Two days after losing Greg Oden for the season, with Travis Outlaw, Nic Batum and Rudy Fernandez on the pine and coach Nate McMillan back in Portland with a blown achilles tendon, the Blazers found a way to come together and have one of their best games of the—
Sorry, that was what I dreamt when I fell asleep with five minutes to play, the first of two failed attempts at viewing the conclusion. Eventually, unlike many of you I’m sure, I got through it, but this had snoozefest written all over it. Doesn’t help that the Knicks are not very compelling even when they are showering you with threes, but the majority of Portland’s performance was methodical and drained. Not a great start to a road trip.
They were undermanned, but that had little to do with perimeter defense that was perpetually half a step slow to the shooters. The Blazers won points in the paint, 34-24, but in the battle of field-goal percentage and effective field-goal percentage, the Knicks’ 13-of-26 shooting from deep ruled the box score.
@netback: Blazers didn’t look too bad for who they got. Love taking Bayless out over one turnover?
@_BlazerNation_: you can definitely tell the guys’ morale is down. we’re back to playing with little to no energy.
@travismargoni: People suggested Oden’s injury would open up the game for LA and Roy. No way. Relying on fewer weapons = fewer wins.
@supersetgreg: as expected.
Tough to disagree with that last one. Nobody could have really thought they were going to all of the sudden put it all together and go from serving Kevin Pritchard stale cheesecake to molten chocolate lava. As I said in the preview, tonight was more about beginning to find that identity which the team has lacked all season. But wrongly, too many people assumed (myself included) that without the supposed “problems” of having Oden playing manball — still hard to believe the team had so much trouble with that — the guys would revert to the style and chemistry of 2007.
What we got was more reminiscent of 2005. Lots of one-on-one play — 13 assists on 31 baskets — and very little cohesiveness on either side of the ball. The 2007 team, Travis Outlaw and all, was its own creature, just as the 2008 team molded so many new parts into 54 wins. With the lineup, and the franchise, in a state of flux, it’s not fair to hang too much blame on any individual. Every player is responsible for his share of the load and no individual is going to save this season.
Don’t get too hung up on this being a loss to the Knicks. New York has beaten quality teams lately and their artillery smashed through the weak defenses Portland brought with them on the road. Just as those earlier wins against cellar dwellers were about how Portland was evolving — not about the opponent — these losses are about the Blazers just the same.
Not much to write home about so we’ll just do some quick hitters:
LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed 13 rebounds with nary a body in sight to stop him…Martell Webster did little to dispel the growing notion in the gut that he is the disappointment of season…Joel Przybilla didn’t have much to do with New York doing much of its damage outside…Steve Blake got torched, but so did Andre Miller…Brandon Roy had plenty of room to operate but much of his 27 points came in the hollow minutes of a fool’s gold comeback…Dante Cunningham was trying, but he’s often only going to look as good as the team does…Juwan Howard tried a lot of veteran tricks with some success…Jerryd Bayless looked like he needed a blank check on offense, but got pulled for Blake after Portland made a late run.
One more thing on Bayless. If Philadelphia can find the minutes to bring Allen Iverson back in the midst of what was so obviously a lost season for them — a healthy one at that — then Portland can find meaningful minutes to develop Bayless with half the team wearing a cast. You’ll hear me say this many times, but Bayless, more so than Aldridge or Rudy, is the key to salvaging some gains from 2010.