Knee Jerk Reactions: Blazers 93, Lakers 75
Right now, the Trail Blazers gotta be popping champagne bottles somewhere in an Ontario hotel. Okay, well, not really. But the Blazers looked good in their NBA exhibition debut, taking down the Lakers* 93-75.
Rookie Damian Lillard told us media folks earlier in the week that he might have a bit of a wide-eyed moment when stepping on the court for the first time, but that once the ball went up and guys started getting up and down the court, he’d be cool. Well, it took a bit longer.
Lillard drained a 21-footer at the 10:48 mark in the first quarter but then, where’d he go? The rookie seemed to lay back while the offense flowed on the other side of the court. Yeah, the butterflies might have been there – LIllard admitted to being nervous while chatting in his televised postgame interview – but also those two early personal fouls he picked up might have made him a bit of wallflower.
Lillard appeared much more decisive in the second half, going right at Steve Nash for a pull up, spotting up and draining a corner 3 and dropping a delicious behind-the-back dime to J.J. Hickson. His line: 14 pts, (6 for 11 shooting, 2 for 5 behind the arc), 7 assists, 5 rebounds. Besides his three touch fouls, you really can’t criticize an all-around solid game like that.
As for as the bench players, several stood out with good moments but my eyes focused on Adam Morrison. If Steve Novak can keep a career in this league, then darnit, why won’t somebody help a brotha out and give Ammo a chance? Look, he’s a shooter. That’s it, that’s all. He’s going to space the floor and give guards like Nolan Smith a target down the baseline just as he did in the second quarter when he drained an open corner three… at that moment, he gave the Blazers’ a 32-24 lead (that was his second straight make, too) and forced Lakers coach Mike Brown to call timeout. That’s what he does! He’s not going to be this lock down defender, so coaches and GMs need to stop this empty rhetoric about how all he needs to do is improve his defense to get back into the game. If Morrison continues hitting consistency, you can’t tell me he shouldn’t be on an NBA roster. But Morrison got the only clock out of all the nonroster training camp invites, so maybe it’s looking up for the guy.
J.J. Hickson at the 5 will give you hustle and energy and rebounding. But apparently he didn’t do enough of it because he played the least of all the starters tonight. The Blazers played their best basketball with the lineup of Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge and Jared Jefferies.
Joel Freeland was spotty at best through the second quarter. Blink and you missed him there but he played 12 minutes, allegedly.
Of all the rookies on the roster, Lillard will always get the most attention, but tell me you didn’t smile when you saw Meyers Leonard running down court to catch that Ronnie Price alley oop? Good energy from the youngest Blazer.
Uhh, Terry Stotts sure is serious about his players’ names, isn’t he? Stotts correcting Lakers public address announcer Lawrence Tanter on how to pronounce Victor Cla-VER made me giggle.
Wesley Matthews attempted eight shots. Two of which should have been bad shots since the Blazers just dumped the ball to him late in the shot clock, yet he made them both and finished 4 for 8. Good start for the guy who I got the most wrath for mentioning on my twitter feed tonight.
Dwight Howard wears his son’s Baby Gap sweaters. That is all.
Free Coby Karl!
Big-to-big alley oops should be banned. Was it the Jeffries lob pass that made Nic Batum get stuffed by the rim on his dunk attempt? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty. No mas.
*No Kobe Bean Bryant and no Howard in the lineup tonight. So basically, the Lakers were the 2011 Suns: Steve Nash making us all believe that he’s surrounded by equitable talent.