When this season is over, hopefully following at least one playoff series, we’ll look back at the second week of March and have fond memories of one semi-great win in Orlando, and one hands down amazing win in Miami. We may even think that that was the high point of the year.
We’ll likely forget that Portland then went on to drop two straight awful games in Charlotte and Atlanta. That’s how it should be. Forget about Friday in Charlotte. Forget about Saturday in Atlanta. That’s what we need to do as fans, and more importantly that’s what Portland needs to do as a team.
Upcoming in this month and the next, the Blazers have two dates apiece with San Antonio, the Lakers, and the Mavericks. Not to mention two more games against Oklahoma City and Golden State, one more at New Orleans, and one more at home against Memphis. It gets no easier, clearly. Portland finished this road trip with their tails between their legs, completely unable to build on a great two nights in Florida, and as much as that hurts, there is absolutely no time to dwell on any of it.
As of right now, the Blazers have a two game cushion between themselves and the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the playoffs. Following Memphis by a game and a game and a half are the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz respectively. Utah is in the midst of full meltdown mode, so their likely not really part of the competition, but a bad slide in the middle of March or a few nights like these late in April, and Portland could finish the year as an also-ran.
Friday the Blazers played badly; Saturday they played worse, but they’re not a bad team. They need to take a moment on their way home to Portland to think about that. They are going to need to get a win or two against some of the top teams in the Conference in the next few weeks, and it’s going to take some heart. They have heart, even when they fail to show it, they just need to find out how to get to it.
Saturday it simply wasn’t there. I’d like to point the finger at the atrocious play that finished the first quarter, in which Jeff Teague put Patty Mills through a mini defense/offense clinic, as to being the point where the game turned, but NBA games are longer than 13 seconds. There wasn’t one play that stood out that really killed Portland. It was every play. Nobody attacked more than one or two times down, jumpers weren’t falling, defensive rebounds weren’t claimed, the ball was poorly handled. On every level, Saturday was a poor showing for Portland.
Just a few numbers to give those of you that had the sense to sit this one out what Saturday was all about.
- 27-of-77 the Blazers shooting from the floor
- 7-of-22 the Blazers shooting from deep
- 0-of-8 Andre Miller from the floor
- 24 points for Jeff Teague
- 20 points for Jamal Crawford
- 4-of-7 Crawford from three
Along with Miller’s O-fer, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Gerald Wallace all struggled from the field. The worst part about Portland’s struggles from the field was their inability to attack the rim as a method to break the slump. Rudy attacked a few times, as did Wallace, but Atlanta doesn’t have a real on the ball defensive stopper. Josh Smith is a great shot blocker, but he’s a better off the ball defender than an on the ball defender. Zaza Pachulia is brutish at best, and fouls an awful lot. Portland allowed Pachulia to fill up the lane and snag rebounds instead of making him move his feet and try to make stops at the rim.
Just a few more numbers that really show how and where Portland lost this game:
- 56-to-28 points in the paint in favor of Atlanta
- 27-to-5 fast break points also in favor of Atlanta
Portland couldn’t get inside, and they couldn’t hold on to the ball. Atlanta is not an offensive juggernaut, but guys like Jamal Crawford don’t need to be told twice to shoot the ball, and given the chance, Jeff Teague seems to be able to fill it up. Turnovers and fast break points given up show lack of effort, and they also show lack of focus. Four games in six nights, two back-to-backs on one trip, can take a lot out of a team. Let’s hope that Portland’s slippage over the last few nights has more to do with tired legs leading to tired brains, and less to do with relaxing after beating the Magic and the Heat.
There’s still a lot of season left in the next month and change. I don’t know about you, but I would be extremely disappointed if this team somehow played themselves right out of the playoffs.
Portland is off until Tuesday when they are back in the Rose Garden to face the Dallas Mavericks.