This is a game of runs. Portland had runs of 12-2 (to open the game), 9-0, 10-1, 7-0, 5-0 and 14-4 (in the fourth quarter). That's 57 of Portland's 88 points right there in a series of imbalanced runs. For their part, the Kings had runs of 18-2 (in the first quarter), 14-4 and 12-1 (in the fourth, known forevermore as the "Sean May Run"). The Blazers would go on a run and take a fat lead ... and the Kings would storm back to get a lead of their own. Repeat. Repeat. But the Kings ran out of time, and the Blazers' final run stood.
But there was encouragement. Carl Landry was again effective (no surprise there), and the interior defense and defensive rebounding were surprisingly effective. Landry (with help from Jason Thompson) limited LaMarcus Aldridge to 6-15 shooting, just one free throw, and just two offensive rebounds. Marcus Camby hit a few shots, and Juwan Howard got by Spencer Hawes twice, but all in all, the big men did their job. Portland, the No. 8 offensive rebounding team in the league (a bit misleading, though, due to the absence of Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla), was held to nine offensive rebounds in 39 attempts, given Sacramento a defensive rebounding percentage of 77 percent. Progress.
The guard play was uneven throughout, however. Tyreke Evans had some stunning moves (per usual), and somehow ended up with six assists. But the offense was stagnant. Blame Beno Udrih too, as the offense didn't improve the ball in Slovenian hands. When there was urgency, it was too frantic, too rushed. When there was no urgency, it looked like a serene Lake Tahoe out there.
Donte Greene had a tough shooting night (1-7), but was actually pretty damn good out there, with six rebounds in 18 minutes, two blocks, two steals, three assists and just one turnover. And, if I may, this is why young players don't buy into coaches' mandate for tough defense over high-octane offense. Greene took one bad shot, and had the bad turnover. But he played superlative defense, crashed the boards, and moved the ball. And he gets just 18 minutes as the starter, benched to start the second half? Other than those two plays, Greene did what the coaching staff has publicly requested of him. And he got benched, because he wasn't hitting his shots.
Just a data point in the quest for understanding young players, I suppose.
Sean May, man. Let the record show one of his two makes was a 21-footer, the other a turn-around fade-away from 14. Let the record show his one rebound looked like something Dwight Howard would do. Man, Sean May. Man.
Landry and Thompson didn't play together much in this one. Let the record show that when they did, the Blazers got several offensive rebounds. If time allows, we'll compile more big man rebounding numbers this week.
Nicolas Batum is my favorite French basketball player and it's not even close. I used to be down with Mickael Pietrus (technically a Guadeloupean), and I still dig Mikey, but man, Nico is like the smoothest beast ever invented. Some day, I will play NBA Jam Wii, and I will find a bug which will allow me to put Batum and The Show on the same team, and it will be a glorious day.
Even more exasperating than [Marcus] Camby's careless turnovers were Rudy Fernandez's running, rolling, frolicking shot attempts. I'm calling for an intervention: friends don't let friends teardrop and fail. Any time you go to the teardrop/finger roll 3 times in 3 minutes and come up empty every time, it's a signal that you should put the tool back in the toolbox, lock the toolbox in your backyard shed, douse your shed in kerosene and then strike a match. In Rudy's case, because of the hair product, it would probably be a good idea to take an extra step backwards before striking the match.