Thursday, December 17, 2009

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

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