January 2, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) runs into Toronto Raptors forward-guard Alan Anderson (6) during the second half at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Portland 102-79. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Game 31 Recap: Blazers 79, Raptors 102

Blazer Twitter bros and gals are very likely familiar with the localized meme #bazers. I’m not totally sure the origin (I feel like it might harken back to a misspelled license plate owned by a superfan who may also be a poor proofreader, but to be sure you’d have to ask Sean Highkin or Seth Johnston the kings of the Blazer Twitter-sphere) but I do know what it means. It’s used to highlight and draw attention to the Blazers when they are performances are not up to snuff. It’s also used when somebody, usually a local scribe or television personality, drops a bit of Blazer related trivia that is meant to pump up the morale of the fan base but in fact illustrates how fruitless Portland’s professional basketball team can at times be.

Here is an example:

When the Blazers follow up an inspiring victory against the New York Knicks with an equally uninspiring loss the the Toronto Raptors, #bazers  is bound to make its presence known a time or two.

But seriously, raise your hand if you saw this one coming. Be honest. So only the most hardcore (read delusional) fans who believe that a very good victory turned this Blazer team into a legit competitor over night should not have their hands raised.

Portland lost to the Raptors on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night when they beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. A good team doesn’t let a big win get them all pie-eyed a forgetful about the next game. The Blazers have played well through 31 games in 2012-13, they’re is a ton of potential in this roster and in what this roster can become, but right now, they are the kind of young team who will take a close win in basketball’s most storied arena every time if it means getting blown out the next night.

Sure I would have preferred a close loss to the Knicks and a win against the Raptors, but that’s not what these Blazers gave us. We deal with it, and we move on.

But give Toronto a ton of credit here. DeMar DeRozan played like a guy who understands the need to earn the money he’s given. Ed Davis played like LaMarcus Aldridge. Terrance Ross played like he’d saved up every good game he’d ever had just so he could have the night of his life against the team he watched while starring for North Portland’s Jefferson high School. Amir Johnson played like he might make chucking your mouth guard at a referee a trend for players who want to greatly improve their game (he also played like a guy who, as a professional, has absolutely no idea what the rules of the game of basketball are).

On the Portland side, there were plenty of horrible numbers in the box score. Let’s start with 18 turnovers. The Blazers coughed up the ball so many times in the first quarter, leading to so many uncontested Toronto lay-ups, that Portland was in a 10-point hole before they even got on the board. Getting down by 10 on the road against a hot team isn’t ever a good idea. Add to it that the Blazers’ motivation was at all time lows considering the circumstances, and despite a couple runs to close the gap in the first and second quarters, this thing was over within the space of two and a half to three minutes.

Another bad stat for the visitors: 4-of-22 shooting from distance. Go back and look at Tuesday’s box score. At MSG, the Blazers shot 11-of-33 from deep. Keep going back. Last Saturday against the 76ers: 8-of-23 on threes. Boxing Day against the Kings: 6-0f-21. The numbers from distance against the Kings weren’t fantastic (29%), but they were still better than Wednesday’s (18%). The Blazers don’t need to shoot the lights out on threes to win games, but when they shoot poorly and don’t make many triples, they simply do not win.

One more bad number, if you can stand it: 41-of-77 shooting from the field by the Raptors. The Blazers’ defensive intensity meter was at about zero all night. Blame in on tired legs, blame it on a hot Toronto team that was committed to moving the ball (34 assists on 41 made baskets) and not turning it over (11 total turnovers), blame it on whatever you like. Portland didn’t play a lick of defense. and because of that, they got pasted.

The real question following Tuesday night’s mini-debacle is this: is one win more valuable than another? On the one hand, the answer is no. Every win has the same value as any other win. Same goes for any loss. On the other hand, though, beating the Knicks in their house where they’ve been basically unbeatable is far better for morale than beating the lowly Toronto Raptors.

Here’s a third option, though. Beating up on the Blazers for blowing a winnable game in Toronto makes about as much sense as heaping mountains of praise on Portland for toughing out a good win in Manhattan. If you hold to the theory that wins and losses are about the least important thing in 2013-12, which I do when it’s convenient, than this third answer to my question is the one to go with.

Let’s enjoy the win on New Year’s Day and bemoan the loss on the least celebrated day of the year, The Day We All Have To Go Back To Work Without Another Three Day Weekend Until Easter, and then hurry up and forget about them both. Sure some will say that even with losses to Memphis and Minnesota this road trip has already been an emotional success, but I’m not one of those people.  Yes the Bazers have to Baze, that’s why Twitter was invented, but not every night of the week.

Portland has Thursday off before they travel to The Bluff City (yeah I didn’t know that was a nickname for Memphis until just now either) to face the 20-9 Grizzlies on Friday.

Just a couple of quick things:

  • Damian Lillard was awarded the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for December, making it a clean sweep for the Blazer rookie point guard thus far. Dame is the second Blazer to win Rookie of the Month more than once. Brandon Roy was the other, taking the honors in January, February, and March of his first season. Since the NBA began handing out this award in 1981, only seven players have run the table from November to April (or in Ralph Sampson’s case from November to March). Those players are: the aforementioned Ralph Sampson 83-84, David Robinson 89-90, Tim Duncan 97-98, LeBron James 03-04, Carmelo Anthony 03-04, Chris Paul 05-06, and Blake Griffin 10-11. Of that crop, only Carmelo was not awarded the rookie of the year, and that’s because of LeBron (the NBA didn’t start awarding Rookie of the Month by conference until the 2001-02 season). Notable former Rookies of the Year who did not sweep the award from start to finish: Shaquille O’Neal (Alonzo Mourning won in March and April of 1993), Kevin Durant (Luis Scola won in February of 2008), Kyrie Irving (Ivan Johnson in April of last season), and Michael Jordan (MJ and Hakeem Olajuwon traded months in the 1984-85 season).
  • Joel Freeland played on Wednesday. He finished with 11 points in 21 minutes. Count me as among the people who are firmly in the Freeland camp. One of the biggest downsides of how well things have been going for Portland is that guys like Freeland aren’t getting an extended look. They’re being expected to contribute or not play. I know that’s the trouble of being on a middling team with aspirations of staying relevant during a protracted rebuild. Hopefully Joel knows it too. His time will come, hopefully he’ll stay checked in so that when it does come he’ll be ready for it. I expect that he will. Coming to the NBA is a big step for foreign players, especially one who is arguably at the top of the European food chain. He doesn’t want to leave without proving he belongs.
  • The Raptors had a very interesting box score. Only two of their starters scored, and they got a combined 22 assists from Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry without either point guard accounting for a single made field goal.
  • Portland managed to hit a couple three pointers on Wednesday, but if you’re keeping track at home, they are now 4-of-42 against Toronto from downtown on the season. An astounding 9.5%.
  • Damian Lillard finished Wednesday with 18 points (shooting 6-of-13 from the field and 1-of-5 from three), seven assists, and five turnovers. He’s going to have a triple double this season, the question is will he have it before or after the All-Star Break. Dame also had seven turnovers. He was partially responsible for the loose passing that got Portland in trouble in the first quarter. To the Raptors’ credit, though, they were getting in all the passing lanes.

Box Score

Standings

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]

January 2, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) goes up for a shot as Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and forward Joel Freeland (19) defend during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

Tags: Amir Johnson Blazers Damian Lillard Joel Freeland Jose Calderon Kyle Lowry Raptors Terrance Ross

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