There are a few ways we could look at the drubbing that the Blazers took Sunday night in Los Angeles at the hands of the defending champions. First, we could look at the numbers, find out where the problems were with Portland, and apply blame accordingly, or second, we could write this off as a non-factor, a non-stress inducing loss that we all saw coming. How about we do both.
Portland shot 32-of-75 from the field, 42%, and an abysmal 6-of-20 from deep, 30%. Portland was out rebounded 49-to-25, and didn’t even get close to holding the Lakers to under 50% from the field. More numbers that can explain away an uninspired 25 point loss: Brandon Roy didn’t get his first field goal until the middle of the third quarter, LaMarcus Aldridge scored only 8 points, and the Lakers’ Pau Gasol’s 11 rebounds and 7 assists in the first half were equal to the similar stats of the entire Blazer’s roster combined. The Blazers were never in this game, getting out rebounded, out hustled, and flat out out played. Only Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum had games that weren’t immediately forgettable. Miller scored 20 points and Batum added 17. Oh, by the way, every single Laker starter scored at least 11 points, and Steve Blake and Matt Barnes scored in double figures. Rudy Fernandez, returning from two games missed due to back pain, scored 13 points, and Armon Johnson scored 12 points. Unfortunately, most of Rudy’s and Armon’s scoring was done in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers had been leading by 20 for at least half an hour.
Ok, here goes on the second way we can look at Sunday’s loss. The Lakers are a better team than the Blazers top to bottom, that may change, like everything will when Greg Oden or Joel Przybilla comes back. Even as the defending NBA champs, the Lakers feel like they have a lot to prove, especially against a team that a few national media members picked to have the best chance of taking their crown and crushing their hopes of a three-peat. Portland was on the second night of a back-to-back. The game was played in the Staples Center, a place Portland almost never wins when playing the Lakers. All these factors combined, and losing big to the Lakers seems almost fated. Like the numbers, these excuses for the loss are just as valid. Portland lost to a superior team, they looked like a team that had played the night before, and is starting to feel a little fatigue from their numerous early season road games, and from the opening tip they just couldn’t keep up.
My advice, take your pick of reasons as to why Portland lost on Sunday, and move on. I’m not trying to say that it’s alright that most of the Blazers failed to show up for Sunday’s game, I’m just saying that overall does it really matter? Has Portland played well enough so far this season to be able to compete with the Lakers on their home floor? My answer is no. The Blazers would have had to play almost without error on Sunday, and even then there’s no guarantee they would have been able to win. LA is deep, LA is tough, LA keeps a lot of big bodies in the paint. Portland is a jump shooting team for the most part, and the Lakers kept the Blazers on the perimeter all night. The Blazers couldn’t get anything inside in the first half, couldn’t get any easy layups, and in the second half they just stopped trying. By then it didn’t even matter.
The nice thing about Sunday’s game is the same as the worst thing about Saturday’s game: Like you don’t get to play the Raptors every night, you don’t have to play the Lakers every night. There are a lot more teams like the Raptors than the Lakers, and many nights this season Portland might be able to get away with playing poorly, showing up late, or in some cases not showing up hardly at all. The Lakers will punish you for not bringing it. Portland got punished. I think it’s best if we leave it at that.
Here are a few random thoughts I had as I tried to restrain myself from turning off my TV and permanently relocating to a cave in the mountains:
- Pau Gasol is very very good. His shooting stats on the season are out of this world. Sunday night he went 9-of-13, collecting a triple-double with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. Basically every shot he took went in. Pau doesn’t seem like a strong guy, and relies pretty heavily on his shooting touch. The difference between Pau, a sure thing to make the All-Star game, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who isn’t, is that Pau takes the majority of his shots below the free throw line and around the low block. If Aldridge moved his game in a few feet, I bet his scoring numbers would improve. Of course it isn’t Alridge’s scoring that’s an issue. If he could rebound like Pau, then he would definitely be in the All-Star conversation. Rebound battle between Pau and Aldridge? Advantage Pau 14 to 3.
- Lamar Odom is easily the most improved player on the Lakers. He’s just solid. 10-of-15 from the floor for 21 points, enough to lead all scorers, and 12 rebounds just for good measure.
- Steve Blake, who some of you may recall was a Blazer, then was demoted to a Clipper, then was rescued as a Laker, threw Pau Gasol an assist off the backboard on a run out after Wesley Matthews slipped and turned the ball over. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cheers that Blake was going to hear on February 23rd, when he returns to the Rose Garden, will by then have somehow changed to boos.
- Andre Miller and Nate McMillan both got technical fouls in the third quarter Sunday. Miller got his for complaining about a call, then complained that Kobe Bryant complains all the time and doesn’t get T’ed up even though the league is supposedly trying to put the kibosh on all the complaining. I’m sure Nate’s T was given for voicing similar concerns. I’m leaving the technical issue alone, simply because it seems asinine to complain about the complaining about all the complaining, but I’ll say this: Nate and Andre HAVE A POINT.
- May final observation, on Sunday Brandon didn’t show up. Chalk it up to tired legs, Ron Artest’s defense, or being star struck by Chevy Chase and Penny Marshall sitting courtside, but for whatever reason he didn’t come to play. Roy has to be present every night the Blazers play. Portland can win without Roy having big offensive nights, but they can’t win when he disappears.
Portland returns home on Tuesday to host the Detroit Pistons. Detroit is 2-5, and are a far cry from the dominant team they once were. Expect a bounce-back game, or at least hope for a bounce-back game.
Check out Lake Show Life, and their take on Sunday’s “game.”