Are you serious, basketball gods? You’re going to bestow all these wins on a team you’ve stripped so much away from, then when Blazersedge brings hundreds of kids to a game for a charity event, you **** them over with a 12-1 New Orleans run in the final 3:26 for a Blazers loss? Eff you, basketball gods, eff you. (I’m sure the kids still had a fantastic time and were very thankful to Dave and Ben for an awesome event, but still).
I’m going to throw a little expert analysis at you here: the Blazers really missed Brandon Roy in those final minutes. Enlightening stuff, eh? It’s still what this game came down to. One of the guys the Blazers had been turning to lately for those create-something buckets (Andre Miller) was broke most of the night on offense and seemed to be worn down, launching a couple bad jumpers. Jerryd Bayless had been effective, but more so in transition than in half-court play and Rudy Fernandez isn’t exactly someone who can just throw the ball to and expect them to create. That leaves us with, LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his only shot in the last stretch. The Blazers needed someone to break down a particularly suffocating Hornets defense — in those final possessions — and they didn’t have the options. Case closed.
Well, not quite. Despite the offensive ship sinking, the Blazers could have still won this game with their defense. But who are we kidding? For the last three weeks I have constantly reminded myself and all of you, with numbers and opinion, that Portland’s current roster cannot win with defense. They just can’t do it. They can get stops and force some turnovers, but if they aren’t scoring they are in trouble. So, when that situation actually does happen and costs them a game, it wouldn’t serve me very well to criticize them for it. Besides, other than giving up a layup and foul to the best point guard in the game, the Blazers were beat by three consecutive jumpers to close out the game.
For once, the Blazers actually, magically, outscored their opponent in the paint, 46-32. They were helped in this by picking up the tempo some, not in terms of possessions (88) but in simply pushing the ball between three-point lines and looking for seams rather than walking the ball up at every opportunity. This turned into 28 assists on 40 buckets with just 12 turnovers. Add 12 offensive rebounds and 8-of-17 shooting from three and you are once again left scratching your head trying to figure out what the basketball gods have against a bunch of kids. End result aside, there were plenty of things about this Blazers performance that you would love to carryover once health is in abundance.
Andre Miller looked like his mojo reserves were depleted but he still ran a very fine offensive game (10 assists). Let’s just say Chris Paul took advantage of him a little and leave it at that . . . LaMarcus Aldridge was in “I’m a dutiful and skilled soldier” mode when the Blazers needed at least a sprinkle of “Conan the Barbarian” mode . . . Four threes from Martell Webster were gravy, but he had trouble chasing Marcus Thornton around. Some great off-ball moves, however . . . Juwan Howard gets a gold star for filling in all the interior offense Aldridge wasn’t supplying . . . Rudy Fernandez played like Webster on a four-pack of Red Bull and played a big part in swinging the game when the Blazers were down . . . Jeff Pendergraph had some nice moments in the early going but was hardly noticeable after that . . . Dante Cunningham was just hardly noticeable . . . Needed one more three from Steve Blake, just one . . . Jerryd Bayless got into foul trouble, though I wonder how much he really needed to sit being a guard. 13 minutes, even coming off a sprained ankle, wasn’t nearly enough (unless the ankle was bothering him) . . . NIC BATUM PLAYED! And he made some nice, aggressive moves to the rim. Great to have him back . . .