First off, to preface, sorry about the cheeriness tonight. I don't think it will happen again [very often]. I'm usually much more sarcastic. But, too many things tonight were 8000 times better than last game.
ANyway. Welcome back, L-Train. Nice to see that high ankle wasn't as bad for you as it was for my hope for your first All-Star bid. And congratulations to the entire team for not going two straight seasons being swept by the Atlanta Hawks. There are a lot of improvements made tonight that I hope stick around, but even if they don't, I enjoyed seeing an evolution tonight. And the stop to an uncharacteristic four game home losing streak.
Starting with, probably the most prevalent of changes, Raymond Felton. Rainman tonight for certain. I don't have the stats on me, but I distinctly remamber two made from three and a number of teardrops. Any made shot is an improvement from the last few games, and tonight had more makes than misses. I'm not one to celebrate mediocrity, but I'm damned proud of a guy coming back from 0-7 and 5TO with a double digit scoring night and 8 assists. Seems like tonight was a good night to not lose your job on.
With the questionable play of Felton as of late, it's no mystery why Nolan Smith got more playing time tonight, even with Raymond on his game. Solid showing from Nolan tonight, despite a few TO. One was on what was nearly a great dish, with timing being the only factor. Easily fixed increase in time spent on the floor, would be my guess.
Another improvement I noticed was the balanced scoring attack the pinwheels put up against a decent defense. Four players in double figures, and Wallace and Camby with 9 and 8 respectively, the team seemed better at finding an open shooter, especially when the extra All-Star attention was paid to LA.
And how could I not mention my favorite part of the game? Marcus "Can it Be?" Camby with some offensive production. Give it up for the big man inside, coming out early. Hard to forget an eleven point fourth quarter last game, or the 28 point half...Camby seemed ready to should some points early on, until he noticed the guys decided to put their shooting glasses on and hit. Hitting some free throws, a long jump shot with some beautiful silkiness, The Big MC showed some aggressiveness where he normally doesn't. I like to see a tall guy shoot (and score) the basketball.
And of course the rebounding. He was like a tree chipper gobbling up those boards. Tip please. Batum too, got in on the action. When many seem to forget that rebounding is an integral part of winning games, Batum was soaring to get them. Nice to see someone remembers fundamentals.
Of course there were some bad moments. Turnovers that could've proven fatal had Atlanta not been so inconsistent. Willie Green seemed like the only guy that remembered to pack his shooting this trip. Hinrich even had his glasses and still couldn't see that his shot was shorter than he is. There was a possession with like, ten offensive rebounds that we still couldn't capitalize on, which, though I applaud the effort with the rebounding, can't happen every game. The lull happened as well, but again, was not taken advantage of by Atlanta. The lull is unfortunately Portland's only calling card this season, and I was glad to see Atlanta suffered one along. Until we find a way to heat the ice cold breaks in shooting, I'll never sit comfortably with a 20 point lead. A couple quick technicals fouls made me nervous too, but ultimately only helped Taco Bell bring in money for chalupas instead of handing them out for free.
And those technicals were bullcrap. Not only because the arguing that led to them was nowhere near tech-worthy, but because the arguments were well founded on things I like to call "facts". One went to Matthews after a third uncalled foul made him miss. The first foul in that streak was a blatant elbow jostle on a dunk that, though I would like to think he could finish anyway, a referee has to notice. And Wallace's technical, assessed at a quarter break, was one I saw coming because I was screaming before Gerald was. My issue with the foul was that if blue isn't going to give Gerald free throws, on what was certainly a lose ball foul, then he shouldn't give the offending party a freebie. Oh, if I had a paintball for every bad call.
All in all, the game was far from perfect, but coming after the crapshoot I saw last game, tonight was a much needed win, with far better, if not yet flawless, fundamentals. I don't think this game could choke up anyone into a "boom goes the dynamite" moment, but it made me smile just a little knowing that I won't have to watch Blake Overrated on SportsCenter later. I mean Griffin. Sorry, I always do that.