Game 17 Recap: 76ers 88, Blazers 79


Who knows who Nate is yelling at, hopefully it's members of the Trail Blazers. Photo courtesy of the AP.

So apparently it’s going to have to get worse before it gets any better. Sunday night’s 18 points in the fourth quarter against New Jersey seemed like a pretty low number. While how about 11 in the final quarter against the 76ers? Now that’s a REALLY low number.

There were moments in this game, like in most of the games in November, where the Blazers looked like they had it won. Every time they’ve been unable to shut the door, unable to keep the other team from going on a run, and most importantly completely unable to do a single thing on offense.

There’s not a whole lot that can be said about Tuesday’s game. The effort doesn’t seem to be there on either end of the floor, the shots have not been good, the calls haven’t broken in Portland’s favor, and basically it seems like everyone wearing black and red has simply checked out. One thing that can be taken away from the last two atrocious performances; this is something that is happening to the whole team. There isn’t one guy that can be singled out for poor performance, lack of effort, or bad shot selection. It’s everyone as a team that is failing, and it will take everyone as a team to make this thing right.

Last season there were times when Portland was unable to get things going at the start of games and ended up on the losing end of a couple of big beat downs. There were even times in 2008-09 when the Blazers were out played from start to finish. But never before have I seen a Portland team so thoroughly indifferent. Tuesday night when Portland went up in the third quarter, it looked like Philadelphia was ready and waiting for the Blazers to close them out. A four, now five, win team doesn’t expect to get victories very often. Philly is a young squad with a ton of chuckers. They wanted to give this game away. The Blazers, though, couldn’t deliver that final nail in the coffin, and for long stretches in the fourth quarter they played like they just expected to walk into the final period and hand over the game. Teams play poorly, string together bad possessions, and fail to execute, but expecting to lose is a totally different beast. Portland is not 30 win team, they are not a lottery team. Right now that’s how they’re playing, as if they shouldn’t step on the court and simply destroy a hapless team like the 76ers.

Somebody, anybody needs to step up. It doesn’t have to be in the fourth quarter. Any time would be the right time for whoever wants it to step in and take control of this team.

November’s over. That’s good. Portland comes away from the first full month of the season with only five wins, by any measure that’s not a good sign. We as Blazer fans can be happy to put this month behind us, knowing that every game day is a chance for Portland to redeem themselves. If Portland can string some wins together in December, most of what has happened thus far in the season can be forgotten. The flip side is true too, if Portland drops any more games like these last two you can plain forget it. Forget about playoffs, forget about the Conference Finals, forget about championships. Just forget it.

Nobody needs to forget about those unstated preseason goals more than the Portland Trail Blazers. Tomorrow night they are in Boston, facing one of the NBA’s best teams. If the Blazers go into the TD Garden thinking about their failures in the fourth quarter, their overall lack of effort, or the fact that only 17 games in 2010-11 is shaping up to be a season nobody wants anything to do with, then they have lost before the opening tip. Yet again, the opposite actions, the opposite results, and you’ll be looking at a completely opposite reaction. And that’s the beauty of the NBA.

No better way to erase two weeks of futility with a victory against the Boston Celtics. I’m going to continue to have faith because at this point I don’t know what else to do. The question is, do the Blazers have faith in themselves?

I’ve only got a few thoughts about Tuesday’s loss:

  • I’m not really sure how the whole Wesley Matthew/Nicolas Batum swap really worked out. It all seems pretty irrelevant with the end result. Matthews looked strong, finishing with a game high 26 points. Nicolas got a little lost, finishing with just two points in a shade over 13 minutes. Two arguments in favor of Batum have come out in the last few days that make me think it might be good to leave him in the starting lineup. First, Nic is a three, he can guard the three, and he can play against other threes. Wesley gives up a lot of size to small forwards around the league. The second reason for Nic in the starting lineup, and this is a major one if and when Portland decides to bag this season and blow up this team, is that he needs to be groomed to take over a major playing role. Nicolas looks baffled sometimes on offense, if he is going to become the center piece of the Portland franchise at some later date, he needs to play more than 12 minutes.
  • Playing with one center is absolutely killing the Blazers. In the first quarter the 76ers weren’t going to the hoop, and although they were hitting their jump shots, it looked like Portland was going to be able to control the game. Marcus Camby had to leave the game, which happens because he can’t play 48 minutes a game, and the 76ers started attacking the basket. Of course it wasn’t poor defense that did the Blazers in, but late in the game the confidence the 76ers had built on offense from their earlier easy forays to the hoop helped to put the home team over the top.
  • Portland needs to find a way to generate points. My suggestion; try to get to the free throw line. The New Jersey Nets did it to the Blazers in their comeback. Because I guess we’ve gotten to the point where using the Nets as a positive example is totally reasonable, it might not be a bad idea for the Blazers to take a page out of their book.
  • I thought a “players-only” meeting was good for at least one win. On that count I was wrong.
  • I’m sticking to keeping Brandon on the floor for at least one more game. I firmly believe that the problems that Portland is having on offense are not entirely his fault. Like I said earlier, this is a problem the whole team is having, and the WHOLE TEAM is going to have to fix it.

Rudy's got the right idea. Photo courtesy of the AP.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Tags: 76ers Blazers Fourth Quarter