Blazers 90, Timberwolves 79

Early on, this was the Jefferson-Aldridge show. Jefferson got off to a fast start with 6 points in the first 4 minutes and 9 in the first quarter. He also pulled down a couple rebounds. Meanwhile, Aldridge missed numerous shots early but finished the quarter 3-7 for 10 points and he also reined in 4 rebounds. He was on a mission tonight.

On a night when both teams had a star clicking, it would be the better TEAM that would win. The remaining players for Minnesota could only match the 9 points Jefferson put up in the quarter but Portland added 13 to the 10 Aldridge dropped in. It was a theme that would continue.

In the second quarter we got a vision of brilliance: Sergio Rodriguez was on fire. Oh, not from the field...just running the offense. On the first Blazer position he found Jones open and picked up an assist. After Outlaw hit a jumper, Sergio hooked up with Jones again. Then, just to keep things interesting he found Frye open. Then it was back to Jones twice more, this time for 3s. Przybilla looked lonely, so Rodriguez hooked him up for the dunk. Then he got it to Aldridge for a lay-in and closed out his run with a dish to Jones for another 3.

In other words, in the 6 minutes and 8 seconds of the second quarter that he played, he ran the offense so well, identified the hot shooters and got them the ball in places they like to shoot from so well, that Portland missed only 2 shots and scored 21 points. It is not often that you will hear me say Roy replacing Rodriguez is a downgrade...but this was one of those times. Portland scored but 8 points the remainder of the quarter.Jones had 13 points on 5-5 shooting at that point and 13 points on 5-5 shooting when the quarter ended.

Nothing against Roy who is a great, great player...but there are times when it seems you should go with the flow. Rodriguez had tremendous court vision. Without scoring, he was the spark plug that was making the Blazer offense go. Now, certainly you don't want Roy or Aldridge to lose their own rhythm for the game, but you might consider letting the Jones/Rodriguez combo have a couple more minutes here to see if they can keep the explosion going.

What is particularly disturbing here is that for the night, Portland shot 39%. In that one stretch they were 8-10...take away that hot streak and they shot 22-67, or .328% from the field. Against a bad Minnesota team that gives up some nice shooting nights...that is just horrible. 3 Blazers shot 50% or better...James Jones was 5 - 7, the other two were J-Jack and Joel Przybilla...who each attempted 2 shots.

Fortunately, Minnesota was even worse. Only Rashard McCants (3-6) managed to shoot 50% and only Jefferson (29 points, 16 rebounds) and Ryan Gomes (10 and 10) came to play so Portland still won.

Nor should this be taken as a complaint...Portland did what they had to do, controlled the game more or less beginning to end...they just made it harder on themselves than they need to. One thing great teams do is learn from every scenario, win or lose. I think there are a couple of lessons to learn from this game.

First, don't kill the goose that is laying the golden egg. Portland was on the verge of blowing Minnesota out of the building. All year Minnesota has shown they will cave when the other team throws a hay maker. By pulling the effective point guard too early, McMillan made this into a body blow. Now, lest anyone get the wrong idea...I think McMillan is an excellent coach and the right guy for this team. However, from time to time he makes some...let's say interesting substitutions. Of course, who in their right mind would question the inserting of Roy into the line-up? And maybe Rodriguez was gassed, I do not know, I did not see it. What I do know is several times this year Portland has had an effective combination on the floor that has been broken up by substitution while still effective.

It would be interesting to compare substitution patterns of a team like Phoenix or Dallas, just to see how their flow goes when they are on a hot streak.

Be that as it may, Portland is riding high heading into Chicago and they are fun to watch.

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