Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Pistons: Game 13

Ah, home sweet home. Apparently being on the road isn't bad either, as the Blazers return from their road trip 4-1. Despite the record, though, it's still remarkably tough to get a read on where this team is at at the moment. Any time you can get wins on the road it's a plus, and certainly the Blazers played a tough Atlanta Hawks team to the wire, but more shifts in the lineup are immanent as the team attempts to adjust to not having Travis Outlaw who was lost due to a stress fracture suffered against Charlotte. The revamped Pistons come in having lost their last two games to Dallas, and again just last night to the Lakers and sporting a record of 5-6. They are also battling injury issues of their own as Piston mainstays Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton are both nursing injuries, leaving Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum to pick up the slack. Charlie Villanueva has been solid on offense down low, and Ben Wallace his normal (though somewhat more limited) undersized, rebounding, defensive force down low. The Pistons are near the bottom of the league in scoring at just 93.3 points per game, but what they lack in offense they get done with scrappy defensive play, holding their opponents to just 92.8 points; good for 7th best in the league. The good news for the Blazers? Portland is #1, limiting opponents scoring to just 88.1 while averaging a slightly more respectable 95.3 for themselves. What does this tell us? Well, strap in because it's probably going to be another grind em up night. Two teams that play a slow pace collide and the Blazers have had just one day to rest after a long road trip, while Detroit is playing the second of a back to back. Look for the Blazer offense to try to take advantage of a smaller defensive front line and go to Aldridge against one of the softer defenders in Charlie Villanueva. Hopefully the Blazers have gelled a bit and come out a bit reinvigorated playing back at home. Game 13 Prediction: Blazers 98, Pistons 89
Post-Game Thoughts
For the 4th straight game Portland came close to blowing another double digit lead in the 2nd half. This time it was a 70-50 lead at the end of 3 quarters when the team fell flat. The intensity and focus were reduced for whatever reason which resulted in turnover after turnover. While in the stands, it is hard to gauge statistics as the game is flowing in real time, but when the Blazers made their push in the 3rd quarter to extend their lead from 10 to 20, the hustle board showed a significant advantage in the Trail Blazers' corner. For those of you who don't know, the Hustle Board is comprised of total rebounds, blocks, and steals. Sure enough, once Detroit cut into the lead, the Hustle Board showed the Pistons with the slight advantage as the game ended and it was mainly due to steals and putting forth the extra effort on the glass.
Through 3 quarters it was just another day at the office for the Trail Blazers defense, holding Detroit to only 50 points and under 40% shooting. Our guards did a phenomenal job switching and trapping the dynamic Piston guards which threw them out of their shooting rhythm to the tune of 10-33 from the field from Stuckey and Gordon. It looked as if Portland would even best their 7 game stretch, starting with the San Antonio game, of holding opponents to an average of 84 points a night, and they did as the Pistons were held to only 81. So, what exactly went wrong? For one, there is no way a depleted Pistons team, missing Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince to injury, should be able to put up 31 in the 4th quarter on the 2nd half of a back to back. It boils down to laziness on offense and the trapping pressure of the Detroit defense. Why teams don't double team our guards out top more often is beyond me. We always struggle handling the double team for whatever reason, we panic, and eventually take a forced shot or turn the ball over. I give all the credit in the world to the Pistons staff for implementing this strategy and never giving up, even when it seemed the game was over mid-way through the 3rd.
I can't be the only fan who believes that if the team were to be playing tougher competition, the sterling record would begin to slip up a bit. I understand it is difficult to bring the level of intensity and focus it takes to win at the professional level for 82+ games and keep it up consistently throughout the game, but these lapses are going to catch up to us. One of the main reasons I believe this is occurring is due to the lack of depth. Right now, with the absences of Batum and Outlaw, the Blazers are being forced into a 7 man rotation due to Webster's lackluster performances. This is his 2nd game in a row where he has only played 11 minutes. He had only 3 points against Atlanta and was held scoreless with 3 fouls in his short stint out on the court tonight. I really think it is time to give Dante Cunningham a shot at getting some of those backup small forward/power forward minutes. Along with possessing a high basketball IQ, he plays solid defense and has a sweet mid-range jumper, something that has failed Marty during the early portion of the season. Also, what does Jerryd Bayless have to do to get some run? Especially since the team just lost Outlaw's offensive firepower off of the bench, doesn't that seem like the perfect role for Bayless? No matter the situation, he always seems to give the team the shot in the arm they need to get going.
A few closing thoughts. With another 3 block performance, Greg has now tied Brook Lopez for the NBA lead in total blocks. Oh yea, he does it in about 2 quarters of action. Oden's defense just isn't getting noticed around here in the Pacific NorthWest either,'s Maurice Brooks has Oden 5th for Defensive Player of the Year. Greg's overall improvement has been the main factor in Portland being one of the elite defensive teams in the NBA. Also, although not shown on the box score and stat sheets, LaMarcus has been much more aggressive lately with his moves to the post. Earlier on in the season it was fade away left and fade away right, now he is facing up, lowering the shoulder, and putting the defense on their heels. Finally, it looks like Rudy is comfortable playing on the court now that he knows what his role is. Yes, he shot 0-4 from 3, but his defense is getting scrappier and, as not the hugest Rudy fan, I really felt at ease when he was playing tonight and frankly, a little upset when he wasn't playing more down the stretch. More importantly, I am absolutely loving his mid-range jump shot off of curl. It is vintage Rip Hamilton/Reggie Miller and we need to be running Rudy's defender ragged every time he's playing to take advantage of Rudy's best asset (shooting). He is simply too talented a basketball player to be parked in the corner waiting for a kick out three.
Box Score


  1. Oden's getting there, for sure. He changes way more shots than he blocks. It was also nice to see him slide over and pick up a charge recently.

  2. The only thing holding GO back are the fouls. Dude is a manchild on defense in only half the game. We all love the Thrilla, but Greg will take this team to a higher level as soon as he can play 32 mins a night.