How’s everybody doing? Sunday afternoon was the type of game we’ve been begging to see since the trade deadline. A game in which the bulk of the minutes, or if not the bulk than at least more minutes than usual, went to the none standard rotation guys. That’s why I’m asking how everybody’s doing.
Sunday was pretty fun to watch, I’ll give it that. Nobody played any defense. Everybody had the green light all the time. The last team with the ball won. Makes for an exciting game, although it doesn’t always make for the best or most productive basketball.
Here’s my real issue with the way Sunday went down. Against a team like Sacramento, Portland’s second unit (the tank squad if you will) can hold their own. They weren’t able to sustain a lead effectively, but they also weren’t run off the court. The Blazers’ five remaining games are not going to be against teams like the Kings, you know teams with losing records and not a whole lot to play for, and there’s a pretty good chance that should coach Kaleb Canales decide to give his bench guys a lot of run the games won’t be nearly as close as Sunday.
Portland’s remaining schedule and these team’s respective Playoff situations is as follows: Monday the Blazers face the Suns in Phoenix. The Suns are a single game out of eight place in West. Wednesday Portland closes out their home games for the season against Utah. The Jazz are a game and a half out of eighth. Next Saturday the Blazers kick off their final road swing in Memphis. The Grizz are currently in fifth in the west, a game and a half ahead of sixth place Dallas and two games behind the Clippers for fourth. Portland’s penultimate game of 2011-12 is in San Antonio. The Spurs are currently a single game behind the Thunder for the top spot in the West. The Blazers finish out their season in Utah.
The standings can and will change between Monday’s game in Phoenix and Portland’s season finale on the 26th in Salt Lake City. But you can bet that at least Utah and Phoenix are hoping to get wins against Portland. Memphis would love home court, so there’s a game with something behind it. I would say that San Antonio would like to take that top seed in the West from the upstart Thunder, but it’s San Antonio. They won’t fall further than second so there’s a decent chance that when they host Portland on the 23rd (San Antonio’s final home game and third to last game of the regular season) coach Popovich will pull another fast one and bench his starters.
The purpose of bringing all this up, is simple. In their final five games, I’m guessing Portland will get blown out (I mean really blown out) at least once, maybe more. I’m fine with that in principle. The question is, how will it play for the fans. My hope is that they’re understanding, and the realize that winning games right now is less important that trying out a couple of guys not yet under contract. My worry is that a home finale that ends in a 15 or 20 point loss is going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of Blazer fans.
Portland’s playing for next season, and the fans are preparing for next season. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be quick to forgive and forget should they get the sense that the Blazers have given up.
It’s not my personal belief that they gave up on Sunday’s game. On the contrary. I think Portland lost Sunday because they got out played on the plays that mattered. Two plays stand out, and they both happened at the very end. The first was yet another late turnover by Raymond Felton, and the second was the failure to adequately defend Marcus Thornton on Sacramento’s final possession.
Let’s skip the first one, because what can be said at this point really, and look at the second, game winning play. If Portland were still in the Playoff race, and Sunday’s game meant anything at all, this is what I would say about Sunday’s last play: It’s not quite defense when you let an amazing jump shooter like Marcus Thornton have a wide open look from the top of the key. It’s not great clock or game situation management when you give up a go head bucket with less than five seconds to play and you don’t have even a 20-second timeout. Overall, should Sunday have been anything meaningful at all, I would have said it was failure to execute that did Portland in.
But that’s not the case. Sunday, as we all know, was meaningless. Like I said in my preview, the game was wide open, up and down, and close. There’s not really a blue print for games like Sundays, and there isn’t really a way to game plan for the the rotations we’re going to see in the next couple of weeks.
I know we’ve all been pro-tanking with the expectation that losing more games will bring in better draft picks. I also know that watching the Blazers get run over five more times might not be all that much fun.
Just a few quick things:
- The Blazers’ home broadcasters gave Hasheem Thabeet the dunk of the night on a nice roll to the hoop lob from Nicolas Batum. Thabeet played a relatively productive 13 minutes, picking up only two fouls and grabbing three rebounds. The Yahoo box score has him down for a single block although I think he might have had at least two. However, Thabeet was -12, the lowest plus/minus score of anybody that played Sunday.
- Wesley Matthews had eight threes. Nine would have been better.
- Nolan Smith got more minutes Sunday than Jonny Flynn. The Nolan Smith/Jonny Flynn debate has been interesting. Nolan outplayed Jonny Sunday, but it’s been back and forth most of the way. Nolan has the ultimate edge, he’s got a contract for next year.
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