I don’t know about you all, but this loss was the most discouraging/encouraging loss I can remember. Encouraging in the fact that Portland–as short-handed and undermanned as we are– went in on the road against one of the top teams in the NBA and not only competed, but nearly won. Encouraging in that there is still a lot of hope for this season, no matter how many bumps and bruises this team may take over the next couple weeks. Encouraging in the fact that there is enough talent there for me to still care. If this season was over I wouldn’t have screamed at the TV when Andre Miller stuck those two threes, or when Martell Webster clanked open jumpers or when Steve Blake got switched onto LeBron James. Discouraging because this was a game that Portland could have…and well a game you can argue they should have won. It just feels as if there were too many missed opportunites.
This one was a little tougher to swallow than I thought it would be. At halftime, Portland is up by 11. Martell Webster and Juwan Howard both have 13 and Andre Miller has 12. On one hand you wonder if it can get any better but on the other hand you figure if the defense stays and B-Roy and LaMarcus show up everything will be great. Unfortunately, the offense just stagnated. One of my main issues with Portland’s offense in the second half was it was entirely too deliberate. Too much standing, too much watching, too much isolation. And more importantly, as Hubie Brown pointed out…Portland was taking too much time to get a shot off. Say what you want about Mike Brown, but the one (if only) thing he knows about is defense. Cleveland excels in the half-court defensively. Even if Portland was at full strength, if we were putting so much pressure on our offense to rush a shot with 10 seconds or less on the shot clock it is going to be tough to score. But now you’re asking Brandon Roy to make a play against a tough half-court defensive team…it’s a lot. He didn’t get much help either as Webster and Blake decided to be cooler than cool (ICE COLD) in the second half. Also in the 4th quarter it felt like Portland settled too much. Too many jumpers, especially early when Cleveland made what would end up being the game-winning mini-run.
Defensively, you have to love the energy and effort presented by the Blazers. They did not back down, they did not give up and their defense was as big of a reason for that 11 point lead as anything. In the second half, Cleveland just went to work inside. It became the Shaq & Sideshow Bob Varejao show and we didn’t have much of an answer for it. In essence the zone did it’s job, except we kept losing cutters aka Varejao. It got to the point where I wanted to scream to LaMarcus, LET HIM CATCH IT. But I disgress. Martell gave effort on LeBron but effort doesn’t always get it done. LeBron had 33 points on 14-for-24 shooting with 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Varejao had a huge 22.
Let’s see what the people had to say:
@_BlazerNation_: First half was spectacular, great energy but as Roy said they relaxed and CLE got the W. This game showed theres still hope!
@iverigma: didn’t watch it but I can imagine complete explosion over Blake-Bayless issue
@sdwinlker: I don’t understand the reluctance to use Bayless and Cunningham. Especially when Blake and Webster became invisible or worse.
@adamosgp: I doubt Juwan Howard comes up that big again this season
@theblazerguy: Aldridge now 4 for 6 from 3 point range; maybe it’s time for him to start raining threes Channing Frye-style
@anothersamchan: steve.blake. that is all.
I think @_BlazerNation_ summed it up pretty nicely. If anything I’ve definitely gotten some hope after being a little down/emo about the squad. I do feel as if we did waste Juwan Howard’s big game for the year, I mean he was playing like it was 1996 out there. There was a lot of talk about Blake and Bayless. Obviously with everyone and their mom out, there is no better time for Bayless to get a look. At the very least we see what he can do with extended tick. I think Dean is in a tough spot when it comes to shoving Bayless in there because…well he’s not Nate. I’m not sure Dean can go giving Bayless all these minutes only for Nate to yank them back away, you know what I mean? It’s like if a nanny comes in and changes all the rules to everything being fun then the strict parents come back and change it back up. The kid is sad, the nanny’s probably fired and the parents are pissed. Nobody wins. I think we’re on the verge of Bayless getting a lot more tick and as I tweeted I liked seeing him and Miller together. Both of them were playing freely and were in attack mode, the ball was moving, it just looked like guys were playing for that brief amount of time. Cunningham? When Howard was playing like he was last night, it’s gonna be tough for him to play. All Cunningham has to do is defend, rebound and hit the mid-range jumper and I’m sure his time will go up as well. And the last thing I want to see is LaMarcus Aldridge doing anything like Channing Frye. More on him shortly.
Brandon Roy had a rough go: 23 points on 25 shots. Or as I like to call it the OJ Mayo Special (or you can pick a gunner of choice)He got a lot of good looks that rimmed out for him, but he was a victim of having to do too much tonight. While everyone is injured, let’s be honest, we are only going to go as far as Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge can take us. I don’t think that’s unfair to state. Before, with all the depth we could talk about them needing help. And they will still need help. But for the immediate future they are going to carry us. I’m a little concerned that he only got to the line 3 times in 40 minutes. We know he’s not getting all the calls, but still…you can’t get to the line 1 more time than Bayless when you play 30 more minutes. An interesting stat I just found that people wouldn’t think of: we usually don’t do well when B-Roy takes 20+ shots. Last year he took 20+ shots in 16 games and Portland went 4-12. So far this year he’s done it 5 time sand Portland is 1-4. Just something to think about.
LaMarcus Aldridge probably doesn’t want to see Varejao or Ilgasukas again anytime soon. The line (22 pts, 8/13 shooting) looks better than it felt while watching the game. It never felt at any point like he was having a major impact on the game. He has to do more. As a matter of fact it just felt like he was suffocated by Cleveland’s bigs. My example would be early in the fourth quarter, we throw it into him with Ilgauskas on him. LMA dribbles and tries to go middle, gets bumped and ends up shooting a fadeaway. He’s got to be able to use his quickness in those kind of situations. To tell the truth, I’m more concerned about LMA elevating his play over this stretch than Roy because Roy has proven he can do it consistently.
Martell Webster was on fire in the first quarter and then was on ice the rest. And he missed some wide open shots that frankly he’s gotta make for this team to have a chance. I don’t have beef with him taking the open shots…he would hurt us more by passing up wide open shots than missing them, but mixing in some dribbles toward the basket wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Juwan Howard. Can’t say much more. I’m sorry we wasted your 15 points and 6 of 7 shooting.Sorry we wasted all your hard work Big Joel. You set the tone in the first half with your energy and effort. Even more impressive is that you managed to stay out of foul trouble for the most part.
Steve Blake. You got demolished on Twitter last night. I’m leaving you alone because you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. But an 0-for is rough. You had a 8 assists (YAY!), with 4 turnovers (BOO) and you missed all 4 of your field goal attempts in 30 minutes. Are you feeling the pressure? Are the fans wearing you down? It’s hard to defend you with this kind of production. Also, PS, please for the love of everything I know and love stop switching onto LeBron James. Just please.
Tonight, Portland goes into Milwaukee in what becomes pretty close to a ‘must-win’ scenario. Make no mistake about this, Portland needs this win. Coming back home having gone 1-3 is going to be tough to swallow when you consider the next 4-game road trip that’s coming up shortly. I’m interested to see how this team responds to last night. Do they get better or was last night an instance of Portland playing up to their competition? Because if it was a one-night thing, tonight could get ugly.The Bucks are tough at home (8-3 this season) and since they are coached by Scott Skiles you know they are going to play hard. They however are beatable. A loss tonight will ruin any of the good feelings the Blazers and their fans had about the loss in Cleveland.