Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trail Blazers at Warriors: Game 14

When Trail Blazer fans think of "House of Horrors", usually the Pepsi Center in Denver, Delta Center in Utah, and Toyota Center in Houston are all top of the mind, but Oracle Arena in Oakland, California deserves some recognition for its hex it has upon our boys. For some unforeseen reason, the Blazers have lost 8 straight games in the Bay Area and have no won there since opening night of the 2004-2005 season. Outside of the 2007 playoff run, the Warriors have been lottery bound every other season this decade, yet their small lineup gives us fits. The one thing you can say about playing away against the likes of Utah, Denver, and Houston is they are quality teams who are playoff contenders year in and year out.
This early season match-up is very similar to the meetings against Atlanta where it was one of the top offenses going against the top defense in the League. Not surprising, the Warriors lead the NBA in scoring per game at 111 a game and also not shocking, Golden State gives up the most points a game at a whopping 113. Through the first 13 games, Portland is still the head of the class when it comes to holding opponents to low scoring outputs at a little over 87 a game. Our offense has been sputtering this entire season to say the least, so if it gets into a shootout, Portland's chances of ending this losing streak in Oakland will be looking bleak. Also, consider the fact they not only put it in the bucket more than any other team, but they are efficient in doing so by shooting a scorching 49.2% from the floor, good enough for 2nd in the league. Portland's league leading opponent field goal percentage will have to be stout tonight to hold the shooters of Morrow, Curry, Maggette, and Ellis in check.
On paper, this game is a no-brainer. Golden State has about less talent suited up than the Wolves, which Portland has already demolished twice this year, but there is something about their small lineup that bothers our big men. A lot of it has to do with Corey "The Fish" Maggette, because he flops like a fish out of water whenever LaMarcus goes to make a move on him. Aldridge, in particular, needs to play it very conservative when he is matched up with Corey on the blocks. Make an aggressive move early and see how Corey reacts and more importantly how the officials are going to call this game. If they let it go, keep attacking and if not, work the fade away and mid-range jumper. Also, with Andris Biendris out of action due to injury, dumping it in to G.O. might not be a bad idea as he should be able to get his baby hook off at will against Mikki Moore.
Against better judgment, I believe the Blazers will break the losing streak tonight in Oakland. The biggest key to victory is for the forwards and centers to stay out of foul trouble! There is no use in having a huge size and talent advantage at those positions if they are on the bench with multiple fouls. Outside of the obvious, keeping Maggette off of the foul line is a must. For a small forward, he gets to the line about as good as anybody in the league at drawing fouls. At times he is reckless in his path to the hole, but officials will reward aggressiveness. He averaged 23 and 8 foul shots in the 3 meetings against Portland last year. Finally, Thank God, Stephen Jackson has left Golden State! He never really ever "went off" on us, but he would seemingly always hit a backbreaking three.
Game 14 Prediction: Trail Blazers 103 Warriors 97
Post-Game Thoughts
This is probably the worst loss I have watched since the Trail Blazers blew a 20 point first half lead at Philadelphia in the 2007-2008 season. Coming into the game, Golden State's 3 wins consisted of beating perennial bottom-feeders New York, Memphis, and Minnesota. They had only 8 players suited up for action, including D-League call-up Chris Hunter only because the League mandates a team must have 8 bodies available to play. How on earth do you lose this game if you are Portland?
Well, the Blazers sure did make it look easy in falling to the Warriors. They put the blueprint on display about how to play down to your competition and lose to a team that had no business even being in the game. Step one commit turnovers in bunches. During the second quarter, Portland did possess a lead as large as 11 points, but turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter which lead to massive amounts of fast break points for the Warriors, essentially playing right into their hands. For the game, the Blazers had 23 turnovers, mostly from lazy passes and an inability to catch the ball.
Step two, play right into the Warrior's hands. Portland shot a pitiful 4-19 from 3, while Golden State was a much more efficient 7-13. You know you are jacking up way too many from distance when you take 6 more attempts than the Warriors who naturally chuck it up at will. Again, Blake and Webster were M.I.A, each combining to shoot 0-6 from 3. They weren't alone in the M.I.A department, as Brandon Roy let some spotty officiating rustle his feathers and it showed. He started to settle for the 3 and shot a horrid 1-5 from the land of 3. I don't know if the 3 guard lineup is taking Roy out of rhythm or he is in a funk, but whatever the case, he really needs to start being more aggressive and asserting himself. With Blake and Webster playing so poorly, we need the scoring to pick up somewhere and the team leader needs to be that answer on the offensive end.
Step 3, get out-coached. I can understand Coach keeping Greg out the entire 2nd quarter once he got those two quick, cheap fouls to start the 2nd, but the complete lack of trust in LaMarcus Aldridge really got to me. When has L-Train ever shown the inability to stay in games due to foul trouble? Great coaches trust their guys to not pick up that extra foul. The Warriors won that game in the 2nd quarter. We had no offense down low, with LMA and GO both out, and the Warriors were able to chip away. The big advantage when playing the Warriors is to get it inside at will and when you sit your only players whom are able to do so, where's the advantage then? Also, I just don't understand letting Monta Ellis run wild on our defense. Andre and Steve have never been known for their defensive prowess, so why not give Bayless more of a shot to show what he has got in the 1st half. He got some late burn in the 3rd quarter, but by that time he was cold while the rest of the guys had their bodies in the flow of the game. Steve and Martell are simply not performing well enough to warrant playing time and I hope Nate will just give Dante and Jerryd a chance to get early minutes in the rotation.
Box Score

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