Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Hawks: Game 5

With Aldridge's status up in the air, most likely until tip off, Greg Oden is going to have to be our post presence down low. Atlanta has a lot of talented athletes who can play multiple positions, but please, Al Horford couldn't hang with Oden in the Final Four and he won't be able to now. Hopefully Nate's pulling of Blake out of the OKC game, after he failed to feed Oden the rock when he flashed across the paint, sent a message to the team, "Get Greg the damn ball!" Oden is already becoming more vocal on defense as reported by Jason Quick which is one of the best signs Blazer fans have seen from him.
Atlanta is one of those teams, like Toronto, that has the capabilities to win games strictly from the perimeter if they are feeling it and with players like Bibby, Johnson, and Crawford, chances are a couple of them will be firing on all cylinders. We need to see the Martell from the Thunder game, fighting through screens, chasing after Crawford and battling Johnson for position on the blocks. Without Nic, the Blazers are relying heavily on Webster to be catalyst defensively on the wing. Even if Aldridge is a no-go, Atlanta should not be able to have success in the paint as it is not to their player's strength outside of Josh Smith.
One of the biggest keys to winning this game will be to keep Atlanta off of the offensive glass, rebound those long misses from distance, and push tempo. By doing this, it will lead to easy buckets, which will be imperative without LaMarcus' offensive repertoire down low. Outside of winning the battle on the boards, I want to see the Trail Blazers attack the teeth of the Hawks' defense and either rack up points in the paint or make a living at the foul line.
Game 5 Prediction: Trail Blazers 94 Hawks 89
Post-Game Thoughts
Where to even begin? As a fan, I am baffled and flabbergasted at so many facets of this team. There are times when I want to run down courtside and scream at Nate, "Quit playing both point guards together!," or "Don't be afraid to let the big men foul out!" Other times, I wonder what the heck is going on in the minds of the players. A couple examples come to mind. First off, Webster had just scored 8 straight points, made a huge block on defense, and had that look in his eye when he gets on a hot streak. The next time down the floor he ran baseline and was wide open in the corner for a three and Blake looked right at him and didn't feed him the ball and I don't think he touched the ball the rest of the game. Another awful decision came from Outlaw late in the 4th. We were down 3 and he gets the ball at the top of the key for a game tying jumper from distance, with the shot clock at 2 mind you, and he attacks the hoop, hangs in the air, and tries to pass it to Aldridge as time expires. Shoot the rock Trav!
Now the players don't deserve all of the blame, because Coach McMillan was off his rocker tonight. Every single time we got a lead, he would make a silly substitution to make our team weaker defensively and Atlanta would exploit it and get right back int the game. ATL scored 32 points in the 2nd quarter, after being held to 15 in the 1st, because he decided to play both point guards on the floor at the same time. Memo to Nate: Two small point guards are going to get us exploited defensively. Also, why is he so afraid of letting one of our big centers foul out? Again, we failed to get stops in the 4th because we had no intimidating force in the paint and when the Hawks did miss, Greg and Joel weren't there to grab the rebound. I understand where Nate is coming from in making all of these substitutions, just trying to do anything he could to find a group that could work, but I think like Roy last night, he was trying too hard.
I am not ready to hit the panic button yet, but I'm also not one who thinks it is going to be A-OK anytime soon. Why should I? This team has shown me nothing and no signs of continuity throughout the pre-season and the first 5 regular season games. I get the entitlement vibe out there from some of the team. Its as if they think they can show up and the other team will fall at their feet, because of the success the Blazers had last year; they think it'll be easy. That type of attitude showed up last night at times too, because I saw some sub-par effort from our team, with a prime example being getting out-hustled for loose balls. The 3 guys exempt from this rant due to their I saw hustle were Martell, Greg, and Joel.
Final thought: Free Bayless! We need a guard who can play efficiently in limited minutes, bring up the defensive intensity, and attacks the basket. This Andre Miller/Steve Blake duo at point guard is not working, at all. Choose one and package the other in a consolidation trade. It is painfully obvious a few of these players can't get into a rhythm, because roles are undefined and we have too many players.
Box Score

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