In the early part of Wednesday’s game there were a few moments when I thought Portland was going to do the unthinkable, and get a win in Oakland. The Blazers looked sharp in the first two quarters, moving the ball around, finding open shooters, making open shots. It looked very possible that Portland’s struggles in Oak-town had come to an end.
But then something happened, and that something was named Stephen Curry. The Blazers will watch the tape of this game, as they should since there were a lot of good things to see like the aforementioned ball movement and a lot of bad things to address such as slow defensive rotations, and they will get on themselves for letting Curry get open too many times in the third quarter. It’s true that Portland helped when they probably shouldn’t have, and drifted away from shooters way way too much, but most of the damage Steph Curry did very likely couldn’t have been stopped.
Curry is that kind of special player who can get super hot, and when he does you have to try and keep up on the offensive end, because you probably aren’t going to stop him. Sure Portland could have limited the damage by defending David Lee a little better–although he ended up open a lot because the Blazers were sending two defenders at Steph and he can pass almost as well as he can shoot–and not letting any other Warrior score at all, but Portland lost on Wednesday night mostly because when Curry was streaking, and hitting every thing he tossed up, the Blazers couldn’t buy a bucket.
If you took only the first, second, and fourth quarters of Wednesday’s game, Portland outscores Golden State 73-70. Certainly not a safe advantage, but a lead nonetheless. The Warriors’ burst and the Blazers’ bust in the third quarter was very clearly the difference.
And what happened in that quarter that turned the tide in Golden State’s favor? In my opinion, what happened was that Portland went away from their game, and tried to out-shoot the Warriors. The Blazers have shooters, Jamal Crawford, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, but they don’t have anybody like Steph Curry. The Blazers got their points in the first half by getting to the rim. When Curry went off, they tried to match him. It didn’t happen. By the time Portland tried to go back to their inside game, Golden State had a decent sized lead, and with it enough momentum and energy to focus their defensive intensity. What you don’t want to do when you’re playing a team like Golden State is give them a reason to play defense.
Portland didn’t play badly, though. In fact, I felt they played better in Oakland on Wednesday than they have in a while. Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford, and LaMarcus Aldridge all had decent offensive nights. Marcus Camby continued to crash the boards like a man half his age. Raymond Felton’s play continues to be unimpressive, but for the short term I think the Blazers are a lot more likely to stick with him and try to make it work than go out and try to make a trade to bring somebody else in.
A lot of Blazer fans are going to point directly to Portland’s inability to execute at the end of the game. I think a lot of that can be attributed to tired legs. No doubt people will also be a little peeved by the fact that the Blazers can’t seem to beat a bad team. I feel the same way, but everybody that’s watched Portland at all in the last few years knows they almost never beat the Warriors.
I know it sounds like I’m letting them off easy, the best teams in the league beat up on the worst teams and these losses are going to count for something when it comes to Playoff seeding, but I do believe the Blazers can be forgiven for this loss. None of these guys have played three straight games at the NBA level, and although they clearly played with a lot of effort Wednesday night it did seem like it just wasn’t there at the end. Also, Golden State had given up a big lead in front of their home crowd in their last game, and played like a team that needed a win.
At the end of the season, I firmly believe the Blazers will be at or near the top-four seeds in the West. Golden State won’t. I understand that that’s a ways off, and losing against bad teams never feels good. But even bad teams have good nights. As fans we can take a level of solace in knowing that it took a great game from Stephen Curry and a very good game from David Lee for the Warriors to topple the Blazers. That hasn’t always been the case at ORACLE.
The Blazers get a shot at redemption against the Suns at home on Friday.
Couple of quick things:
- Gerald Wallace continues to not play well on the road. Crash had six points, shooting 3-of-9 from the field. He did have some nice stretches on offense, although there was more than one time that Wallace made a nice spin move to the rim in the post, then missed at the rim. Gerald’s really got to figure it out away from home.
- Nicolas Batum has not been extended by the Blazers. Nic’s agent is saying they will shop him around before coming back to Portland. Before everybody goes into total panic mode, remember he will be a restricted free agent, so any offer made can and will be matched by the Blazers. I guess not any offer will be matched, but it’s hard to imagine Portland lets him go. The NBA is a business, after all, and it’s a bad business decision to spend two dollars on something you think you can get for one. Nic’s value will now be determined by the market. The market is going to be healthy, but I think the Blazers are ready to go the distance if that’s what it takes. Wednesday, Nicolas had a very good game: 16 points, 5-of-8 from the field, and two very nice chase-down blocks.
- Minutes watch: 30:09 for Raymond Felton. Raymond shot 2-of-10 from the field and 1-of-4 from deep, but had seven assists and only one turnover. One of the problems Portland has right now is they don’t really have an alternative to Felton. I think there’s plenty of room for improvement with Ray, but I do agree that Portland might be better off with somebody else at the helm. But like I said, they’d have to go out and get somebody, and I don’t think shaking up the roster is the right move at this juncture. The Blazers would likely have to trade Ray, or package somebody like Jamal Crawford or Craig Smith, a role player with some value. I wouldn’t trade either Smith or Crawford, and if you trade Ray straight up for a point guard, you better be totally 100% sure that guys isn’t going to be worse.
- Standings watch: Portland came in Wednesday in sixth, one spot ahead of Memphis, and two spots ahead of Dallas. Houston, Dallas, and Utah lose, the Lakers win, and the Clippers lose. Portland and Memphis switch spots, the Lakers climb to eighth, and Dallas and Houston drop out.
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