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

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