The 324 Report (12/13/16 v. OKC)

Summary of the match: The Blazers picked up a pretty inexplicable 114-95 victory over the Zombie Sonics in a game that, on paper, they really had no right to win. Coming off a 5 game road trip and on the second of a back-to-back, the Blazers ran a rested OKC team off the floor, holding them to 38% shooting in what was Portland’s most comprehensive defensive performance in some time. There is almost no way this performance will be replicated any time soon.

How great was Moe Harkless?: Moe sure as hell earned his check tonight. He had to play a significant number of minutes at the 4 because of some egregious frontcourt foul trouble. This is generally a recipe for disaster against OKC’s behemoth bigs, but Moe generally held his own in the frequent fist fights that Adams and Kanter start in the paint. His five steals and 15 points were nice but not nearly as important as his overall toughness against a team built to be tough.

Was Evan Turner butt?: ET was awesome tonight. One aspect of his game that is emerging as of late is his passing. He’s not especially quick off the dribble but when he gets into tough spaces he’s pretty adept at finding cutters and guys rotating over to find open 3s. He’s also actually been shooting quite well (6-8 tonight). He becomes tradeable in two days, which will be an interesting subplot because he (along with Crabbe and Plumlee) is one of the more likely players to get moved. The better he plays, the more attractive he is to a team that might take on his outsized contract.

Other observations:

  • Russell Westbrook is a huge ass sometimes. He’s unquestionably one of the elite players in this league and a highlight waiting to happen, but he has absolutely no chill. By some miracle, he avoided any technical fouls or delay of game violations. But he was toeing the line on multiple occasions. He got into it with Lillard after Westbrook kicked the ball away from him as Lillard was attempting to pick it up to hand it to the ref. There was another occasion when Lillard was trying to get a quick restart on an out of bounds play and Westbrook literally ran over and took the ball from him to avoid the restart. The most absurd moment was when Westbrook picked up a frustration foul and proceeded to pick up the ball and throw it from half court into the basket support. The refs basically just looked at each other terrified hoping someone else would call the tech. He’s probably a psychopath.
  • Everyone in the arena got free t-shirts (https://twitter.com/trailblazers/status/808764277624487936). Apparently it was some sort of partnership with Adidas to commemorate the release of the Dame 3. I don’t pretend to understand sneaker culture but if it results in a free t-shirt I’m all for it.
  • Mason Plumlee had a pretty cool looking game (ie lots of alley oops and a pretty impressive stat line). But he and the rest of the Blazer frontcourt got in hilarious foul trouble that would have been problematic if this game were at all close. Portland still needs to upgrade the starting center spot, but Mase would be an amazing backup big for a team with a lot of 3-point shooters in their second unit HEY THAT’S THE BLAZERS.
  • Allen Crabbe seems to be diversifying his offensive game quite well. He had a nice shooting game (4-8, 2-3), but he also seems to be looking for his shot in different ways than his standard catch-and-shoot situations. He actually has a semblance of a dribble now, which will be useful for Philadelphia when the Blazers trade him there for Nerlens Noel.
  • Noah Vonleh started in place of the injured Al-Farouq Aminu and committed three fouls in the first five minutes of the game. So at least he was trying.
  • In honor the Lillard shoe thing, they gave a bunch of the shoes away, including a giveaway to an entire section. I was terrified that the section would be 112 or some other bourgeoisie-slanted group. Instead they gave it to 314 (https://twitter.com/trailblazers/status/808926427089436673). I’m pretty sure this is when we seize the means of production, no?
  • This goes without saying but OKC is absolute garbage when Westbrook is off the floor.
  • OKC was stolen from Seattle by an ownership group who made their money on fracking and used some of that money to fund anti-gay legislation in several states. So yes, I enjoy it when Portland kicks their ass. And I loved it when Durant bailed on their small-time, small-town franchise.

Whoopty do, what does it all mean, Basil?:The Blazers miiiiight actually be trending in the right direction, at least a little bit. The 1-4 road trip wasn’t great, but they led in the fourth quarter of all of those games. This was a “schedule loss” in that they flew into town for one night off a five game road trip and will fly right back out for a three game road trip. They were probably dragging after a hard fought loss to LAC last night and should have been boat raced by a better, more rested OKC team. But they weren’t, for some reason. The Blazer defense showed up and was very active. In fairness, it’s easy to defend 1-on-5, but many have failed in that endeavor against OKC. This Blazer team is still very ungood, but I’m guessing we’ve seen the worst of them. The schedule is bad for the rest of the month, so the results won’t flip much, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe.

Programming note: The 324 Report is taking a holiday hiatus until January 5th due to family commitments so if you want analysis of any of the next four home games you should probably check out some actual sports writers.

Next home game: 1/5 v. LA Not Clippers

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