Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trail Blazers vs. Jazz: Game 58

Portland (32-25) ends their three-game home-stand and their season series against Utah (35-19) tonight. For the first three meetings this year between the two divisional rivals, Portland has been ran out of the gym before the 1st quarter could even expire. Utah has not only won each game handily by double digits (16,11,13), but done so with ease as the Trail Blazer defense has put up very little resistance. Normally, Portland holds their opposition to an average of 46.3% field goal shooting, but Utah shot an astounding 60% or better in every matchup to date, averaging 61.2% over the course of the three-game span. Not that Portland takes advantages of the breaks given to them (see last game when Boston was on a back to back), but it looks like Utah center Mehmet Okur will miss tonight's game as he is still with his newborn child and Ronnie Brewer will not be in action either as he was dealt for a future 1st round pick to Memphis during last Thursday's trading deadline. For whatever reason, the Trail Blazers are a very pedestrian 19-12 at home this year in the Rose Garden, compared to an admirable 13-13 on the road. Let those records marinate a bit. Division leading Denver has a worse road record, 13-14, but is 22-5 at home, propelling them to 2nd in the West. If only the Blazers could handle their business at home, even with these injuries, we could be fighting for the Northwest division crown and home court advantage in the playoffs. Trying to be as objective as possible, I feel the fans in Rip City are easily top 5 in the NBA, so the energy and fan support has been there the entire season. Maybe last season's 34-7 home mark gave the team a false sense of security, meaning other teams would automatically be intimidated by playing in Portland or the team thought they could turn it on or off at any point and find a way to get it done? Whatever the reason is, the Blazers must get these slow starts out of their system, as it was 21-2 the last time Utah came in here before anyone could blink, if they want a chance to get an all important win tonight. Focus. It is going to take 100% focus from the Trail Blazers tonight if they want to have any hope of slowing down the buzz saw that is the Utah Jazz offense. Utah averages 102.1 points a night, but they have made the Portland defense look like Swiss cheese getting 110.67 points during the three previous meetings. A lot of the buckets came from a lack of concentration. Not trying to single any one player out, because they all have played lackluster defense, but numerous times I have seen Martell Webster turn his head only to see his man make a mad dash to the hoop for an easy deuce. It is all about keeping one eye on the ball and one eye on your man. Not only do the Blazers need to keep their eye on their man, but please show some heart and fight through the screens! If there has always been one thing this team doesn't do well at all, is fighting through picks. Just like a lot of aspects in hoops, all it takes is effort. Bring more effort to the game tonight than Utah and our chances of winning exponentially increase. It really is as simple as that. B-Roy said he will continue to play through the pain, most likely another 30-35 minutes, but until he shows the conditioning is back and rust is off, the show needs to run through LaMarcus. I have only one mere request. When the ball gets dumped into the post, can we get some cutters to the hoop or back picks set up for our shooters? There is nothing more frustrating as fan than to see our team work one on one, while the other four players stand around, whereas the opposition is running an offense so beautiful, its impossible not to give credit to. LA is taller and longer than any player the Jazz can throw at him, but given a lack of height, the Jazz big forwards take on the persona of their head coach, Jerry Sloan and will fight you all game long. As long as Aldridge is up for the challenge of fighting for his spot on the blocks all game long, he should have an extraordinary night. As much as I want to not only predict a win but see a win, I don't see it happening tonight. The Jazz have ran a muck over us and each contest hasn't even been close, so what should make this time any more different? They have beat us with Greg and Joel in there, done it without Boozer before, and already got one win in the Garden. Even though the Blazers won't see Brewer and Okur from the last three matchups, right now the Jazz have our number and Jerry Sloan has a great system going on in Utah and could sub in a few D-Leaguers and I don't think they would miss a beat. I believe it will be much more of a game than the prior three, but our inability to stop them from scoring in the paint will be our downfall tonight. On a side note, I would love to see Dante and Jerryd get more playing time than they have accrued lately. Dante, because we need someone who can hit an outside shot and his ball denial defense is perfectly suited to defend Utah. Bayless, on the other hand, is the only one attacking the middle and could get us some cheap points at the line. Game 57 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Jazz 103 Post-Game Thoughts Just another chapter in the Season From Hell, right? Wrong. Whatever that was I just witnessed last night hurt much more than another notch on the Season From Hell's belt. This was a punch to the gut which lingers like the worst of hangovers. In a season which saw Portland field a team of only 8 healthy bodies for multiple games, Roy missing over a month with a pulled hamstring, Greg Oden an Joel Przybilla going out for the season with eerily similar injuries, and more blown home losses than I can remember, it was naive of me to think the season couldn't get any worse. Foolishly, I actually thought something positive could turn out from this 2009-2010 season, which should never be mentioned again after it's completion, and after Andre drove the lane, spun around, an found the L-Train for a flush, the lead was 25, 64-39, and I thought this win was going to spark us an maybe we could land a decent seed in the playoffs. Never believe "it can't get any worse than this", because it can, and as we have all witnessed this year, it will. Ever since Roy and Aldridge's rookie seasons, we have been relatively solid at closing out games where we possess the lead in the 4th quarter. For whatever reason, this team just does not learn from their past mistakes. Comfortable leads have been blown late in the 4th at Atlanta, vs. Memphis, vs. New Orleans, and now last night's game against Utah. After each game, the team says the same thing about how they need to quit laying off the gas pedal and becoming too conservative. Through two and a half quarters, the offense looked brilliant. We were holding the Jazz to one attempt on offense, grabbing the board, and running the break. When we got into the half-court set, there were cutters being sent to the hoop once the ball was entered into the post, the ball movement was crisp and quick, and we didn't settle for outside jumpers. To me, the game seemed like it took a turn for the worse when Aldridge picked up his 4th foul early on in the 3rd quarter. As soon as that happened, Boozer went absolutely nuts on the offensive glass, with 8 offensive boards, 23 total, and Utah was getting multiple opportunities on the offensive end and found themselves only down 13 heading into the 4th. The defense was so stout through 3 quarters, but we stopped doing what helped hold Utah to around 35% shooting through three periods. The rotations got slower which allowed Utah to penetrate, drop it down low, which lead the big who received the pass to quickly shovel it to a cutting player for an easy two. As porous as the defensive rebounding was, all the offense had to do was muster more than 10 points in the 4th and we walk away with a W. I love Andre Miller's game. I was in favor of signing him as a free agent, wanted him to be the starter from Day 1, and have dubbed him the first legit point guard we have had since Rod Strickland, but last night wasn't the most shining moment in his Trail Blazer career. Sure, 17 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals reads nicely in the paper the next morning, but going 5-18 from the floor killed us. Dre has been more than solid for us this season, and normally I wouldn't mind him attempting the most shots of anyone on the floor, because he is usually getting lay-ups the majority of the time. In another baffling aspect of this game, it seemed like every shot he took was a jump shot, even throwing up three 3-pointers. Nearly every one of his jumpers were wide open, but shooting outside of the paint is not his game. Hopefully he watches the game tape and realizes next time he should pass up the long jumper for an attacking move to the hoop or pass it off to one of our other shooters. Like Andre, I really love what Howard has brought to the team this season and he has really played over his head for a lot of games this year but might it be time for him to be more of a mentor and play spot minutes in dire situations like he was originally brought into do? In nearly 30 minutes, he was held scoreless, on 0-3 shooting, and only managed to grab 3 rebounds. Not only that, but Boozer was his man on defense and he allowed Carlos to maul us on the glass way too easily. Juwan has had to log a ton of minutes, much more than he expected, and at 37 is he beginning to run out of gas? Maybe Coach Nate wanted a veteran presence out on the court as sort of a calming for the rest of the players as Utah was making their push. Another option could have been to see Dante get in there to see what he is capable of in the 4th. In only 8 minutes, he had 4 points, on 2-2 shooting, and had 2 rebounds. Even if Dante would have got eaten alive on the glass by Boozer too, his shot was not even hitting rim and could have helped us score more than 16 point in the 4th and overtime combined. In the "trying to be as positive as I can be" portion of this post, Nicolas Batum again showed flashes of brilliance. He had 14 points (5-10), all in the 1st half, and a game changing block from behind on Deron Williams that for sure will be a highlight for years to come. Being a small forward, he needed to be much more of a rebounding presence than last year, which he has been. Tonight he pulled down 9 boards and with his length he should be a double digit rebounding threat night in and night out. Along with Nico, Aldridge really impressed me by attacking the Utah big men at will and was on track for a big game had foul trouble not found him. Finally, Rudy seemed to have a nice breakout game. In total he had 10 points (4-11), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and zero turnovers which is key for his style of play. I've noticed he is the X-Factor most nights when his shot is dropping and he is making plays in the open-court, the team thrives on that and it snowballs from there. If the team wants to finish the year strong, the bench will need to be as on point as they were in the 1st half. Official Game Photos Box Score


  1. Camby's gotta get us at least 10 boards tonight. Utah's tiny.

  2. Camby did his job w/ 18 boards, Juwan Howard, on the other hand, got abused by Boozer on the glass.