Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trail Blazers at Pacers: Game 23

The 6-12 Danny Granger-less Pacers take on the 13-9 depleted Trail Blazers at Conseco Fieldhouse, a place that has not been very kind to our Trail Blazers as of late. Outside of last year's 95-85 victory in Indina, Portland had lost their previous 5 games by an average of 13 points. With so many injuries on both sides of the ball, I don't think this matchup will be the most highly sought after game on NBA League Pass, rather a game only true die-hards will want to view. For Portland to obtain their 1st win of this 4 game road trip, they must ride their horses in Roy and Aldridge. Even with all of the injuries, the Blazers still have their top two players, one who is arguable a top 10 overall player in the league and another on the verge of becoming of perennial All-Star, which should be enough to get the win against teams such as the Pacers. What really bothered me about the Knicks game was how we immediately went away from Aldridge after he got out to a cold start. He is our only option in the post, and to win in the NBA, you must have some form of a post presence/scoring threat. He is a good enough player to shoot himself out of a slump. Along with getting those two going on the offensive end, the Blazers really need to be cautious against the three point line. Although the Pacers are 4th worst in the NBA from downtown, shooting only 30.4%, given enough wide open looks, NBA players will knock down the shot. With Danny Granger out, only Troy Murphy, another Blazer killer, is shooting above 35% from long range with at least 45+ shot attempts, so maybe Portland should take a look and see aproach with Indiana. If they seem to be on fire, get up on them, but if they are ice cold, it might be a good idea to run some zone, barring we are able to rebound out of it. T.J. Ford is not having the best of seasons, 9.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.8 rebounds, but he still has more quickness than either of our two points guards, Andre Miller and Steve Blake. It most likely will not happen, but I would love to see Jerryd Bayless get the start and see if he is able to stick with him out on the perimeter as he should be able to match his quickness. If Ford is able to penetrate, it could be a long night for Joel on the bench, which would be devastating, because Roy Hibbert is a load down low and we don't want to see Juwan or LaMarcus try to battle with him. Hopefully the Knick game was an abberation and not indicative of how the rest of the season will be in how we deal with all of these injuries. With Granger out, this is going to be one of the better chances at getting a win the rest of the season. The Pacers just are not that talented, but they can beat us if we don't show up to play or are still in shock from the loss of Greg or if they come out with more intensity. Its going to be a scrappy game, not pretty be any means, but Brandon will play like the All-Star he is and lead us to a grind it out win. Game 23 Prediction: Trail Blazers 87 Pacers 84
Post-Game Thoughts
It certainly wasn't the most beautiful game, but a win is a win and the Blazers have improved their record to 14-9. Portland rode LaMarcus early on in the game for, I believe, the first 10 points of the game. His array of baby hooks, turn around fade-aways, and dribble drives to the basket led him to 20 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting from the field. My only gripe was that we completely went away from him after the 1st quarter. I realize teams make defensive adjustments, but there were no entry passes to force a double team from the Pacers. As a Blazers fan, I have seen this happen way too often these past couple of years. When you get a player hot, keep going to the well until it has dried out.
Obviously, the star of the game was Brandon. Throughout much of the year he hadn't played up to his All-Star level, but he put us on his back and carried us to victory tonight. There were so many times when Indiana would make a run or even tie the game, only to have Roy bail us out. One play in particular which stood out in my mind happened with about 3 minutes left in the game. With the shot clock running down and Portland only nursing a 3 point lead, Roy takes the ball from Aldridge atop the 3 point arc, takes two dribbles to his right, stops on a dime, and drills a 20+ ft. fade-away right over the outstretched hands of Jeff Foster. It was clearly a back breaker for Indiana and just one of the many incredible plays that led Roy to 29 points, 7 boards, and 5 assists. If we want to have any hope of winning at two difficult arenas, Milwaukee and Cleveland, Roy will need to produce more of the same.
Although our team won, I wouldn't get too excited about us potentially "turning it around" just yet. Indiana is a very porous squad without Granger, yet they were able to stick with us right up until Roy hit the aforementioned shot. Our perimeter defense, not sure by design, allowed a lot of open looks from 3, but the Pacers never took advantage, only hitting 3 of 17 attempts. I suppose there is a reason they were 27th in the NBA in 3 point percentage for a reason! What bothers me more so than the open 3's, which I don't mind too much, because they are so terrible at shooting them, were the continuous offensive rebounds we gave up to the Pacers second unit. Jeff Foster and rookie Tyler Hansbrough had more combined offensive rebounds (11) than the entire Blazer team (8). We had an early 11 point lead, but those two came in and made this into a contest that was up for grabs. Portland needs to be a much better job on the defensive glass and putting teams away. In the end, I'm ecstatic with a win and am hoping we can steal one of these next two to stay in the playoff hunt.
Box Score

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