If you’re a fan you’re excited about this game. Portland won a road game against a team expected to be a playoff participant in the East at the end of a lengthy four-game road trip. I will take nothing away from that win.
But it would be ridiculous of me not to point out a couple of continuing storylines for this team:
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- Nic Batum is getting his minutes cut. And yes, I noticed he got off to a horrible start last night. But the coach is messing with him a little, too, just the way he did with Martell Webster. Look, if you really do think Batum is going to be a star — and their reluctance to include him in any trades indicates they do think that — then show confidence in him and allow him to play through his mistakes. It’s imperative that his confidence isn’t shaken by the constant overreaction to a few mistakes. That keeps young players from finding their potential — and trust me, I’ve seen it happen in this league before.
- Brandon Roy isn’t getting to the basket. He goes to the left elbow, just as he used to, and tries to get to the hoop — but constant double-teams are fencing him in. Either that or he’s lost a little explosiveness. Either way, when he sets off on one of his drives to the basket he never gets there — and the offense becomes totally stagnant and predictable.
- The Blazer bench plays much better when Armon Johnson is on the floor. You need a point guard to get your team into offense — that no-point-guard stuff isn’t going to work long term because Wesley Matthews, Roy and Rudy Fernandez cannot get the team into any sort of offense over an extended period of time.
- Johnson was terrific last night.
- Brandon Jennings was absent last night. Just absent.
All that said, it was a nice bounceback by the Blazers. But things don’t get any easier this week. Oklahoma City Thursday and the Lakers Sunday. Some great early season tests.