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Quick reaction to Steve Blake's Sydney debut
Steve Blake quickly found his role in Sydney’s team during his debut (+11 in 36 minutes), something that Michael Bryson couldn’t do as he struggled to find his place as a pro. An injury to Kevin Lisch gave us the extra minutes needed to find out exactly where Blake was at with his game and what he will and won’t do in his mid-thirties.
It's of course only one game, but having seen numerous games of Blake in the NBA, we have a lot more preconceived ideas of how his game will translate.
His play as the pick and roll ball-handler was the first attribute to stand out. He regularly used a screen to get enough separation and space to penetrate into the paint and kick out to an open three point shooter, or to drop it off to the big who set the screen. He could’ve easily had more assists today if three point shots fell but one that did count was this fine read and pass to Greg Whittington.
Blake doesn’t have the tools to explode by opponents in isolation (Daniel Kickert forced him into a contested 3PA on one play) but he has plenty of guile to use screens or go by a defender who is out of position. The bulk of his scoring will likely be on jump-shots and all four field goals today were the result of that. He used a Maric screen to get open at the top of the arc, he hit two threes in transition, and also made a cut, catch and short jumper on the baseline.
Defensively, the slight sized pairing of he and Jason Cadee was in contrast to the stronger bodied Adam Gibson and Jermaine Beal, but Brisbane’s guard rotation wasn’t (and isn’t) dynamic enough to make Blake work too hard or look overmatched today. The only time the Bullets really went at the newcomer was when Torrey Craig and Daniel Kickert each got the switch and made a quick catch and post move to score over him (Blake did force a jump-ball on one of Kickert’s attempts though). How he goes defending something like Cedric Jackson in the post or Jerome Randle or Nathan Sobey going right at him will reveal more than what was seen today.
Outside of Blake, the Josh Powell addition has complemented the group, Aleks Maric was far more productive today than day one, Greg Whittington’s long limbs were everywhere again, and Brad Newley has reminded us of how dominant he can be attacking the basket. The supposed slow start for this team, with so many pieces to fit together in a short time by a rookie coach, hasn’t eventuated and it’s hard not to be impressed. The next trick for Andrew Gaze will be to re-integrate Julian Khazzouh.