The Minuteman at Work

Since Marcus Camby’s first game in a Trail Blazer uniform, Portland has gone 9-4, but the Blazers have run off an even more impressive 7-2 record since he returned from a mild ankle injury nine games ago. And one of those losses came at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, a game in which Camby didn’t play. While this recent surge could theoretically have nothing to do with Camby’s presence—possibly being the product of improved play from the rest of the team instead—the statistics indicate that the former UMass Minuteman is behind Portland’s revitalized play.

After the loss of its two centers, Oden and Przybilla, the Blazers points allowed per possession rose noticeably. The lack of any interior defense to speak of left a gaping hole in the middle that opposing teams took advantage of. Rival teams’ shooting percentages went up, and the Blazers’ rebounding numbers went down. Between Przybilla’s injury in December (Portland’s last true center at the time) and Camby’s arrival 13 games ago, the Blazers struggled to keep afloat, performing just two games over 0.500. That weakened defense allowed nearly 106 points per 100 possessions, the equivalent of an average-paced game in the NBA. Fortunately, an explosive Trail Blazer offense put up 107, filling in for the defensive losses.

So what exactly has Camby helped out with? During the last 8 games in which Camby has played, the Blazers have scored a sizzling 111 points per average-paced game. But the real difference can be found on the defensive end, where Portland has reduced opponents’ scoring to just 100 points every 100 possessions. While the lanky center doesn’t directly influence the scoring surge, Camby’s 4 offensive rebounds per game in March are giving other Blazers that many more opportunities to score. Defensively, his shot-blocking and rebounding ability have eclipsed that of Juwan Howard, and we can expect a grittier Rip City defense from here on out. Despite an easier schedule over the past couple weeks, there’s still reason to believe that this Blazer team will continue to score well, limit opponents’ scoring, and put tally marks in the win column.

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