Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Clippers: Game 34

The Portland Trail Blazers (20-13) look to bounce back and end 2009 on a high note as the Los Angeles Clippers (13-17) come to the Rose Garden for the first matchup between the two teams this season. This is an important game in regards to making the playoffs, as a loss would slide the Blazers all the way down to 8th, while a win keeps them right in the thick of things for a seeds 4-6. With all the unfortunate injuries, Portland can't afford to have any more hiccups as they did on Monday night.
Although the Clippers are not a threat to make the playoffs or may ever be with their management, they still posses a plethora of big men that Portland would kill for right about now. If the 76ers can score 60 in the paint with Dalembert out most of the night with foul trouble, I worry what Kaman and Camby will do tonight. Not only on offense, but Marcus Camby has the ability to be a game-changer on defense which could force Portland to play from the outside. Camby's status for the game tonight is in question, so it will be a huge plus if he can't go tonight. If the Blazers decide to become a jump shot oriented team and they shoot like they did against Philly, it will be another long walk out of the Rose Garden for Trail Blazer fans. Even if the Clips are doing a good job of protecting the key, go inside to draw a double team or get to the foul line. Aggressiveness never hurts.
It will all come down to guard play tonight. I think the Clipper bigs could bother LaMarcus tonight on the blocks, which will force the Blazer guards to step up. Baron Davis is the type of player who still has the ability to score 40 on any given night and will his team to victory. Normally Baron is bigger than many of he point guards he goes up against, but Andre has the size to keep Davis from backing him down on the blocks. Although he may have to chase down Eric Gordon around on defense, Brandon needs to abuse Gordon on offense. Eric is only 6'3", so with a 3 inch height advantage, he should be able to put him on the blocks and shoot that fade away he loves to shoot so much.
I really have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach about the game tonight. I don't think Portland will overlook the Clips at all, especially after losing to them at home last year in double overtime and after stubbing their toe the previous game to the Sixers. Although, I have a bad feeling and really don't think we'll have an answer at all for Chris Kaman, I can't pick against my Blazers. Brandon Roy will somehow, someway lead the team to victory and Andre Miller will give us the easy buckets we'll need. As long as we don't get too stagnant on offense, we can win this game. Make note of the movement on offense while watching the game. If we lose, go back and see how many times we went one on one or bled the shot clock down. If we pull it out, check out stats like fast break points, points in the paint, and team assists. My prediction: 20+ assists from the team will get the job done tonight.
Game 34 Prediction: Trail Blazers 101 Clippers 98
Post-Game Thoughts
Apologies for the tardiness of the post-game thoughts, but I had to jet off to Pasadena right after the streamers fell from the rafters of the Rose Garden as Portland fought, clawed, kicked, and battled their way to a 103-99 victory over the Clippers. The injury big bit Portland again, this time not so hard, but it was a good enough bite to keep LaMarcus Aldridge out for the rest of the game. LMA now has a Grade 1 sprain which limited him to only 6 minutes of action and will keep him out against the Warriors on Saturday.
Just like the rest of the season, when someone goes out with a sickness or injury, another player is waiting in the wings, always ready to contribute. Next in line to show off his game, Jeff Pendergraph. I had always loved his fundamentals and technique in boxing out, but 14 rebounds against Camby and Kaman is pretty impressive. To sum up his experience, Jeff had this so say, "I didn't know if I was going to play at all. I thought I might miss the whole season. To go from there to here, it's surreal."
Roy is slowly putting himself into serious MVP talk, not the token name drop here or there he received last season. With his 25 points, he extended his streak of 23+ points to a league-leading 14 straight games. Not only is he scoring in bunches, but he is doing so efficiently. He shot 12-20 from the floor and still got his teammates involved by handing out 6 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds. It's not just us Blazer fans who are aware of what Roy is bringing to the table right now. Chris Kaman was quoted after the game by saying, "And we have to really respect Roy. He's a tough player to match up with, and you've got to pay him a lot of attention. He got a lot of (teammates) open."
Outside of Roy's MVP numbers and a surprising 14 rebounds in place of Aldridge from JP, the story no one is talking about is Jerryd Bayless. He checked into the game late in the 1st and played the entire 2nd quarter. In that span, he dropped 6 dimes, many of them coming off of his own creation. He reminds me so much of Tony Parker in his ability to get in the lane, swerve around the defense and find an open man from the mid-range jump shot. In the 2nd half it was more vintage Jerryd, as he scored 12 of his 14 when Portland needed offense most, including a jumper in the 4th to put Portland up 91-81, their 1st double digit lead of the night. Maybe most importantly to go along with 8 assists, was the fact he did it by only turning the ball over one time.
With Steve Blake now hospitalized with pneumonia, it looks like the team just can't get a break in terms of healthy bodies. I have came to the realization we'll be dealing with this issue all year long, but as long as we have #7 on the floor for us, we will be just fine. It's so cliche, but every season you don't think it is possible for Brandon Roy to get any better, but then he does it time after time. We'll see just how long the team can sustain this unbelievable level of play, but the fact remains that as long as we have Roy, the game will be close, regardless of the other 4 players on the court.
Box Score

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. 76ers: Game 33

The Portland Trail Blazers (20-12) look to continue their 4 game winning streak tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers (7-22). Portland was swept last year against Philly, but the main contributor to those losses for Portland is now wearing the red and black, Andre Miller. A lot of people knew the Sixers would struggle a bit this year, but 2nd worst in the East is a bigger fall than most expected. Obviously they are feeling the loss of Miller and Elton Brand, since the day he has arrived in the City of Brotherly Love, has fit like a square peg in a round hole. His averages over the past two seasons of 13 points and 8 rebounds are a far cry away from the days of consistent 20-10 nights.
Both teams have some of the lower scoring offenses in the league at about 92 a game, the difference is on the defensive end of the floor. Philadelphia is 10th worst in the NBA by giving up nearly 102 a night and while even without their 3 best defenders, Portland is still 3rd best in the L by stymieing opponents to a mere 92 a game. Maybe the Sixers just aren't clicking like the Blazers weren't earlier on this year, because they have a decent team on paper? Guys like Louis Williams, Thad Young, Willie Green, Elton Brand, Mareese Speights, Iguodala, and Jason Kapono are all offensively minded players, yet they can only muster 92? Coach Nate will let them know about their talent to ensure the Blazers do not overlook this team. Brandon Roy will have his hands full with the athletic Iguodala defending him, but with an injury to his ribs, causing them to bruise, it could slow down AI enough to let Roy operate.
Outside of Iguodala, the one player who has the physical ability to wreak havoc on both ends of the floor is big Samuel Dalembert. His shot blocking abilities could keep the paint on lock from Jerryd and Brandon and he has the size and length to keep possessions alive on the offensive glass. I would be a bit more worried if Philly actually had a true point guard able of getting him the ball down low, but Louis Williams is shoot first, ask questions later type of guards, who in 34 minutes of action can't even hand out 5 helpers a game. Portland can't afford to have the paint entirely closed so they might get a few shots sent back, but as long as a few of these drives end in a foul called on Dalembert, it will be worth it. We can not afford to be a strictly jump shooting team. You live by the 3, you die by the 3.
With Denver's most recent loss to Dallas last night and Billups' availability in question, the schedule could not have lined up any more perfectly for the Trail Blazers, as eight of the next nine games will be played in the Rose Garden. Shocking to everyone, including myself, the Blazers are only a half game out of 3rd place in the West and first place in the Northwest Division. Given all of the injuries, I doubt they take any opponent for granted and realize the time to make a playoff push is now. Roy is playing his best basketball, Bayless is arriving, Blake is getting his accuracy back, Juwan is a rebounding machine, and the team is giving the extra fight it takes to win games. I believe Philly will stay close through 3 quarters, but then the magic of Brandon will take over down the stretch and extend the winning streak to five games.
Game 33 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 76ers 93
Post-Game Thoughts
The Trail Blazers may have missed their only opportunity to grab a hold of the Northwest division lead last night, after falling and falling hard to the Sixers, 103-94. Denver lost at Sacramento, which would have meant a half-game lead for Portland in the standings if they could only get past the lowly Sixers. Portland had a 10 point lead early on the 3rd period, only to see themselves down by 4 to begin the 4th and as many as 16 towards to end of the game. The offense began to be nothing but one-on-one with the only pass being off of a pick and pop for a contested jumper. No one was attacking the rim even with Sam Dalembert out most of the game with foul trouble. Even if they went to the hoop to draw fouls, it's not like it would have mattered. The shooting eye deserted the Trail Blazers to the tune of 18-26 from the line, good enough for 69%.
Although Roy had 24 points, even he looked off tonight, just like the entire team. Aldridge could not buy a bucket (7-16), Bayless' shot was on target all night, but always came up short (0-7), and even Dante wasn't hitting that patented mid-range jumper (2-6). Really, the only bright spots were Andre Miller and Jeff Pendergraph. Out of a team total of 17 assists, Dre recorded 7 of them, many leading to the only easy buckets and fast break points we had all game. Along with his 7 dimes, he tallied 11 points (4-7 shooting) and 4 boards. While he was in the game, the offense had a purpose to it, but it seemed like whenever he wasn't in control, the train started to run off the tracks.
In a game that went from good to bad to ugly in a hurry, it was at least nice to see Pendergraph perform when given the chance to shine. As a Blazer fan, I'll take 11 points and 5 boards in 19 minutes of action all day long. Normally a very good rebounder, he was outclassed by one of the best in Elton Brand quite a few times. Also, you can tell he is still learning the NBA game as his head was caught looking away and his man beat him to the open spot. He'll learn where to be on defense, but I really like his hands around the hoop as he was fed a few times for dunks. A lot of people say he reminds them of Brian Grant, but he's got a ways to go on offense before I'll go there. In my opinion, he reminds me of a slighter larger Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams.
It looked like the Blazers have finally come back down to earth after going 6-1 in the prior 7 games. Bayless' magic was out for the night. There were no dagger 3 pointers from Blake. Most importantly, there was no big game from anyone. Do not panic Trail Blazer fans! Until we get a little healthier (maybe as soon as the 18th of January), the team is going to win some games they have no business winning and they are going to lose some games that make you scratch your head. I think the past 2 weeks may have risen fan expectations when they had no reason to be, including myself. I caught myself yesterday getting caught up in the NW divisional race, when I know the realistic goal is just playoffs, not to win the division. Without Joel and Greg, if teams were smart they would do exactly what Philly did, which was go inside. The Sixers had 60 points in the paint. I really don't care who you play, if you give up 60 in the middle, your chances of winning are slim to none and slim just left town. I do think we can and still will make the playoffs, but if we want a decent seed, we may need to get a stop gap 7 footer to help out down low.
Box Score

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets: Game 32

For the third consecutive season, the Portland Trail Blazers (19-12) are hosting a Christmas Day game, this time against divisional foe, the Denver Nuggets (20-9). Denver defeated Portland earlier this season, in the second game of the season, at the Rose Garden 97-94 behind Carmelo Anthony's 41 points. This game is extremely difficult to gauge or predict, because each team could be with our without their most important player. Chauncey Billups has not played since December 16h as he is on the shelf with a strained groin and Brandon Roy tweaked his left shoulder Tuesday night in Dallas with each player's status listed as day to day.
This will be one game where I will not look at Webster to provide offense as every Blazer fan knows, he must make life miserable for Anthony. Melo is putting himself on the short list for MVP by averaging 30.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 3.3 apg as he is positioning the Nuggets for another #2 finish in the West. Portland certainly felt the impact of losing Batum during the 2nd game of the season, because there was no stopping Melo when he got squared up from about 15 feet out. As long as JR Smith is not on the court, the Trail Blazers should look to trap Anthony and make others beat us from the outside. Do not leave Smith open though as he is coming off of a 41 point outburst, including 10-17 from downtown. If trapping doesn't work, Webster should look to deny the ball from Melo as best as possible.
As they should do for nearly every game the rest of the season, the Trail blazers must ugly up the game a little and play to their tempo. This does not mean we should abandon the running game, because Miller, Bayless, Webster, and Aldridge all thrive in the open court, but pick and chose our opportunities. If we want to continue to win with a short handed squad, we must take care of the ball, limit offensive rebounds, and continue to simply want it more by playing stout defense. Portland held Dallas 21 points under their season average, San Antonio 7 points below, and they must keep Denver underneath their 2nd best 108 points per game to have a chance.
After predicting the team to go 0-2 against the Texas teams, I have learned my lesson. With or without Roy, I think this team can continue to play on this emotional high for one or two more nights if their leader needs a little extra time to heal. As long as Coach Nate gives Jerryd the green light to be the team's focal point, he definitely can cause havoc amongst the Denver guards. Billups is to slow to handle him and Bayless can shoot over the top of Lawson. Don't be surprised if Blake gets red hot this game, because his jumper is looking more and more fluid lately. Behind big games from Bayless and Aldridge, Portland will send their fans home with the best Christmas present of all. A win.
Game 32 Prediction: Trail Blazers 101 Nuggets 97
Post-Game Thoughts
Carmelo Anthony was good, 32 points (11-23) and 9 rebounds, but Brandon Roy was better, 41 points (16-26), 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Whenever the Blazers needed a big bucket, Roy would step back for a 3 or take his man off the dribble and get to the hoop. Due to the fact he was so dialed in, Denver had no other choice but to send the double team once he penetrated to the paint, which left Steve Blake open to hit some absolutely dagger 3 pointers. Blake is finally breaking out of his shooting slump and it showed in a big way tonight as he had 17 points (5-7 from distance) in only 21 minutes of action. I am really starting to like his performance off the bench. The more I watch him, the less I see point guard and more I see shooting guard. He needs to just hang around the 3 point line, let someone else create and hit those treys when called upon.
In football, explosion plays are defined as any play that accumulates more than 20 yards in one play. Although there is no yardage in hoops, Portland had two huge explosion plays that really kept the momentum in their favor in the 2nd half. The first happened after a turnover, where Martell Webster refused to give up on the play, chased down Anthony Carter, and sent his shot into the 3rd row. What could have been an easy deuce for Denver ended up turning the raucous Rose Garden crowd loose. The second play occurred in the early 4th with the shot clock winding down. Bayless split the defense and saw nothing but the goal as he exploded for a one-handed flush.
The two unsung heroes of the night were LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller. Although Aldridge only attempted 10 shots and scored 10 points, with no Oden or Przybilla, defenses are going to key on him, which they did, but he managed to make an impact elsewhere. His 13 rebounds were a team-high and only 1 shy of his season-high. Miller, on the other hand, kept the team afloat in the 1st half and is finally creating easy buckets for this team. He had two pin-point passes to LMA for easy dunks. Not only that, but his 14 points only came on 9 shots and he only committed one turnover while dishing out his team-high 8 assists. I really like how Nate is leaving Bayless out there regardless, but switching Andre and Steve depending on the style of game or who's hot. Dre kept us in the game while Blake dropped the hammer.
With 8 of the next 9 at home, if there was any time to solidify themselves as playoff contenders, it is now for the Trail Blazers. Currently, we sit 5th in the West, on the heels of the Nuggets and Suns for home court advantage. It is being speculated that Rudy Fernandez is aiming for a return starting in mid-January, and if Portland can keep fighting until then, the extra help that's on the way could really propel them to compete for home court advantage. I truly think this is when KP will make his move. There is no way a team as depleted as we are can have half our team be guards and no legit centers. Obviously Roy and Bayless are untouchable right now, but there aren't enough minutes to go around for a 5-guard rotation. Even though I would hate to see any of our guards go right now, due to their level of play, it is a numbers game and we need to give Juwan and LaMarcus another big man to help them out.
Box Score

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Trail Blazers at Spurs: Game 31

The most devastating four-game road trip of the season comes to an end tonight as the Portland Trail Blazers (18-12) head to San Antonio to take on the Spurs (15-10) in a game that has serious playoff position implications. Currently, the Blazers and Spurs are 6th and 7th respectively in the West, both with .600 winning percentages, but after their early season 96-84 win in Portland, the Blazers hold the tie-breaker early on. Prior to last April's 95-83 win over the Spurs, the Blazers had lost their previous 11 in the Alamo City. Doesn't that sound kind of familiar?
Although Roy's shoulder is hurting and he is scheduled to have an MRI on it once he returns to Portland, it is sounding more and more like he will give it a go tonight. The question though becomes, how well can he play on it? As much heart, fight, and desire this team has shown to over come the adversity of so many lost players, the absence of Roy, for any prolonged period of time would be too much. If he can't play at least 80% tonight, the Blazers just don't have a good shot at pulling out another upset. If there is one player you can not afford to lose to injury or not have 100%, it is Brandon Roy.
With Joel Przybilla out, the prime-time matchup now shifts to Aldridge v. Duncan. Przybilla always played Duncan straight up and disrupted his rhythm and it showed as Duncan has only averaged 10.67 points and 4.3 rebounds a game during the past three Blazer wins, dating back to last season. If there is one attribute that does bother Duncan it is length, and Aldridge possess one of the largest wingspans in the NBA at 89 inches, 2nd longest in Trail Blazer history. It is imperative that LaMarcus doesn't fall for any of Duncan's vet moves, such as throwing his shot into the defender's arms to draw the foul, because with Joel gone, Aldridge is our lone post defender.
I fully expect another game similar to Orlando and Dallas, where Portland "uglies" up the game a bit, which shouldn't be too hard with two top defenses, Portland #3 (allowing 92.3 ppg) and San Antonio #11 (allowing 96.84 ppg) asserting their game plans. Usually the last game of a road trip is the most difficult to win and Portland now has to see if they can get up once again emotionally after losing a fallen teammate to injury so they are already emotionally exhausted. B-Roy doesn't seem like he is 100% and the Spurs have won 3 in a row and look to finally be clicking like everyone predicted they would back in September. I think it will be too tall a task for our boys to get a W tonight. After last night, nothing will surprise me, but I'll take a 2-2 road trip any day of the week. Let's just return home healthy and safely for the Holidays.
Game 30 Prediction: Trail Blazers 87 Spurs 98
Post-Game Thoughts
I'm speechless. I thought there would be no way to be any more prouder of this team after the win in Dallas, but boy, they proved me wrong! Portland was without six rotation players from last year's 54 win team, including Brandon Roy, yet someone is always there to step up in the absence of others. Juwan Howard chips in 12 points,grabs 12 rebounds, and his +22 was the highest +/- of any player on the court. After committing 3 fouls and playing only 8 minutes in the 1st half, LaMarcus Aldridge ends up with 22 points and his 8 rebounds were not indicative on how active was was on the glass as he tipped numerous balls to his teammates. Martell hit two huge 3's in the 2nd quarter to stop the bleeding of a Spurs run. Finally, Jerryd Bayless rose to the occasion and finished with a career-high 31 points, handed out a season-high 7 dimes, and didn't commit a single turnover.
What I love most about having an offensive minded point guard, is his ability to make the opposing point guard actually play defense. Parker ended up with a mere 16 points and 4 assists, but also committed 5 fouls in the process of trying to keep up with Jerryd. Bayless looked like the real deal last night. He was setting himself up by shooting the mid-range jumper or slashing to the hoop, but he was definitely looking for the open teammate. He showed just how difficult it can be to guard him as he took the ball into the paint, dribbled around and under the hoop, only to find Juwan for a nice little shot. He got the defense to fully commit to him, which means wide open shots for the rest. Another thing that was amazing to watch was how this 2nd year player was more comfortable handling the ball at the end of the game than Andre or Steve. He embraces the pressure and thrives upon it. All of these injuries are a blessing in disguise, because we have found ourselves the point guard of now.
Even though Joel may be out, I think we may have a mini-Thrilla on our hands in Pendergraph. Yes, he is only 6'9", but boy does he play much bigger than that. I'm not saying he is Przy in the terms of shot blocking, but it does look like Joel has taught him a few tricks and Jeff has paid attention. The way he stepped in for the charge was very Przybilla-esque and he does not let a rebound out of his grasp. As far as fundamentals goes, he boxes out perfectly. Finally, I love that he doesn't take any crap from anyone, just like Joel. He didn't back down last night and stood up for his teammates. If he continues to show this type of attitude and style of play, he will become a fan favorite in no time.
As long as Brandon is not out for a prolonged period of time, this team can still make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference because of their fight. I really wish we had this sense of urgency earlier on this season when we were healthy but better late than never, right? Although we didn't have this fight then, we have it now and that is what will have us playing basketball through May. The difficult part of December is over and now Portland has 9 of 10 back home in the friendly confines of the Rose Garden. As long as the boys don't get complacent, they may very well improve on their already impressive playoff seeding, currently 5th.
Box Score

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trail Blazers at Mavericks: Game 30

The Trail Blazers (17-12) travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks (20-8) as part of their first step of the Texas Two-Step. To say playing in Dallas has been a nightmare for the Trail Blazers is an understatement. Since the 1999-2000 season, Portland is 1-17 in Dallas during regular season games. I think it's safe to say, Dallas is the biggest "House of Horrors" for the Trail Blazers. Coincidentally, 99-00 was Dirk's 2nd NBA season, so ever since the Mavericks drafted the 7 foot German, it has been nearly impossible to win in Big D. The 10 prior years, spanning from 89/90-98-99, Portland was a sizzling 16-4 in Dallas. Maybe the difficulties of playing in Dallas are not so much the arena or city, but Dirk Nowitzki.
This matchup is a difficult one to analyze with the most important player's status up in the air after getting multiple teeth, courtesy of Carl Landry, stuck in his elbow. He missed the Mavericks last game against the Cavaliers and is listed as day-to-day. With Dirk out, Portland's chances increase drastically as it forces the Mavs to become more perimeter oriented and gives the Blazers a huge mismatch down on the blocks with Aldridge on Tim Thomas. Speaking of Tim Thomas, if there was a dictionary definition of "Blazer Killer", there would be a photo of Tim Thomas' mug right there. His 15.3 ppg and 55.6% shooting from 3 against Portland are the highest amongst any other opponent.
On the plus side, there is no more Brandon Bass for the Blazers to deal with. All Blazer fans remember getting their Christmas night ruined last year as images of Brandon Bass outworking out team for offensive rebounds stumble in our heads. Like Thomas, Bass was another "Blazer Killer" who's average of 10.9 ppg was highest against any opponent while his 58.8% was 2nd highest against any team. Although there is no Bass, there is JJ Barea and Jason Terry who just love running the pick and roll against us. Dallas showed that even without Nowitzki, they can be tough on any given night by smacking around the Cavaliers 102-95 this past Sunday.
For Portland to walk away with the most unlikeliest of wins, they have to have a similar game plan and mindset as they had in Miami. Go into Aldridge early and often, especially if Dirk is a no-go, as he'll have a little extra to prove tonight by playing in front of his hometown friends and family. Teams know Brandon is our team and if he isn't getting any help, they will throw their entire defense at him and make our other players beat them. Portland is going to need good games from Webster, Bayless, and Miller to get the job done tonight. Jerryd needs to match Terry's offensive energy off of the bench, Webster is going to need to keep Marion honest from the perimeter so he isn't able to double down on Roy or Aldridge, and Miller needs to make Kidd work on defense.
When you are trying to get a win in a place that hasn't been kind to you over the years, so many factors are taken into consideration if a win is the end result, but there is one main key. The Trail Blazers need to win the rebounding battle tonight, in particular by keeping the Mavs off of the offensive glass. They have a lot of 3 point shooters and scorers in general, so the less attempts we give them, the better. Dallas is 3rd in the league in rebounds per game at 43.64 led by Dampier's 9.6 a night, so hopefully Joel can extend his double-digit rebound streak.
With or without Dirk, the Blazers just do not play well enough in Dallas for me to even remotely think we will get a win. It's not even the fact we can't seem to play well there, because on top of it all, they are actually a great team as shown by their current second seed status in the West. Outside of Roy, the team is just too inconsistent and you never know what some guys are going to bring. This is definitely a winnable game (if Dirk is out), but I don't see it happening tonight unfortunately as Kidd, Howard, Terry, and Marion will be too much to handle.
Game 30 Prediction: Trail Blazers 93 Mavericks 102
Post-Game Thoughts
Brandon Roy summed it up best after the game, "These wins are starting to become bittersweet." Not only did Joel Przybilla, Portland's rock, go down with a ruptured right patella tendon and patella dislocation or in lamen's terms: Worse than Greg's injury. Way worse. It is now being reported that Brandon Roy will have an MRI on his shoulder after injuring it fighting for a loose ball late in the 4th quarter.
Doom and gloom aside, how about those Trail Blazers? They showed resiliency by jumping out to an 11 point halftime lead right after Joel went down and fighting back from being outscored 32-14 in the 3rd quarter. This all happened against the current 2nd seed in the West and in an arena where the franchise had one just 1 regular season game in since the 99-00 season. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of issues holding this team back this year, but if there is one thing you can say about this team is that when the chips are down, they rise to the occasion stronger than ever. Outside of climbing back from the 0-3 deficit against Dallas in the 03 playoffs, I don't think I have been more proud of a Blazer team since that moment.
Was it great Blazer defense or just a cold shooting performance from Dallas that enabled Portland to hold the high-octane Mavs to a mere 81 points, 21 below their season average. Outside of Dirk (27 points, 10-13 shooting) and JJ Barea (22 points, 9-16 shooting), the rest of the Maverick players shot a combined 12-51 (23.5%) from the field for a total of 32 points. I think it was a combination of defense and cold shooting, because outside of Barea, I didn't see many open shots being taken by other Maverick player. Marion was forcing it early to the tune of back to back air balls en route to 0-7 from the floor. Jason Terry looked like he was impatient as he shot a lot of shots early in the shot clock and it showed with his 2-13 performance.
LaMarcus carried us in the 1st half with his 17 points and Brandon was the 4th quarter closer as usual, but the player who made the under the radar, critical plays was Jerryd Bayless. He nailed a corner 3 to give Portland back their lead in the 4th quarter at 72-70 and took the ball at the top of the key, with the shot clock winding down, and darted to the hoop for a lay-in. Maybe more important than either of those two buckets were his two defensive steals on back to back possessions. He realized Dirk had it dialed in and he threw a couple of different double team looks at him which resulted in steals and allowed the Blazer lead to get all the way up to 8 in the closing minutes, just enough to hold off a furious Dallas comeback attempt.
Box Score

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trail Blazers at Heat: Game 29

The Trail Blazers (16-12) head to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat (13-11) in the second game of a four-game road trip. Portland has already lost to the Heat earlier this year at the Rose Garden (100-107) in a game where the Heat jumped out to an early lead and the Tail Blazes could never get over the hump. Miami is a place where Portland has had tremendous success throughout the years, going 16-5 in Miami since the Heat came into the league during the 88-89 season, including winning the previous two games in Florida. This was the game marked on Trail Blazer fan's calenders as the most winnable during the difficult five-game stretch that got underway last night in Orlando, but it won't be easy as Portland is coming off of the second night of a back to back, whereas Miami has not played since Thursday.
Will Blazer fans be forced to watch another grind-it-out game tonight? It could happen, as both Portland and Miami are in the bottom half of the league in points scored per game at 96 and 98 respectively and in the upper echelon in regards to points allowed per night at 92 and 97. If there is going to be a lot of bricks being thrown up, then Portland must take advantage of their 3rd best rebounding differential at +3.64 and crash the glass. We all know the Blazers have a tough time getting easy shots, so why not try to get as many garbage points as possible?
The #1 key to the game is to guard the 3 point line. The main reason Miami was able to walk into the Rose Garden and come away with a victory was their 7-17 performance behind the line and if my memory serves me correctly, Miami had a bunch of wide open 3's but missed. James Jones and Quentin Richardson are deadly from distance and the game could hinder on them making shots or not. We know Portland would rather they shoot from 25 feet away then not double D-Wade going to the hoop. Right now Portland just doesn't have enough offensive firepower to win a shootout and needs to scrap their way to a win today.
A big reason Miami did win earlier this year had to do with Aldridge missing the game due to a sore knee, which allowed Michael Beasley to drop 27 points (8-15) and grab 8 rebounds. No one on our roster can stick with his length and athleticism, outside of Aldridge, so hopefully LaMarcus can stifle him defensively. I saw enough Beasley pull-up jumpers off the dribble to hold me over long enough to next season, so I would take the approach of always making sure LMA is on the floor when Mike is playing. No one wants to see Dante or Juwan (Bless them), try to keep up with Beasley, because like Outlaw, he thrives off playing people slower than him.
This game is the classic toss-up. I'm sure Aldridge will have a much better showing tonight than he did last night and Roy will do what Roy does, but it comes down to Bayless, Webster, Miller, and Blake and it will continue to ride on their shoulders until we get more healthy bodies back in the mix. Out of those 4 players, I think it is safe to say we need either 2 of those guys to have much better nights than their season averages or 3 play right about where they usually would in order to win ball games. With no rhyme or reason, other than being a Blazer homer, I think we get good shooting from Blake and Bayless energizes the bench which is just enough to squeak past the Heat.
Game 29 Prediction: Trail Blazers 95 Heat 93
Post-Game Thoughts
Brandon Roy, what more can I say? 28 points, on only 14 attempts, 5-5 from distance, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds all done on the second half of a back to back where he played 40+ minutes the night before. He is literally carrying this team on his back right now and if he keeps up this type of play, an All-Star berth is imminent. A lot of people want to put Roy behind Kobe and Wade when it comes to 2-guards, but on this night, Brandon was clearly head and shoulders above Wade. Wade also scored 28 points, but he it took him 31 shots to do so and he couldn't even muster a rebound. It wasn't as if Wade was having an off night, missing easy shots and what not. D-Wade was forcing some of the most difficult shots any spectator has ever seen, mainly coming off of one on one and ending in a tough fade away from 15+ feet out.
Unfortunately, this team lives by the 3 and dies by the 3. Even though Quentin Richardson went a scorching 7-7 from downtown, the Blazers, as a team, shot a better percentage from 3 as they went 11-19 as opposed to Miami's 8-16. The one positive I will say about the 3 point shot tonight was that many of them were open and came off of dribble penetration. I would still like to see more 3's being attempted out of kick out from the post, mainly dumping it inside to LaMarcus and forcing the defense to collapse down on him and hitting the open man. Although Roy's shot-clock beating 3 with 30 seconds left will be viewed by most as the play of the game, I felt another shot was even bigger. After missing a go-ahead 3 the possession before, trailing by 3, Roy drove hard left, drew two defenders and hit Webster in the corner for a 3 that tied the game up at 92.
LaMarcus had a nice bounce back game with 23 points (10-23) and 8 boards and Joel had over double-digit boards for the umpteenth time in a row, but the real unsung hero was Andre Miller. It was he who led the 18-2 run in the 3rd quarter and always had a huge bucket to keep Portland right on the cusp of victory. He showed why he is the starting point guard and why he needs to be on the floor in the 4th quarter. In the end, he tallied 17 points (6-10), 4 assists, zero turnovers, and a team-high 6 trips to the foul line. The ability to get to the charity stripe is the main reason he needs 30+ minutes a night. When the shot clock runs down, he doesn't panic and finds a way to get a lay-in or some free throw attempts.
Although there will be no championship in Portland this year, I am more than proud of the way this team is fighting to make it to the playoffs. A lot of people, who I won't name, thought this seven-game stretch that started with the Kings and ends with the Nuggets would end in Portland being lucky to come away with 2 maybe 3 wins at best. Well, here is some news for you. The Trail Blazers already are 3-1 during this stretch and have a good chance of ending these 7 games over .500. Honestly, I thought the team felt like this season was going to be easy, and it showed during their early season play, but now they are really working out there and putting it all on the line. As a fan, this is all you can ask for!
Box Score

Trail Blazers at Magic: Game 28

The Trail Blazers (16-11) head east to take part in, arguably, their most devastating road trip of the season, starting off with a giant test against the Orlando Magic (19-7). Although the Trail Blazers have had success down in Orlando, including last season's 106-99 victory, but Portland also got 20 points each from Blake and Outlaw and Rudy chipped in 16. I doubt Portland gets that type of production tonight from their role players, considering Outlaw and Rudy are both out with injuries an Steve has only scored in double figures in 6 out a possible 27 games this year, with 18 being his season-high so far, but that was back in early November against the Thunder.
Surprisingly, Orlando is only 8th in the NBA in points per game at a little over 102 a night. When you factor in all of their offensive minded weapons, getting only 102 a night is a little sub-par if you ask me. Although Portland won last year in Orlando without Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla played only 9.5 minutes, it is usually a recipe for disaster and we will need Joel to stay on the court for a sustained amount of time tonight to have a chance. With averages of 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks, Dwight is going to get his, but he must be contained. The key is to not allow a 30-20 type of game and keep him off of the offensive glass. The best time to shoot a 3 is either off of the fast break or offensive rebound, and with the Magic shooting the 6th best 3 point percentage in the NBA at 37.1%, teams play with fire by giving Orlando extra opportunities to burn them with shots from downtown.
Yes, the Trail Blazers are 9-2 with Andre Miller starting, but he hasn't really been the reason why that stat has held true the past two games with totals of 8 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, and shooting an awful 3-13 from the field. If Portland wants to shock the league with in a win tonight, guys like Webster, Bayless, and either Blake or Miller need to give us the type of performance we got from Trav, Steve, and Rudy last season. I liked what I saw early on against Phoenix where Andre took Dragic down on the blocks and abused him in the post. Jason Williams is known for a lot of things during his tenure in the NBA, but defense is not one of them. Hopefully he gets a few post-up buckets, eventually drawing the double team,and kicking it out to open shooters or dishing it to cutters slashing down the middle.
Outside of the game at Dallas, this is the most difficult game during this upcoming five-game stretch. If we had more of a bench, I could see us pulling it out, but Orlando is a very deep team that I think will eventually wear us out. Look for the Trail Blazers to keep this one close through halftime, but I have a feeling a few offensive rebounds will lead to some back breaking 3's. Ryan Anderson, Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Mikal Pietrus, and Rashard Lewis are just too many three point weapons to have on one team and for all of them to be ice cold is highly unlikely.
Game 28 Prediction: Trail Blazers 96 Magic 108
Post-Game Thoughts
Well, Portland kept the game closer than I thought they would, but in the end could not hit an outside shot to save their lives. The Blazers were an abysmal 37.2% from the field, including 3-18 from the land of 3. For whatever reason, we decided to make Aldridge a complete non-factor by not letting him touch the ball in the post at all. He was invisible out there on the floor, as seen by his 3 points, on only 6 shots attempts, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. I can blame the guards for not getting him the ball on offense, but in a game where there were 92 missed shots, he needs to grab more than 1 rebound. If there is a plus side to such a sub-par performance, it is the fact he should have all the energy in the world to carry us today against the Heat, because Roy is going to be dog tired after his performance.
Speaking of Brandon, he did all that he could to give us a fighter's chance at winning by producing 33 points (13-27), but the one thing he couldn't accomplish and really the entire team couldn't achieve were assists as the Trail Blazers set a franchise record low for assists in one game at 7. Roy only dished out 1 assist and when your best play-maker only has 1 dime, it means there are a lot of missed shots or too much one on one. In this case, it was a little of both. Roy definitely set some of his teammates up, but no one was connecting. On the other hand, he was still going one on one and settling for too many jumpers. As a whole, the Blazers need to become a more aggressive team and attack Orlando and Dwight Howard.
Martell Webster, where have you gone? 1-11 from the floor, and 0-6 from downtown. Those are just unacceptable numbers from a starting small forward who was known as a shooter coming out of high school. I really love the hustle he is putting in on defense and on the glass (7 rebounds, 1 block), but for an injury-laden team who lost a lot of their offensive punch in Oden, Outlaw, and Fernandez, Webster needs to be more consistent. Martell averages 8.4 points per game and the team, as a whole, scores 96.17 a night, bad enough for 24th in the league. When Webster scores just 5 points above his average, 13, in the seven times it has happened this year, Portland scores 101.43 a night. When Martell scores 5 points below his average, 3, the Blazers have only mustered up 90 points a game. Sadly, he has scored 3 or less in 8 of 28 games this season. If he isn't hitting from behind the arc, teams just blanket Roy and Aldridge and beg us to shoot outside.
One of the most frustrating aspects about a game like this, is holding the opposing stars in check, only to get beat by little-used reserves or journeymen. Jason Williams kept the Magic afloat early on and eventually tallied 13 points, but it was his 3, 3 pointers that were always momentum killers. Anthony Johnson came in late and got a few points in the paint, something I didn't know he had in his arsenal. Of course, there was Redick's 12 points off the bench, including a dagger of a 3 to end the 3rd quarter. Portland was up 3 before that shot and Blake hit a 3 to start the 4th. Instead of being up 6, we were only up 3 and in a slug-fest like this battle, 6 points is a pretty lofty lead. In the end, Portland did a good job of controlling tempo by making it a grind-it-out affair and most likely walks out of Amway Arena with a healthy squad. It bodes very well for the future that we play so well against Orlando since we could see them in the Finals in a few years.
Box Score

Trail Blazers vs. Suns: Game 27

In a game that marks nearly the 1-year anniversary of Brandon Roy's 52 point heroic performance, the same two teams battle it out as the 17-8 Suns clash against the 15-11 Trail Blazers. Although the jerseys may read Suns and Blazers, the teams are not mirror images of where either was one year ago. Phoenix, then coached by Terry Porter, was a slower paced team than they are now, tried to incorporate Shaq into their offense and struggled mightily, whereas the Blazers were only nursing 1 injury, Martell Webster, and were on the short list of up and coming teams in the league. Instead of this game being a fight for home court advantage, it now looms as another hurdle the Trail Blazers must clear if they intend on making the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year.
As we all know, the Suns axed Blazer legend Terry Porter in favor of Alvin Gentry who has returned Phoenix to their former run and gun selves. To no one's surprise, they are tops in the NBA at points per game at 108.72, 3 point field goal percentage at 43.3%, and 2nd in overall field goal percentage by shooting a blistering 49.3%. Along with the rebirth of the run and gun style has been Steve Nash's re-emergence as an elite point guard. His numbers are up across the board since last year as he raised his scoring output by 2.6 a night (18.3 from 15.7), assists by 1.5 (11.2 from 9.7), and shooting nearly 3% better from the floor (.530 from .503).
As a Blazer fan, it was a huge deal beating the Suns last year, because their style of play has hexed us in the past and it was rare to get a win over the Suns this decade since they signed Nash back in 2004. It took 52 from Roy to get a win last season, against what could be considered one of the weaker Suns teams. On the plus side for Portland, there is no Shaq, who always seemed to get up to play us, but replacing him is former Blazer Channing Frye, who is seeing a resurgence of his own in Phoenix. Frye's 12 points and 6 rebounds a night are more than double the output he produced in Portland and his 62 3 pointers made are only 2nd in the NBA to Danilo Gallinari's 64. It will be very interesting to see how Coach Nate tries to defend Channing. Does he put Joel on him, which would leave open the paint for the Suns as Channing likes to parade around the arc or does he put Joel on Amare and hope Stoudemire doesn't get him into early foul trouble?
For reasons unknown and unexplainable, I really like the Trail Blazers in this game tonight. On paper, it looks like a mismatch, but the Suns are only a pedestrian 8-8 on the road and I think LaMarcus and Brandon have got a little pep in their step now. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Jerryd Bayless has another productive night and attacks the soft interior defense of Phoenix. The key to the game tonight will be Joel Przybilla and his ability to stay on the court for prolonged periods of time tonight. Without him, I think the Suns are too good an offensive team to not take advantage of his absence in the interior.
Game 27 Prediction: Trail Blazers 104 Suns 101
Post-Game Thoughts
Jerryd Bayless has now played himself into the rotation, regardless of how many healthy bodies we have on the roster or will have in the future. He is the exact 3rd scorer we need and is the perfect backcourt mate to pair with Roy. Another thing I really enjoy about the two of them when they are on the court, is the balance of emotion. Bayless is fired up and energetic over every basket, while Roy is even keeled, stoic, and calm throughout much of the game. I know it sounds a little crazy, but after these last two performances from Jerryd, including his 29 points, 9-15 shooting, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, I have a renewed faith that this team can actually get to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Without another player stepping up with the scoring, it would have been too much of a burden for Roy and LMA to carry.
Flying under the radar was the extremely impressive performance from Martell Webster. No, his 15 points and 7 rebounds aren't going to wow anyone, but it was the timely nature in which he did everything. During the end of the 2nd quarter, he had a sick put-back dunk and up and under reverse lay-in to keep up with consecutive 3's that were raining down from Channing Frye. Those plays kept the crowd in the game at a time when it wasn't looking too bright. We can't forget his block on Amare in the 4th quarter that helped up the lead and who can forget about his two clutch rebounds? One to prolong the possession deep in the 4th and the tip-in of the missed free throw to put Portland up by 8 at 102-94 with a little over 2 minutes left.
Did Amare really have the micro-fracture surgery, because there looked to be no ill effects of that surgery at all. I was somewhat baffled they didn't run their entire offense around him in the 2nd half. His face up game is second to none and he has the strength and athleticism to dunk on anyone that tries to get in his way. With his 27 points and 11 rebounds, he should be the free agent big man everyone talks about, not Chris Bosh. The addition of Frye really has cleared the paint for Amare to operate, as the quicker of the opposition's front line will have to stay out on the perimeter with Frye while Amare gets to go one on one against bigger, slower centers. I love Joel, but that matchup just wasn't fair.
Finally, if these past two wins weren't confidence builders and jumping off points, then I have no clue what is. We desperately need to go at least 2-3 over these next 5 games to keep up pace with the other teams jockeying for playoff position. Even with all of the injuries, the Trail Blazers are still 5th in the West and are right on the cusp of home court advantage in the 1st round. Denver, LA, and Dallas look like they are solidifying themselves as the top 3 of these West, but Utah is playing lackadaisical ball as usual, Houston still has no Yao, the Spurs are looking older by the minute, and will it ever click for the Hornets? Bottom line is that Portland needs to believe not only are the playoffs a possibility, but so is a decent seed.
Box Score

Monday, December 14, 2009

HolyBackboard 2010 Draft Look Ahead: December Edition

Unfortunately, this season has not gone they way we all had expected it to, but that's life. Every month, we will rate our Top 5 prospects, based on skill, need, and realistic availability. Realistic ability is a very subjective measure, but when you have Kevin Pritchard as your GM, and all of our young talent, is anyone really impossible to obtain?
  1. PG-John Wall: Kentucky

  2. Although the only chance Portland has at landing Wall would be through another fluke win at the NBA Draft Lottery, every draft list starts and ends with Mr. Wall. As cliche as it sounds, Coach Calipari has called him the best prospect at this stage in his career he has ever coached, including Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, which is incredible praise considering Rose is the reigning R.O.Y. and Evans is on his way.
    Wall is currently averaging 18 points and 7 assists and is the key reason why UK is ranked in the top 5 and still unbeaten. His performance at Madison Square Garden against fellow stud point guard Kemba Walker and UCONN was nothing short of spectacular. With his length and athleticism, he reminds me of Rajon Rondo with a much higher ceiling. As to be expected, he is still very raw in terms of his court vision and jump shot, but so was Rose his first season at Memphis.
  3. PF-Patrick Patterson:Kentucky

  4. As much as Trail Blazer fans wish right now that Utah did not match the offer sheet for big man Paul Millsap, we may not have to go out and spend a ton of money to get a similar, maybe better player in Patrick Patterson. As of now, he is rated #8 and #11 on Draft Express and respectively and his stock could soar even higher if he continues to play at his torrid pace of 16.8 ppg and 9.6 rpg against tough competition.
    Since the days of Brian Grant, Blazer fans have yearned for a big, bruising forward to dominate the glass on the inside. Even better, Patterson is compared to Blazer great Buck Williams and the comparison was no more apparent than his performance against Indiana this past Saturday where he was a man-child on the boards by grabbing a team-high 8 offensive rebounds. Aldridge is still our power forward for now and the future, but with Outlaw's versatility, he could swing over to the small forward at times and let Patterson go to work. Right now, he is my favorite prospect in the draft.
  5. C-Cole Aldrich:Kansas

  6. With Greg Oden's health still in question and Joel Przybilla's ability to opt out of his contract this offseason, it would be foolish to not look at other centers, in case something happens. Aldrich is another player the Blazers would have to trade up to obtain, but the talent is too much to pass up on, which is why he is #3 on our board. Although he is compared by some to Brook Lopez, personally, I like to think of him as a more offensively gifted Joel Przybilla. His 7'4" wingspan allow him to be a dominant weak side shot-blocker and disrupt his opponent during man to man play.
    When you are evaluating big men, the most important thing to look for is agility and footwork. Although he has great open court speed, his lateral footwork could use some work, but I'm sure Bobby Medina could get him in shape. Even though 12 points and 10 rebounds a night don't scream top 5 pick, those stats are a little skewed as he plays on the top team in the nation at Kansas where they have weapons all over the place. What does stand out are his 3.6 blocks per game, good enough for 6th in the entire nation. There has only been one game this entire season where he hasn't tallied 3 or more blocks in.
  7. PF-Derrick Favors:Georgia Tech

  8. Favors is probably the 2nd best prospect in the entire class, and the only reason he is #4 and not #2 is based on the fact that I don't see Portland going after him whatsoever. Favors has NBA Superstar potential, but we already have a budding star in Aldridge and I don't see Favors wanting to be LA's backup. But if some reason Portland landed in the top 3 of the lottery, you take him if he is B.P.A and use him as a trading chip to get what you need.
    When it comes to Power Forwards, the big question is really, "How tall is he?" He is listed at 6'9", but even with his feakish athleticism, if he measures in an inch or and inch and a half shorter than listed, it could drop him down a few slots. From the tape I have seen on him, the NBADraft comparison to Amare Stoudamire is pretty spot on outside of his lack of a face up game. His 13.4 ppg and 8.3 rpg look nice on paper, but then you dissect the competition the Yellow Jackets have played at its cupcake city. Everyone will be able to get a much better read on him once the difficult ACC conference play heats up.
  9. SG-Willie Warren

  10. Although Portland has similar dynamic scorers in Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless, Warren could be one of the best prospects available right where Portland is drafting if they are on the cusp of the playoff race. As of now, NBADraft has him going late lottery at #14, while Draft Express has him skyrocketing up the boards all the way to #5. Warren reminds me of a much more explosive Ben Gordon who can heat up as quickly as Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson. We all know Brandon likes to handle the ball a lot, so surrounding him with pure scorers would be an intelligent move to do. Down the road, a future 3 guard rotation of Roy, Bayless, and Warren would be lethal. Defensively, a 6'4" combo guard leaves a lot to be desired, but once Batum and Oden return in 2010, the front court defense should be on lock.
    For being a shoot-first guard, his 5.1 dimes a night are fairly impressive to along with his team-leading 19.6 ppg. If he is going to make it in the league, he must improve on his 44.2% field goal shooting and horrendous 26.8% from downtown. He very well may be a volume scorer in the NBA, but if he gets drafted by the Trail Blazers, his shots will be limited so he'll need to work on consistency. One concern I would have about pulling the trigger in regards to drafting him, is his Bonzi Wells type mentality. When Bonzi was in his first couple of seasons with the Blazers he was explosive to the hoop and never settled for the jumper. Once he found a jumper, he fell in love with it and I see a little bit of that in Warren. This team already occupies too many perimeter players and we need another Bayless/Roy who is fearless in attacking the rim.
Players To Watch
  1. PF-Gani Lawal:Georgia Tech
  2. PF-Jarvis Varnado:Mississippi State
  3. C-DeMarcus Cousins:Kentcuky

Trail Blazers vs Kings: Game 26

One of the surprise teams of the NBA during this young season has to be the 10-12 Sacramento Kings. The Kings, who finished last season with the NBA's worst record at 17-65, are finding a way to get it done behind Coach Paul Westphal and stud rookie Tyreke Evans. What is even more impressive about their record is the fact they are doing it without leading scorer Kevin Martin, who looks to be out for at least another month or two with a broken wrist. All of these numbers and records are great for the Kings, except one minor detail. They are an abysmal 1-9 away from Arco Arena and were swept at the Rose Garden last season, including a 109-77 blowout.
For Portland, this is about as close to a must win as you can get in December. With only 9 able bodies and the next 6 games going a little something like Phoenix, at Orlando, at Miami, at San Antonio, at Dallas, and Denver, the Trail Blazers can not afford to lay any more eggs at the Rose Garden any time soon if they still want to achieve their goal of making the playoffs. Sacramento doesn't attribute all the talent in the world, but they fight, claw, and scrap their way to victory, something Coach McMillan would like to see his boys doing on a more consistent basis. The Blazers showed a lot of urgency in their late 3rd/early 4th rally against Milwaukee, which was a breathe of fresh air. Hopefully, we see more of that tonight, even if it is against the Kings.
Sacramento is both top 5 in scoring per game at 105.09 and points allowed at 105.31, so the Kings giveth and the Kings taketh away. Jason Thompson is a promising, young forward averaging 14.9 ppg and 9.1 rpg, but this is another game where Portland has the decided advantage at the 4 spot. Personally, I'd love to see Aldridge work his dribble-drive game and force the officials to make the calls on Thompson. If Thompson gets in early foul trouble, Aldridge will have a field day against Job Brockman or Andres Nocioni.
Make no mistake about it, if Portland decides to to play with a lull and wastes the shot clock down on nearly every possession, the Kings can and will score in bunches. We must move without the ball, cut, and make quick decisions as we saw the 2nd unit perform the give and go at will on the Cavaliers during the 2nd quarter. The Kings will turn the ball over, 15.81 a night which is bad enough for 9th worst in the league, so Portland needs to take every opportunity to push the tempo and get easy fast break buckets. A lot of our players have been in year-long shooting slumps and sometimes the easiest way to break free during a game is to get a cheap lay-up to get your rhythm going.
The game is sold out, which shows that Blazer fans are still behind their team. I know the team is hungry for a win after going 1-3 on a very winnable 4 game road trip. Add all of that together with the fact that the team regains their leader in Coach tonight and I see the makings of a drubbing. I believe during the road trip, the team was still shell shocked from the loss of Greg and is just now realizing how much extra it will take to win on a nightly basis. Roy and Aldridge lead the way to a dominating victory.
Game 26 Prediction: Trail Blazers 107 Kings 92
Post-Game Thoughts In what looked like "Memphis 2.0", the Blazers fought their way back from a 54-43 halftime deficit behind absolutely amazing nights from Roy and Aldridge, Joel on the glass, and timely scoring from Jerryd Bayless. Although it was far from a drubbing, the game should not have been as close as it was. I give Coach Nate all the credit in the world for making halftime adjustments, but we really need to start out games by working Aldridge in the post. We did this to start the 2nd half, and their 11 point lead was evaporated in less than a few minutes, making it a competitive again. By visiting the plethora of Blazer message boards, the fan opinion on Aldridge really differs between All-Star or elite forward. Personally, I believe he can and will be the top power forward in 2-3 years once Dirk, Duncan, and KG all start to decline. He possesses every move in the post from the fade away to the up and under. It is true he needs to work on his face up game, but this kid is a scoring machine and not many players have the skill to defend against his offensive repertoire. Outside of his 25 points and 5 assists, I was most impressed with his 8 2nd half rebounds. We were getting out played and out worked in the 1st half and I noticed he only had 1 board through 2 quarters. Whatever got into him in the 2nd half, we need more of that. With his length and athleticism, 8-10 boards a night should be a walk in the park
Brandon looked like he was back tonight. He shot 50% from the field (10-20), handed out 10 assists, pulled down 5 rebounds, and scored 25 points. With our record being not so illustrious this season, he'll have to put up these type of numbers to be recognized as an All-Star for the 3rd consecutive season. I really don't buy the fact that Roy plays his best when he is out there with Blake as he looked extremely comfortable with both Andre and Jerryd playing alongside of him. If we want to make a serious push for the playoffs, we need to Roy and LaMarcus to be our Shaq and Kobe. Regardless of whether they are as talented as those two, the Blazers need those two to take the majority of the shots, lead by example, and make others around them better.
Outside of our dynamic duo, each and every game looks like it will hinder on two things. Joel Przybilla being able to stay on the court and getting a consistent 15 points a night from one player as our 3rd scoring option. When the Thrilla was on the court, his +/- was +27, +15 higher than any other Trail Blazer. It was no coincidence when Joel got hampered by 3 fouls in the first two quarters, the Kings were able to score at will in the paint and extend their lead. Without Greg and even Pendergraph, our interior defense becomes very spotty without him on the floor, so he could be the most valuable Trail Blazer.
"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, Jerryd was freed at last." A lot of people, including myself, have been hoping for Bayless to get significant playing time with all of these injuries and it happened last night when he tallied a season-high 24 minutes and played nearly the entire 4th quarter. Huge kudos must be given to Coach McMillan for sticking with Jerryd through his rough 1st half which saw him get posted up twice by Ime Udoka and send an outlet pass into the 5th row of center court, way above the outstretched hand of Steve Blake. Coach believed in Jerryd and he delivered with some timely, timely buckets down the stretch. With the game close and the shot clock winding down, Jerryd got the ball on a few occasions and just let instinct take over as he darted to the hoop. He didn't make the bucket, but got to the foul line, which is something this team needs from players other than Brandon. Bayless is a scoring point guard, but that is perfectly fine, because Roy loves to handle the ball. Also, with Rudy and Travis out, we desperately need a consistent 3rd scorer, so if he is able to get us 15 a night, it would really help soften up the defense on Roy and LA.
Box Score

Friday, December 11, 2009

Trail Blazers at Bucks: Game 25

One of the surprise teams this year so far has to be the 10-11 Bucks, who are very deadly at home, as they are owners of an 8-3 record at the Bradley Center. Obviously a big reason to their revival has been the health of Andrew Bogut and the phenomenal play of rookie Brandon Jennings, who is putting up 21.2 ppg, 5.7 apg, and 3.8 rpg. The 14-10 Trail Blazers come into the last game of their 4 game road trip desperately needing a win to not only come away with a split on the trip but to stay afloat for the last two playoff spots.
If there is a chink in the Bucks armor the Trail Blazers can expose, it is Milwaukee's efficiency shooting the ball, as they are the 5th worst team in the NBA by shooting a porous 43.8% from the field. But, Portland better be careful of guarding that 3 point line, as Milwaukee is 5th best in the league from downtown a 37.7%. The Bucks have 4 players who shot it better than 35% from deep in Brandon Jennings(43.9%), Luke Ridnour(39.2%), Carlos Delfino(37.2%), and Ersan Ilyasova(35.1%). On the plus side for Portland, outside of Bogut, the Bucks possess no one who should be a threat to get points in the paint, which has been a thorn in the side of this Blazer defense. To limit the 3's from raining down all night and still controlling the paint, Portland needs to not take bad, quick shots on offense which can lead to fast break points and limit the turnovers. Also, do not send the double team down on Bogut, unless he shows an inability to pass out of the double team or is scoring at will in the post and we have no other choice.
It will be very interesting to see who Scott Skiles decides to put on Roy and Aldridge. By checking out their most recent starting lineup, it would seem that the 6-10 235 lb. Ersan Ilyasova will get the call on Aldridge which is exactly where Portland should look to attack all game long just as they did in the 1st quarter of the Indiana game. If Aldridge were smart, he would back him down, turn the shoulder, and drive to the middle of the hoop, which nearly always ends in a foul on the defender and sometimes an And 1. Like Portland, Milwaukee is not a deep team at all, so if you can take Ersan out of the game, LMA should be able to continue feasting on Dan Gadzuric or Kurt Thomas. The bigger question is will Luc Richard Mbah a Moute get the defensive assignment on Brandon Roy. If you haven't caught many Bucks games, a great comparison is that he is their version of Nicolas Batum. A young, long small forward who is capable of being a game changer on the defensive end of the floor. If indeed that is the matchup, then Portland needs to run Roy off of the ball to get him loose and tiring Luc in the process. Another way to get Roy rolling are simple give and go's. Roy gives up the ball, runs Luc off of a back pick and receives the pass for a simple bucket. All I ask is that the one on one play is at a minimum. The more ball movement/player movement we have, the more efficient the offense will run.
Just like the key to defeating the Cavs is to contain LeBron, well the same applies to the Bucks and Jennings. Scouts are already dubbing him the next Allen Iverson and he has already put up over 50 once this season. If there is one game to let loose Jerryd Bayless, this is the game. He is the only player on our team who has the quickness to stay in front of him. Another way to slow him down is to make him work on the defensive end. When Andre is in the game as the sole point guard, he needs to take Jennings down to the post and back him down. Although he is young and will have fresh legs, as Milwaukee hasn't played since Wednesday, it will hinder his offensive performance is Dre is down low initiating body shots to his torso.
If history tells us anything, it's the fact this game will be close and go down to the wire. Since the beginning of the decade (2000-2001), there have been 9 battles between these two teams at the Bradley Center with Portland winning 6 and Milwaukee taking 3. The average margin of victory has been only 7.5 points and would be even closer expect for one outlier in the 02-03 season where the Bucks won by 22 points. I fully believe tonight will not be any different. It will be a game where both teams make runs but will come down to the final minutes of the game. In the end, Portland will ride Aldridge to another heart stopping victory in Milwaukee and come away with a split on the trip.
Game 25 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Bucks 95
Post-Game Thoughts
If one game sums up how this season has gone so far, it was last night against Milwaukee. Portland fought with everything they had and looked to be in control as a Carlos Delfino miss was battled for under the rim and went out of bounds. It was originally called Blazer ball, but after looking at the review, the officials switched it to Milwaukee, even though replay showed no conclusive evidence at all that it went off of Portland. If they are going to overturn the original call on the floor (Portland Ball), then there must be indisputable evidence. Having something taken away from you, a win, after you have watched your team scrap and claw there way back from a 13 point deficit in the 3rd quarter really was difficult to deal with.
The loss of Greg Oden was very apparent in last night's game. As good of a defender that Joel is, he just does not possess the brute strength and size of Oden which could have been a bigger factor against Andrew Bogut. Bogut was the Bucks' money man tonight, as he was unstoppable on the blocks to the tune of 27 points, on 12-19 shootings, and grabbed 9 rebounds. Although he has had to deal with his fair share of injuries, Bogut showed why he was taken #1 in the 2005 draft.
I realize the boys were tired, but we were lucky to even be in the game by shooting a combined 40% from the field. One of the main reasons I have been calling for Dante and Jerryd to play more minutes is to take some of the burden off of the other 7 players so they don't get fatigued. Our guards in particular, Miller, Blake, an Roy, shot a combined 13-46 for an ice cold 28.2%. Roy hit the difficult game tying shot when it mattered at the end of regulation, but each player had a chance to make a momentum shot, only to see it hit the iron unkind. The coaching staff needs to find a way to get Brandon easier shots and maybe trim him minutes just a tad, because his shooting percentage has been awful these past two games, a combined 17-49 for 34.5%, and I would bet it is due to being exhausted.
Even in the losses, I am trying to take out something positive the team can build upon for the 2010-2011 season and last night it was the L-Train. LaMarcus played one of the guttiest performances I have seen from him, and when he scored those 6 straight fast break dunks in the first overtime, I thought we had it wrapped and in the bag. The biggest reason I want to see this team run is to take advantage of having the quickest and fastest power forward in the game on our team. LaMarcus, with his long stride, runs like a Gazelle and is always looking to finish strong. Aldridge had a team-high 31 points, 13-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, and played 52 minutes. Most impressive about his numbers were his game-high 5 offensive rebounds and the ball wasn't just falling into his lap. He looked like a man possessed last night on the glass, going for anything and everything in his vicinity. Hopefully, the L-Train is starting his post-All-Star streak of torrid play a little earlier than usual this season.
Box Score

Trail Blazers at Cavaliers: Game 24

The 14-9 Portland Trail Blazers head to the "Q" to take on the 15-7 Cleveland Cavaliers as their 3rd game of this 4 game road trip. Normally, a 15-7 record is considered to be pretty good, but for a team with as much expectations as the Cavaliers had going into this season, so far, they have been a major disappointment. Already, they have lost as many games at home as they had the previous season and have been getting shellacked the past two games against Memphis and Houston on the road. What does this all mean for the Trail Blazers? It could mean one of two things. First, Cleveland could still come out in a funk and continue their sloppy, erratic play. The other side of the coin could see Cleveland come out like gangbusters, trying to halt their two game losing streak and get out of their funk.
The pessimist inside of me wants to believe that Cleveland will run their offense right through Shaq to start the game, get Joel in foul trouble and then let Shaq feast on Aldridge or Howard. Once we make the adjustment to double Shaq, then that is where either Mo Williams gets loose from downtown or LeBron takes over on the national stage. On the other hand, the optimist reminds me how well we played in Cleveland last year, without LaMarcus Aldridge, and against a Cavs team that was playing much better than they are now. Hopefully Cleveland overlooks our team because they can see we only have 9 players, no head coach, and have been decimated by injuries and we can sneak up on them and steal a victory in a hostile environment.
With Batum out, these were the exact matchups I feared. I know not one single player can stop LeBron, let alone contain him, but Nic has the length and athleticism to at least bother him. If Portland wants any chance to win this game, it will take a little bit of strategy and a little bit of luck. I've noticed that when we give up 50+ points in the paint, we almost always come out on the short end of the stick, and any team that features Shaq and LeBron is a threat to score at will in the paint. What I suggest is to play off the Cavs and force them to beat us from the perimeter. It is a bit of a gamble as they are 2nd in the NBA in 3 point percentage at 42.3%, which is why I say it could take a little luck to get it done tonight. Obviously, the team should stay up on Daniel Gibson, Mo Williams, and Anthony Parker as they aren't threats to do much else than rain threes. The key to the game is to make LeBron beat us by shooting jump shots. He can do it and he has done it against us in the past, but you have to live with jump shots instead of free throw attempts and dunks.
I think Portland will play better than most expect. Just as we have no answer for Shaq and James, they have no answer for Roy and Aldridge. This time, if we get LMA rolling early again, we need to continue to go back to him and not shy away from giving him the ball in the post like we did against Indiana. Roy is also going to have to have another All-Star performance as he may have to match LeBron bucket for bucket. In the end, I think Cleveland just has too much talent and will wear us out in the 4th quarter. James is nearly impossible to stop and can get to the foul line at will. My biggest fear is Shaq getting Joel out of the game early, and if that happens, watch out, because the floodgates will be open. Outside of Roy and Aldridge, keeping Przybilla in the game is the mot important facet of the game.
Game 24 Prediction: Trail Blazers 92 Cavaliers 103
Post-Game Thoughts
Portland played about as good of a game as I thought they could have last night. With my new revised expectations, all I want to see is heart, hustle, and keeping the game competitive. I truly thought this one could have got ugly, but in the first half, we dictated the tempo and behind 13 1st half points from Webster an over 10 points from Howard, the Trail Blazers held a 9 point lead at the half. The game really turned around as soon as Andre Miller checked in. He found crafty ways to score and his ball movement was amazing, which lead to a bunch of Howard's buckets down low. His 20 point, 6 rebound, and 3 assist performance off of the bench is just another reason why I think he should get a chance to start.
One of the main keys to the game was forcing Cleveland to be a perimeter oriented team. The Trail Blazers did a nice job of not allowing wide open 3's and held the NBA's 2nd best 3 point shooting team to only 3-12 from downtown. We also did about as good a job as you can on James, as he had to shoot jumpers for nearly every basket he got and rarely got to the foul line (6 times in 38 minutes), which is always a plus when you are playing a player of his caliber. The main reason we lost was our inability to defend the pick and roll. Anderson Varejao has no business getting 22 points on any night, yet he was their go to guy in the 4th quarter off of the slip pick and rolls. The Knicks abused us with his last year with David Lee and it looks like the Cavs found that game tape, because it was the same play over and over and over.
With the game tied going into the 4th quarter, and LeBron sitting on the bench, Portland had their chance to strike quickly out of the gate and take an early lead in the quarter. Instead, we got extremely stagnant on offense, draining down the shot clock on nearly every possession within the first 4 minutes of the quarter and not scoring. The Cavs on the other hand showed excellent ball movement/player movement and got easy buckets in the paint. They got the lead up to 8 and Portland could never respond. When you are under manned on the road and playing against one of the elite teams in the NBA, even the smallest drought or drop off in play can be the difference.
Brandon had 23 points, but on a very inefficient 9-25 shooting and never really could match James bucket for bucket down the stretch. As soon as Cleveland made the switch and put James on Roy, we should have looked to run some pick and roll to get the upper hand on the matchup, instead our play was to let Roy drain the clock and force a jumper over his hand. By no means am I blaming Roy, he played his heart out and found time to hand out 6 assists, but Aldridge had it clicking (22 points on 8-13 shooting) and we rarely fed him the ball down low. I know Varejao is a tough defender on the blocks, but our players must become better at throwing entry passes. He was the one player they had no answer for and he only gets 13 shots?
In a game that really impressed me and gave me hope for the rest of the season, I came away very upset with two aspects of the game. First and foremost, what does Jerryd Bayless have to do to get playing time? His minutes have decreased the last 4 games from 17 to 14 to 11 and now 8. In his short stint, he was one of only two Blazers with a positive +/- rating at +6(Cunningham +9) and again, showed a willingness to attack the hoop, which we lacked during the 2nd half. You could tell by the look on his face, in the 4th quarter, that he was beyond ticked off and I really can't blame him. We have 9 healthy bodies and we are only playing 7. In the NBA, it is extremely difficult to only play 7 guys on a night in and night out basis, because their bodies are going to wear down and I saw it during the 3rd when Cleveland upped the tempo and pressured us and we really didn't have the energy to attack it. Secondly, we need Martell Webster to shoot the ball well. The team looked amazing in the first half, and it was mainly due to Webster's 13 points and three 3 pointers. In the 2nd half, there were a few 3 point looks that would have been more than huge, but they didn't drop as he went 0-4 in the half from downtown. On the positive side, he looked fantastic in the 1st half and is having the courage to take the big shots down the stretch. It really is only a matter of time before he is dialed in from downtown. All in all, a great game and effort by the Trail Blazers. If they play like they did last night against the Bucks, I have no doubt in my mind that we will get a win.
Box Score

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Free Bayless!

The day Portland signed Andre Miller, the hype and expectations of the upcoming 2009-2010 season were sky high. Many fans, like myself, saw Portland challenging the Lakers for best in the west and even a trendy or dark-horse pick to make it to the NBA Finals. As soon as word got out that Nicolas Batum would more than likely be out for the entire season due to the surgery needed to repair his shoulder, the percentage of us winning a championship went down. After each and every injury, the chances kept decreasing and decreasing, this wasn't even taking into account how out of sync we were looking on offense. The one bright spot left was Greg and as long as we had Greg along with Roy and Aldridge, I felt we always still had a chance to win it all, even as slight as those chances were. With those three healthy, we had a chance. The instant I saw him hit the hardwood holding his knee, I knew he was done for the year and that any slight possibility we had of going to the Finals went right out the door too.
NBA teams have one goal and that goal is to win an NBA Championship. Once that goal is no longer a reality, which can come sooner or later in the season, depending on the team, each squad takes the proper course of action to ensure themselves of a better future in the upcoming seasons. We saw this during the 04-05 season when Kevin Pritchard replaced head coach Maurice Cheeks in order to play all of our young talent to see what we had in the cupboard. No, I am not suggesting we fire Coach Nate or kick all of our veterans to the curb, but we do need to see if Bayless is going to be the right ingredient or not. I love what Steve Blake has given this team with his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, but we essentially know what he brings to the table and probably does not have much more room to grow in terms of potential. Also, when you use nearly all of your cap room on a player, you should give him big minutes as well, right? I do believe Andre should still play, but just like Blake, we know what we have; a very heady, veteran point guard who loves getting his teammates involved but also capable of carrying his team to victory with his scoring ability.
Jerryd is a bit of a wild card. Really, the only attributes we know for sure he possesses are a knack for getting to the rim at will, an astounding and renown work ethic, and scrappy play. In the past few games we have seen him take his defender to the paint, draw another defender as he nears the bottom of the hoop, but only to kick it out to a forward for a wide open, free throw line jumper. It is the type of play Blazer fans world wide have been waiting to see from Jerryd. We all know he can score, but what we want to see is a little more court vision if he is going to become the point guard of the future. Even if Brandon is going to have the ball in crunch time, any point guard must be able to create for others, bar none.
I'm not asking for Jerryd to play Brandon Roy type minutes, but with all of these unfortunate injuries, this is the perfect opportunity to see what this guy is made of. KP traded up in the draft to get him for a reason and it would be a shame if we dealt him away and were haunted by possibly committing a move that could be dubbed "Jermaine O'Neal Part II". Since both Greg and Rudy went out of the lineup on December 5th, Bayless has logged an average of 17 minutes a night, nearly 11 points per game on 50% shooting (8-16), and only committing 1 turnover per night.
Portland has a game upcoming against the Kings at home on the 15th of December. I think it would be a nice experiment to start him, play him about 28-30 minutes, and see how he reacts. The Kings, regardless of how surprising they have been this season, are a team the Trail Blazers should win as long as Roy and LMA are in the lineup, so we should be able to absorb any young player mistakes Jerryd may have. I'm not really a proponent of juggling someone in and out of the lineup, but I want to see how this kid handles the big stage of starting. If he performs well, ride the hot hand into the next game and even keep him in there if he struggles. If the experiment clearly isn't working and he isn't ready to start, then 20-25 minutes off the bench may be best suited for his development. If all goes according to plan, Jerryd will rise to the occasion and the Trail Blazers will have their elusive, young starting point guard of the future that we have all been dreaming of since the day Terry Porter left the Rose City.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trail Blazers at Pacers: Game 23

The 6-12 Danny Granger-less Pacers take on the 13-9 depleted Trail Blazers at Conseco Fieldhouse, a place that has not been very kind to our Trail Blazers as of late. Outside of last year's 95-85 victory in Indina, Portland had lost their previous 5 games by an average of 13 points. With so many injuries on both sides of the ball, I don't think this matchup will be the most highly sought after game on NBA League Pass, rather a game only true die-hards will want to view. For Portland to obtain their 1st win of this 4 game road trip, they must ride their horses in Roy and Aldridge. Even with all of the injuries, the Blazers still have their top two players, one who is arguable a top 10 overall player in the league and another on the verge of becoming of perennial All-Star, which should be enough to get the win against teams such as the Pacers. What really bothered me about the Knicks game was how we immediately went away from Aldridge after he got out to a cold start. He is our only option in the post, and to win in the NBA, you must have some form of a post presence/scoring threat. He is a good enough player to shoot himself out of a slump. Along with getting those two going on the offensive end, the Blazers really need to be cautious against the three point line. Although the Pacers are 4th worst in the NBA from downtown, shooting only 30.4%, given enough wide open looks, NBA players will knock down the shot. With Danny Granger out, only Troy Murphy, another Blazer killer, is shooting above 35% from long range with at least 45+ shot attempts, so maybe Portland should take a look and see aproach with Indiana. If they seem to be on fire, get up on them, but if they are ice cold, it might be a good idea to run some zone, barring we are able to rebound out of it. T.J. Ford is not having the best of seasons, 9.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.8 rebounds, but he still has more quickness than either of our two points guards, Andre Miller and Steve Blake. It most likely will not happen, but I would love to see Jerryd Bayless get the start and see if he is able to stick with him out on the perimeter as he should be able to match his quickness. If Ford is able to penetrate, it could be a long night for Joel on the bench, which would be devastating, because Roy Hibbert is a load down low and we don't want to see Juwan or LaMarcus try to battle with him. Hopefully the Knick game was an abberation and not indicative of how the rest of the season will be in how we deal with all of these injuries. With Granger out, this is going to be one of the better chances at getting a win the rest of the season. The Pacers just are not that talented, but they can beat us if we don't show up to play or are still in shock from the loss of Greg or if they come out with more intensity. Its going to be a scrappy game, not pretty be any means, but Brandon will play like the All-Star he is and lead us to a grind it out win. Game 23 Prediction: Trail Blazers 87 Pacers 84
Post-Game Thoughts
It certainly wasn't the most beautiful game, but a win is a win and the Blazers have improved their record to 14-9. Portland rode LaMarcus early on in the game for, I believe, the first 10 points of the game. His array of baby hooks, turn around fade-aways, and dribble drives to the basket led him to 20 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting from the field. My only gripe was that we completely went away from him after the 1st quarter. I realize teams make defensive adjustments, but there were no entry passes to force a double team from the Pacers. As a Blazers fan, I have seen this happen way too often these past couple of years. When you get a player hot, keep going to the well until it has dried out.
Obviously, the star of the game was Brandon. Throughout much of the year he hadn't played up to his All-Star level, but he put us on his back and carried us to victory tonight. There were so many times when Indiana would make a run or even tie the game, only to have Roy bail us out. One play in particular which stood out in my mind happened with about 3 minutes left in the game. With the shot clock running down and Portland only nursing a 3 point lead, Roy takes the ball from Aldridge atop the 3 point arc, takes two dribbles to his right, stops on a dime, and drills a 20+ ft. fade-away right over the outstretched hands of Jeff Foster. It was clearly a back breaker for Indiana and just one of the many incredible plays that led Roy to 29 points, 7 boards, and 5 assists. If we want to have any hope of winning at two difficult arenas, Milwaukee and Cleveland, Roy will need to produce more of the same.
Although our team won, I wouldn't get too excited about us potentially "turning it around" just yet. Indiana is a very porous squad without Granger, yet they were able to stick with us right up until Roy hit the aforementioned shot. Our perimeter defense, not sure by design, allowed a lot of open looks from 3, but the Pacers never took advantage, only hitting 3 of 17 attempts. I suppose there is a reason they were 27th in the NBA in 3 point percentage for a reason! What bothers me more so than the open 3's, which I don't mind too much, because they are so terrible at shooting them, were the continuous offensive rebounds we gave up to the Pacers second unit. Jeff Foster and rookie Tyler Hansbrough had more combined offensive rebounds (11) than the entire Blazer team (8). We had an early 11 point lead, but those two came in and made this into a contest that was up for grabs. Portland needs to be a much better job on the defensive glass and putting teams away. In the end, I'm ecstatic with a win and am hoping we can steal one of these next two to stay in the playoff hunt.
Box Score