This was a tough one. When I mentioned on Twitter at the end of the game that when I got home I would probably watch this one on fast forward–in case you missed my note I was in Seattle last night to see a live recording of the best podcast ever (has nothing to do with basketball but check it out anyway)–I got a lot of responses that basically said skip it. Or, watch three of four quarters, skip the last one.
Like an exact opposite of Wednesday’s home loss to Orlando, Friday’s 99-83 road loss to San Antonio deserves two recaps. One for quarters on through three, and a second for the night’s final 12 minutes.
The Blazers did what they needed to do to start, getting out on defense aggressively, turning the Spurs over, and scoring. The problem early, which would become the problem let too, was that San Antonio wasn’t missing many shots. Portland’s 31-27 lead after one quarter was a bit of an outlier for both teams, because following the game’s first frame, offense just did not come for the Portland.
To win on the road, especially against a team that hasn’t lost at home, you need to make shots. Look at Orlando, not many teams have played as well in the Rose Garden as the Magic did on Wednesday. What led to that level of play was shot making. If the road team can stay hot from the field, limiting a home crowd’s involvement, it’s easier to sustain runs.
That’s what happened Wednesday with the Magic. Every time Portland made a mini-run, or a longer run at the end of the game to make it close, a couple of made jumper slammed the door in the Blazers’ face. Friday, in San Antonio, the exact opposite happened. The Blazers and Spurs entered the fourth quarter tied, by the 8:30 mark San Antonio led by 12. Going on a 14-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter.
On the road, against a team as good as the Spurs are always going to be, that’s good enough to have the possibility of a big win swept out from under you. Portland’s final three quarters accounted for only 52 points. The Blazers just didn’t have enough offense to claim this one, pure and simple.
It leaves the coaching staff with a lot to ponder, considering that this road trip still has five games remaining, but at least they should know that this Portland team does have the ability to score points. The question is, can they figure out a way to do it while battling the crowd, not being buoyed by it.
Going forward, what does it mean. Well, losing Marcus Camby isn’t going to help–he went down in the second quarter with a sprained ankle and is day-to-day, but jumping straight into panic mode isn’t going to help either. San Antonio is a good team, and a great team at home. They only dominated the fourth quarter, but they dictated the pace most of the way.
Portland played from behind most of the night Friday, That’s difficult in the best situation. San Antonio only really needed one big spurt to put this game in the bank. It came in the fourth quarter, which is disheartening because you play to stay close on the road, but it could have come at any time. To win away from home, the Blazers have to find a way to put their stamp on a game early, and carry that through for longer than just 12 minutes.
The Blazers travel to Houston on Saturday to take on the Rockets.
Couple of quick things Portland can take away from this loss:
- They didn’t give up when things were going very poorly. The Blazers were outscored in the fourth 34-18, but even after the Spurs had pushed their lead to 14, Raymond Felton knocked down a couple of shots to bring it back to single digits. The willingness to keep fighting, even when the likelihood they’ll get a win is pretty slim and another five games on the road are on the horizon, is a good sign.
- LaMarcus Aldridge sat for a long time with five fouls. LA left the game with Portland leading, and returned with the Blazers down and basically out. If LaMarcus had stayed on the floor, Friday could have been different.
- San Antonio is now 8-0 at home. The Spurs are going to be the team to watch as far as dealing with the insanity of this schedule. Gregg Popovich is known to rest his starters during normal seasons. With a roster as old this one is, San Antonio will be trend setter for other teams with older guys. Taking advantage of home games is going to be a way for older teams to limit some of the schedule damage. Portland shouldn’t feel too bad about losing to a group that is interested in maximizing its chances in front of a friendly crowd.
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