First, a shoutout to scottiepimppin, who generously donated his lower-level tickets to the game. I had a great seat for a great game, thanks to him.
There are some stories you won't see in the major media about this game, and the details are likely to be lost. Questions were answered, and we can feel good about the answers.
1. Our defense last night was mostly minus on matadors. Monta Ellis continues to play solid defense, once again giving Brandon Roy fits. Following a 2-game set where he did the same to Tyreke Evans, I think this qualifies as "surprising". David Lee is playing better d than his reputation, and at least trying hard consistently. The whole team is, and it's paying off. The players who aren't playing good d didn't spend much time on the floor. Portland didn't just have a "bad shooting night" - they were defended.
And that's true of pre-season so far. We're in the top half of the league in every defensive stat except 3-point % by opponents, and blocks. In the case of blocks, our differential is still 13th. And this is after 2 games against Rudy Fernandez, whose 3pt% dropped in the two games against us. In the first half, Rudy had to really work to get some of his shots, running a two-screen curl to free himself. His defender was rubbed off on the second pick (which was moving, and uncalled).
2. There is nothing wrong at center that a better rotation and getting Andris Biedrins involved can't fix. By "better rotation" I mean playing Brandan Wright first, not Vlad, and not Gadz. They just can't keep up with our starters, and Brandan can. Both Brandan and Dre brought the energy in the second half, with Dre contributing a rebound and a block to the 2nd quarter outburst that cut the Blazer lead from 7 with 3:30 left to 1 at the half.
3. Yeah, about that outburst....? In 93 seconds, down 7, with four of our starters on the floor, one player had 4 points, 2 rebounds, an assist, and a turnover - and Portland didn't score. As I said, Dre had a board and a block in that period. Curry had a miss and a rebound. Lee scored 2 on the assist.
And you thought all the cheering for Jeremy Lin was because he's Asian? Really? Lin got his first chance with the big kids, and he made the most of it. Yeah, he looked like a rookie, and he needs more confidence. He started his 6:15 with a turnover, driving into the lane and getting caught in a triple under the basket. After that? He got the rebound that led to his first two foul shots. Dre got a board, Lin turned it over, Dre got a block, Lin got a rebound, Lin got fouled. Curry missed a shot, Curry got a rebound - and Lin fired a picture-perfect distance entry pass for Lee to drive the basket. That guy Rudy had to work to rub off to get a shot? Jeremy Lin. (disclaimer: dWright guarded Rudy for most of those minutes and did an outstanding job.)
I don't want to make too much of this, because it was only six minutes. Still, neither Miles nor Bell have done anything remotely similar, with far more opportunities to do so. Our starters were still -8 when Lin came into the game, replacing Bell who replaced Ellis, and the four on the floor all improved. Jeremy Lin's +7 on his quality minutes came mostly from Jeremy Lin. His 4 points matched Curry and Lee at that point, matched Dre at the half, and he gave Lee the ball to get him to 6. Lin may not be ready to be a rotation back up guard, but he played like one yesterday, and by any rational standard he earned more quality time.
The truly odd part is that he did it without taking a shot. Does that give him an infinite TS%, or just a divide by zero error?
4. Garbage Time versus Show Time. It's easy to call the end of a blowout meaningless - doubly so in the preseason. That's a fan's perspective, though. It's not meaningless for players fighting for minutes, or to even make a team. It's not meaningless for the coaches who evaluate them. These guys have their potential careers on the line every time they step onto the court. So how did our "marginal" players handle it? With 5:57 to go, Lin and Carney get back in the game, with the warriors up by 16, so we have gone +2 in the first 6 minutes of the quarter.
At this point the lineup is Lin, Miles, Carney, Adrien, and bWright. At 4:40 we're still up by 16. The Blazers have hit a 3, and Carney has hit a 3 - assist to Lin. The rest of the way the Blazers go 2-7 for 4 points, and have 3 rebounds.
Lin gets a point.
Carney has a turnover and misses a shot.
Brandan Wright scores 4
Miles scores 2
Adrien has 4 rebounds and 2 points.
Got that? In "garbage time" Jeff Adrien outrebounded the Blazers, all by himself. In 8 minutes Adrien improved his already league-leading rebound rate. Jeff Adrien wants to play. A lot. And he wants the rebound. A lot. He's not a fluke - he plays excellent position, his footwork is very good, his timing is good..... and did I mention he really wants that rebound and a job collecting them? And that as kind of a side bonus he's shooting .818? If your name isn't Lee, Biedrins, or Curry and you're a Warrior, right now Adrien is outrebounding you per game. If you're Lee, you're doing well, at 4th in rebounds and sixth at rate. Jeff, though.... well, he's got the best rate in the league, and in 10 minutes per game he's averaging the same number of offensive boards as Lee.
Miles played ok., but Lin was the dominant guard and Miles deferred to him. Something Jeremy has going for him is he's used to being the best player on his team, but he clearly believes in a team game. Both Miles and Bell lack that leadership ability.
Our "marginal" players are guys who are supposed to be really marginal. Look at that lineup - 3 undrafted rookies, a guy coming off major injury (he's a bust, yanno) and a guy who hasn't managed to stick with a team (he's a bust too). They're scary-young and inexperienced. Take out Miles and put in Reggie and they get younger - under 24. And they are so undervalued I could just scream.
5. You'll notice I haven't said much about Carney, Dorell, Steph, and Lee. Carney looks ok, he'll do just fine. Dorell is forcing his offense, and the tempo adjustments. He'll be fine. Steph and Monta and Dorell all shot badly for themselves - and we shot better than Portland. We'll be fine. Steph has too many turnovers - and on a team basis we have a positive differential. It's fine, and what I saw (again - I said this after the first game) bears out what he said - it's timing issues that will settle down with more play.
6. What is there to say about David Lee? He brings it. If he has his way, this will be the hardest working team in show business. He's not greedy, he's not impatient, and he's consistent. Consistently very, very good.
7. Can our team chemistry withstand adversity? So far so good.
8. And what of Rad, Gad, Charlie and Miles? Their spirits are willing, and I see no reason to single any of them out for individual criticism. I think the following combined lines speak for themselves.
RGCM 29 min 1-5 0-3 2-2 for 4pts, 3rebs, 3 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, and 6 personal fouls.
JandJ 19 min, 3-3 0-0 5-6 for 11pts, 7 rebs, 2 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnover, and 1 personal foul.