If you couldn’t see the difference Saturday night between the Blazers and the New Orleans Hornets, then you weren’t watching. New Orleans looked like a championship caliber team with a smart and driven All-Star at the controls. They moved the ball around, found open shooters, ran an offense with a lot of different looks, hit the boards, ran the floor, caused turnovers, the list goes on. Portland, on the other hand, settled for jumpers, didn’t attack the rim, turned the ball over, and overall just failed to show up. What was the worst part about Friday’s game, a game with PLENTY of AWFUL parts? Portland put up arguably their best quarter of the season to open the game. That leaves fans to wonder: was this one quarter of fluke basketball, and should we start prepping for a .500 level season, or was this three quarters of fluke basketball, and we shouldn’t overreact 15 games into a MARATHON season.
The choice is yours, Blazer fans, but if the stands clearing out with three and a half minutes remaining in a ten-point game is any indication, people are starting to jump ship.
What can be said about Friday’s game?
Brandon Roy coming back might have caused the rest of the Blazers to defer to their star a few too many times. Former Blazer assistant, turned Coach of the Year candidate, Monty Williams might know the Blazers so well that he’s two or three steps ahead of his old charges. On a night when two light’s out dunkers LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum miss easy flushes and the king of the layup Andre Miller misses a bunny at the rim, Portland is destine to lose. Losing Sean Marks to a rolled ankle, Rudy Fernandez to a knee to the gut/groin, and Wesley Matthews briefly to a hard hit to the head also weren’t good signs.
Looking at the box scores there are tons of statistics-based reasons Portland got run out of their own gym. The Blazers’ shooting percentage fell steadily over the course of the evening. Coming out on fire, Portland shot 68% from the floor and 75% from deep. The second quarter those percentages started to drop. At halftime the Blazers were 50% from the field, 50% from three. Still more sliding after three quarters. An O-fer from beyond the three point line dropped Portland’s three-point field goal percentage to 36%. Their overall field goal shooting followed suit, dropping to 46%. The capper Friday night: the Blazers managed only a baker’s dozen in the scoring department in the fourth quarter, hitting a paltry 5-of-21 from the field. In the final frame Portland shot 23% from the field, 33% from three. Their overall shooting percentages were dreadful. From the field 30-for-76, 39%; from three 6-for-18, 33%. Those numbers don’t beat one of the best teams in the league. Those numbers don’t beat anyone in the league.
Postgame, Nate McMillan said that Portland needs to knock down open shots. They especially need to knock down open shots when they’re up against one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. There were a lot of numbers that were shockingly even: 12 points each on the fast break, 28 points each in the paint. The numbers that were not even. Rebounds; 48 for NOLA, 27 for Portland, and second chance points; 15 for the Hornets, 2 for the Blazers. Making open shots is nice, finding a way to create and make easy shots would also be nice.
Portland’s time off didn’t seem to do them any favors, and of course, this being the NBA, they’re going to have to pay back those days off right away. The Blazers close out the month of November with road games at New Jersey and at Philadelphia, and start December at Boston and at Washington. In December Portland plays four back-to-backs including tough twofers at San Antonio and at Memphis, and at Utah and at Denver. The Blazers are 5-7 in the month of November. Portland needs to finish the month with back-to-back road wins, which is totally doable, to finish the month at .500. A sub .500 month at the outset of the season doesn’t torpedo the whole thing, but get ready folks, it could be a long ride.
Here are a few thoughts:
- Chris Paul is a hell of a player. He isn’t infallible, like everyone on the court he makes bad decisions, but unlike most people on the court, he makes up for those poor decisions. At least twice he turned the ball over, then on the possession created by the turnover he made a steal. One time he sprinted the length of the court and picked off a pass from Andre Miller to Nic Batum that would have resulted in an easy layup. Paul is a menacing force. I was right there with every Blazer fan hoping he would come this way when his name came up in trade rumors. The reality is, we should have picked this guy when we had the chance.
- Brandon looked alright. He scored a game-high 27 points, and some of his movement seemed back to almost normal. He had a breakaway that he finished with a dunk, which was nice to see. The Blazers did seem a little stagnant at times, trying to figure out what to do on offense, and some of that no doubt can be contributed to Brandon’s return. I can go along with the talk that the offense is better without Brandon only for awhile. I will always be a firm believer that Portland needs Brandon on the floor to reach anything near its full potential.
- Lots of people hit the deck and came up limping Friday night. Matthews was first then Rudy, and finally the last of Portland’s big men Sean Marks. It’s almost funny if it weren’t so blindingly frustrating. I don’t want to talk about injuries for at least one game. Is that too much to ask?
- Speaking of Marks, he played pretty great for what it’s worth. He scored six points, grabbed a few rebounds, and was credited for one blocked shot. Sean got robbed of a blocked shot when the referees sent Trevor Ariza to the line after his fast-break layup attempt was denied at the rim. In a battle between Sean Marks and Trevor Ariza, Ariza’s star power wins every time.
- Joel Przybilla was slated to make his comeback Friday night, but pulled out a few hours prior to game time due to illness, the same illness that sent him to the hospital just a few days ago. There were a lot of Joel signs scattered throughout the Rose Garden that went unused. He’ll likely come back while the team is on the East Coast, but don’t worry, those signs and that ovation will be there for him when the team gets home.
- Across the board, starting with Nate, and carrying over to Brandon and LaMarcus, this loss was blamed on cold shooting. The fine print here, Portland is not going to change their offense. Expect more of the same, and if the shots don’t go down…
- Oklahoma City, Denver, and Utah all won Friday night. Expect the North West division to be just like it was last year. I know it’s only the end of November, but every night has playoff implications.
Check out the Swarm & Sting for Hornets related info.