If you turned on your television tonight and found Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith, Armon Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Chris Johnson on the floor to end the Blazer game, you might have panicked slightly before remembering Charlotte was in town.
If you missed all but the last six minutes (and missed might not be the right word), you likely were able to piece together how the Blazers ended up with guys eight through twelve on the floor at the same time.
It started with two ex-Bobcats taking the ball strong to the rim for the Blazers, setting the tone early that this would not turn into a night where Coach McMillan would keep in his starters to win a game they should have handled from the tip. No, tonight, the Blazers came out looking to knock out a miserable Bobcats team early and Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace exacted some revenge on their former team.
The end result? Five scrubs on the floor when the clock wound down to 00:00, and a season-high score of 112 for the Blazers, to a season-low score of 68 for their opponent. The Blazers’ most impressive offensive performance was also their most commanding on defense. Welcome home indeed.
Not only did Charlotte fail to crack the embarrassing first half point total from its game against the Lakers last night (36 last night to 35 points tonight), but the 68 points it put up for the evening was a season low for a team with just three wins to now 20 losses.
As I passed Rich Cho—Portland’s former GM who works now for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats—in the hall on the way out of the Rose Garden it was tough not to ask what he thought of the Wallace trade now that he was on the other side of it. But what was he really going to say? We didn’t even have Joel Przybilla to slow the Blazers down tonight..? There really was nothing left to say.
Well, unless you were Gerald Wallace in the locker room after scoring 23 points, picking up five rebounds, and stealing the ball three times from your former team. With no hesitation he responded when asked whether he felt sorry for his former team at all: “No, not at all.”
Though the game came easy to them tonight, the Blazers out-hustled and out-worked the Bobcats on both ends of the floor, capitalizing on every mistake, forcing 20 turnovers and keeping the Bobcats to 32.5% from the field.
With three Blazers scoring more than 20 points, it would have been easy to just take what was there on offense and save some energy on defense. But with plays like this from Marcus Camby (who ended the night with five blocks in 25 minutes), the Blazers continued their domination of an abysmal Bobcats team for 48 relentless minutes.
And those three Blazers who lead the team in scoring? Wallace with 23, Jamal Crawford adding 24, and LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 22 points in just 26 minutes on the floor. Even Felton, whose struggles have been well-documented, got in on the offensive action with 11 points on the night. In fact, the only Blazer to not score was Nolan Smith, who dished out three assists in his six minutes of burn.
A solid showing for the Blazers tonight, but let’s be honest: had those five players to end the game not made an appearance, something in Portland would have gone very, very wrong.
Next up is Sacramento, a certainly beatable team, but after Portland’s road woes this season it remains to be seen whether they are in for another let down like their loss to Phoenix after a huge Laker win last month.
Other notes: McMillan’s post-game presser was brief, but if you’re interested the video is below. Apologies for the terrible sound and portrait orientation. Though I casually slipped in seeing Cho in the tunnel, I’m still new at this.