentage during his last three games. He has averaged 29.3 points during the stretch, including a 41-point outing during a road victory Thursday over Golden State.
Average points scored by Martell Webster during his last 12 games. Webster has scored just 46 points during the slump, which follows the career high-tying 28 points he scored Feb. 16 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
— Brian T. Smith

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