Hornets 92, Blazers 77 Re-Thoughts


Had the chance to be at the game again tonight, this time as a fan in civvies, and it quickly became one I would just as soon forget if I wasn’t going to write about it. Really, other than Joel Przybilla showing Tyson Chandler his Shaolin Style — which Jason Quick wrote about at length and is a highly recommended read — not a whole lot stood out on the positive end. I honestly kept looking up at the scoreboard in the middle stages of the game thinking, “How in the heck are we even within eight, much less two.” I’ll try to find a happy medium since you don’t want to overreact to a bad loss anymore than a great win, but it’s healthy and, as we’ve learned, therapeutic, to recount the flaws and missteps. We’ll just throw individuals and team thoughts into one giant cluster amalgam tonight.

-We did a fairly decent job on Chris Paul for awhile, but he also wasn’t being all that aggressive until he decided it was time for his team to win. But even when we were staying in front of Paul, he was pushing us back into the lane and collapsing the defense just as he would if he beat his man. There’s a reason the Hornets are good, and he is it.

-Oh, that’s nice, nobody likes Tyson Chandler so we’ll just leave him alone in the paint. Oh, Chris Paul is throwing the ball in the air, he looks good doing that. An alley-oop you say? How special for the Hornets, let me go shake their hands. Ok, granted, some of the later dunks, mostly Hilton Armstrong’s, were because of CP3, but you can’t expect to win giving up free points. I was sitting close enough to hear some words and read some lips, and the Blazers bigs seemed to be having a few too many discussions on defensive assignments.

-While it wasn’t one of those obviously bad throwing-oops-to-fans-in-Section-211 kind of games, this might have been one of the worst games I’ve seen Sergio play in terms of being a point guard. Other than Joel, nobody on the bench really had a great game (Travis hitting pullup J’s does not qualify him for good-game status), but whenever Sergio was in the game the offense just stopped. It wasn’t even a lull. Just a dead calm except for Sergio dribbling out the clock on the wing. You can chalk it up to a really off night for now — and perhaps an adjustment to not having Rudy around with the second unit — but Sergio needs to get his flow back quickly regardless.

-Due in part to the above point, it wasn’t a particularly ugly game — 13 Blazers turnovers — but just one that was out of sync.

-LaMarcus was getting good shots, making good moves, and just not making them. That’s kind of been his story for much of the first third of the season, and eventually it will have to stop. Simple law of averages. Don’t underrate the fact that he was chasing David West all around the court and being burned in the process. That can wear on you just enough to disrupt your rhythm. I’m really starting to love the various hooks he’s added to his repertoire, though. Rather have LMA struggle with his shot while trying new dynamic moves than being solid with the same old spot-ups and turnarounds. Give the guy credit for expanding his game.

-Steve Blake had his hands full with an MVP candidate, which limited his offense. Hard to have qualms with him tonight.

-The offense will be fine — they aren’t going to shoot 39% every night.

-Seriously, two things you absolutely, positively, do not want to #@$* with. The Wu-Tang Clan. And Joel Przybilla. He boxes in the summer, folks. It’s in the media guide. Next time Tyson Chandler might want to do his homework.

-I have a feeling a good amount of credit is due to Mo Lucas for Greg Oden’s increased comfort level in the post. Greg is making fluid, aggressive moves and looks like he actually has a plan to get to a spot and knows what he wants to do when he gets there. He’s hardly perfect at it yet, but he’s looked much stronger with the ball and is even throwing in some face-up jab moves. He’s coming along nicely, and don’t look past the fact that Nate feels comfortable putting Greg and Joel in together, then having that lineup’s offense focus on feeding Oden. Fouls have been an issue, but when James Posey is falling on the ground doing James Posey things, it’s hard to fault a guy.

-Another minor observation about Greg: For awhile, I found myself wondering why he was always sitting at the end of the bench when he comes out. This was during the whole, “Greg looks sad” stage of the season”. Then I realized that it’s the same seat Joel sits in at the start of the game, and there is probably more leg room down at that end. So it’s all gravy.

-Chris Paul and David West seem to argue a bit more than the top two players on a team should. But maybe it was just tonight.

-Saying that Travis is who he is is sort of redundant at this point, but he’s got to improve his basket compass. At least three times tonight he put his head down to drive, beat his man, and ended up behind the backboard with two Hornets’ defender blocking his way.

-Not a great game for Diogu, but I still believe that if he can — and I’ll accentuate that “if” — get comfortable and carve out a role for himself, hopefully as a tough inside rebounder and energy guy, he could do quite well.

-What happened to Rudy’s mid-range game? And am I the only one who has concerns about him being in the dunk contest?

-The offense still hasn’t arrived in the neat little package we thought it would, but I’ve been very impressed with Bayless’ energy on the court. At one point he was mismatched on Hilton Armstrong and Bayless maneuvered to front the big man for about ten seconds before taking out Armstrong’s legs by sitting on them and stealing the lob. Crafty and admirable. He also had a nasty crossover that got him fouled, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. All those people who casually throw him into their ESPN trade machine proposals needs to step back and reconsider their evaluations of his talent. We need to give him time.

-The music just doesn’t sound as sweet with the maestro. You don’t need me to tell you that the Blazers need Brandon’s “Ok, I’m just going to score here no matter what” possessions back.

And that’s that. Not quite the follow up to the Boston win that anybody would have liked, but it’s tough to keep the magic flowing without your top player when you’re in the middle of a crazy stretch of elite competition. There’s a certain team by a certain name that rhymes with the second word of “Bread Baker” coming up, and the Blazers need to get Roy back and to clean up the defensive miscommunication. Feels like a long time ago that Portland was undefeated at home, but there’s no need to fret. Remember that in a week’s time the toughest part of the schedule will be in the rearview mirror, so there will be plenty of opportunity to make a run.