Game 45 Recap: Blazers 95, Thunder 111

Mar, 18, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum (88) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Probably two weeks ago we Blazer fans would have watched Portland get basically handled (even though the score didn’t really look like a blowout the Blazers never really competed in this one) by Oklahoma City and we would have flipped out at least a little.

It’s my contention that Portland matches up pretty well with Oklahoma City, and that games against the Thunder tend to bring out the best in the Blazers. It always hurts a little more to a team that some may consider Portland’s chief rival.

Time’s have changed. I think it’s safe to say that Sunday was not the best the Blazers had to offer. The defense was inconsistent, or to be honest not really even there most of the time, the shooting wasn’t great, key free throws were missed, back breaking turnovers were made. Those are all things that coach Kaleb Canales will have to deal with. But now, I don’t think it’s fair, or in the best interests of anybody, to make too much of a big deal about it.

This wasn’t the blowout I thought Portland would take in Chicago, but it’s still should give a pretty good indication of what we can expect in the 21 games that we have left to suffer through watch. When the Blazers beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City, one of the primary factors was the play of Gerald Wallace on Kevin Durant, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Wallace made Durant work on defense, and he made Durant work on offense, that’s the way you beat one of the best offensive players in the league. KD isn’t a fantastic defender (to get his first MVP he’ll have to become a LeBron level ball stopper), and when a guy makes him work on the defensive end it can take the air out of his offense.

With Crash out of out the picture, Durant wasn’t required to do too much work on defense, leaving him open to torch Portland with his offense. KD’s offense was joined by Russell Westbrook’s offense, and just for good measure, James Harden offered a little bit of offense too. That’s the formula for the Thunder. When those three guys are clicking, like they were Sunday night, they’re tough to beat. Even the best of this season’s Blazer roster on its best night wasn’t going to beat OKC too often.

For me, the rest of this season is going to be about player development and a little bit of consistency. Thinking that way, what can be taken away from Sunday? Well, to be honest, not a whole lot. Here’s my opinion. Right now the Blazers are hurting for offense. Sunday was no different. What Portland can learn from this loss is that SOMEBODY is going to have to step up and score other than LaMarcus Aldridge. Sunday, LA’s shot was not falling, and there just wasn’t enough offense to close the gap. If the Blazers are going to win any significant number of games over this stretch run they’re going to need some scoring. Time for Luke Babbitt or Nolan Smith or somebody like that to put together back-to-back games of scoring the ball.

Portland could work on defense too, of course. And to be honest maybe defense is what the Blazers should focus their energy on. Good defense isn’t as hard to put together as good offense. Maybe if Portland puts all their collective energy in stopping their opponents from scoring, their points will come a little easier. You never know.

As for consistency. There is going to be a new twist every night. That’s what happens when you overhaul the way Portland did. Eventually advance scouts will get wise on the ways of Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt too, or how Hasheem Thabett plays in the pick and roll with Jonny Flynn (get ready for that everybody), and if the Blazers are going to want to be able to at least compete they are going to have to change up. Change up without losing too much ground. That will be the measure of the Blazers’ consistency.

OK, it’s over now. Portland’s home for eight of their next ten. With the home crowd behind them and this roadie now officially over we can all get one step closer to moving on. In this next stretch, I’m hoping the Blazers will beat some bad teams, and maybe get lucky and pull off another Chicago-esque upset. At least if that were to happen we could do the really fun thing of speculating about the Playoffs until the math says we should probably stop.

Tuesday Portland is back in the Rose Garden to face the new(ish) look Milwaukee Bucks.

Just one thing:

  • I watched the ESPN broadcast, and at one point they did a cut-away interview with James Harden in which he talked about his beard. The NBA has become a branding machine. Every player is trying to become a brand, guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been pretty successful. Kobe Bryant had been an incredible brand. Shaq is probably the best NBA brand, although everybody would probably say the best NBA brand has been and always will be Michael Jordan. I think Shaq out-brands MJ just because he’s been able to be so many things while still being Shaq. MJ’s always been MJ and will always be MJ. It’s a great brand, one of the best ever, but it’s very one dimensional. Nobody will ever buy the Michael Jordan Kung-Fu video game or listen to MJ’s third rap album. When asked about his beard, Harden said that he hadn’t thought about shaving it in at least a year and a half, you could almost hear him say, “are you kidding me, the beard is the brand.”

Box Score

Standings

Thunderous Intentions

Email me: [email protected]

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

James “the BEARD” Harden. Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

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Tags: Blazers James Harden Kevin Durant

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