Friday’s game hurt to watch, obviously. Saturday’s game also hurt to watch, and for completely different reasons. Friday Portland competed, although the Blazers couldn’t turn the corner against the Thunder, letting that game slip away in the final possessions, they were right there at the end. Saturday Portland simply didn’t show up. Against an undefeated team with a highly motivated All-Star running the show, Saturday’s result was inevitable given the way Portland looked right from the game’s opening tip.
Chalk up the short shots to heavy legs from playing the second night of a back-to-back, but other than that it was bad play from the Blazers that turned this game in favor of the Hornets. Portland relied far too much on jump shots, had way too many shots denied at the rim, failed to convert on offensive rebounds, and couldn’t cash in on the few opportunities that they had. In summation: Portland got outplayed, period end of sentence.
The Blazer defense was porous both on the inside and the outside, stopping almost no one. All five New Orleans starters reached double digits in scoring, and Peja Stojakovic and Willie Green both contributed 11 points from off the bench. Of course Peja has lost a step or a half dozen since his salad days, but when you leave him open all night he can hit some threes. There wasn’t one set of stats that killed Portland on Saturday night, but if you want to look for one aspect of the contest in which the Blazers got worked pretty hard I would point you in the direct of the front line comparison. Emeke Okafor, not known for his offense, went for 14 points and 12 rebounds, and former All-Star David West hit six of his 11 field goal attempts on his way to 18 points. The all important plus/minus of the Hornets’ front line: Okafor +16, West +15. Marcus Camby had a pretty solid outing, but LaMarcus Aldridge’s 4-for-14 from the field was not quite what I would call efficient offense. Plus/minus for the Blazers’ starting bigs: Camby -7, LA -9.
Along with Camby’s double-double, the other Blazers with positives Saturday night were Nicolas Batum and Andre Miller. Without Miller’s first half scoring, Portland would have been down by 20 going into halftime. Batum was not involved at all in the first half, but his 11 third quarter points almost turned Saturday night into a game. Welsey Matthews also had some positive moments. I would be satisfied if Wesley took the ball to the hoop all day long, his jump shot hasn’t been reliable at all, but his strong moves to the hole inspire at least some confidence.
With Saturday’s loss, Portland drops to one game over .500, I’m not ready to jump off the Burnside Bridge, but it would be nice if the Blazers would show up next time.
A few quick thoughts:
- Everyone with eyes watched Brandon Roy limp off the court in the middle of Saturday’s game. Up until this point I’ve taken the optimistic route; Roy’s not really suffering from a new injury he’s just adjusting to a new rotation and trying to rest his body for the Playoffs. I probably have to amend that feeling, after Saturday’s events. It’s not time to start thinking about a season without Brandon, but it isn’t too soon for me to start feeling nervous.
- It was a little strange to see Jerryd Bayless in a non-Blazer uniform. I both like Bayless, and wasn’t shocked or sad to see him leave. He still seems to be struggling with finishing at the hoop, and he hasn’t developed point guard skills over night. It’s good to see Jerryd doing Jerryd regardless of where he plays.
- Another familiar face that got plenty of screen time Saturday was Monty Williams. Monty is a nice guy, and apparently a great coach. My advice would be for him to quit coaching during the first game that it looks like New Orleans is going to lose. It would be worth it to finish his head coaching career undefeated.
- Rumor has it Joel Przybilla will be making his triumphant return when Portland takes on Memphis next Tuesday. Although Joel won’t be guarding guys out on the perimeter, he will definitely raise the interior defense a notch or two. Joel’s presence will also give the Blazers an element of toughness that up to now they have been sorely lacking.