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Trail Blazers' Offense Stalls Against Celtics

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    LaMarcus Aldridge came out to play early on in this one, finishing with 23 points and eight rebounds. However, it seemed that the Trail Blazers (6-10) could not get much else going offensively against the Boston Celtics (9-7) as they lost 96-78.

    The Trail Blazers offense was stagnant all night as the Celtics tried tirelessly to stop the Trail Blazers successful pick and roll attack. They shot 34.8 percent on the night. Meanwhile, the Celtics shot nearly 50 percent. The strategy employed on the defense for the Celtics was quite simple: don't let Damian Lillard beat us. Nearly every opportunity the Trail Blazers tried to set up pick and rolls, anywhere on the court, Kevin Garnett was jumping out to cover and force the ball out of Lillard's hand. After the ball left Lillard's hands, the Trail Blazers were having major trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Lillard would finish with only eight points, three assists and three turnovers.

    Aldridge said after the Wizards game that the time for talking was over and he came out trying to establish a low post game. On the flip side, nobody else on the Trail Blazers could get anything going on offense. Everything was contested. Step backs with hands in the face, rushed shots off screens, forcing shots in traffic. They could get nothing easy and even Aldridge, who was playing well, was working extremely hard to get his shots. The Celtics were aggressive defensively from the tip, they were fouling the Trail Blazers bigs and forcing them to earn their points at the line. Aldridge (7-9) and JJ Hickson (5-8) made frequent trips to the line. But the strategy seemed to pay of for Boston as they never allowed Portland to establish any type of rhythm. Even Hickson was thrown off somehow as the normally consistent rebounder only totaled three boards on the night.

    "Doc (Rivers) had called them (the Celtics) a soft team and they came out aggressive," Stotts said.  "They were very aggressive with our pick and rolls, they committed fouls early. We got in the bonus early."

    The Trail Blazers shot 17 more free-throws than the Celtics tonight. Many times recently, people had been looking at the free-throw column and saying Portland wasn't getting there enough. However, as Coach Stotts has always said, just winning certain categories can never mean success or failure for a team but the way they play does. Portland only gave up six more points in the paint than they scored tonight (Boston-36, Portland-30). Shot 17 more free-throws and out rebounded the Celtics but still lost by 18 and weren't even really in it for much of the game.

    On defense, things were going just as poorly. The Celtics were hitting just about everything and Jeff Green was playing like the man Boston fans and media were raving about in preseason as he finished with 19 points, four steals, three rebounds, two assists and he shot two of four on threes. Green was hitting fadeaways, driving baseline for highlight slam dunks and making plays on defense. He was dominant off the bench for the Celtics as it seemed he could do no wrong. Also, despite taking 17 fewer free-throws than Portland, the Celtics (18-20, 90 percent) were far more efficient than the Trail Blazers (27-37, 73 percent). At halftime, the deficit for the Trail Blazers was 23 points.

    "They had us on our heels for the first two quarters and it took us a little while to try and regroup," Stotts said.

    The Trail Blazers succeeded in making the margin more respectable in the third period. The starters played for much of that third quarter. The Trail Blazers still had trouble finding success in the pick and roll. Credit must be given to the Celtics and according to Stotts, the Trail Blazers need to start to anticipate that teams will try and take the ball out of Lillard's hands more and more.

    "He's (Lillard) got to learn from tonight. He and we as a team have to learn when they are trapping him that aggressively, how to handle that, how to escape from a trap, how to get the ball out. " Stotts said. "We as a team have to give him outlets."

    Portland's other players have to make other team's pay for selling out against Lillard if they want to succeed going forward. No doubt Byron Scott and Anderson Varejao made note of the Celtics defensive strategy tonight.

    A positive from tonight's game was the Trail Blazers' young players getting extended run. Joel Freeland, who was 1 for 18 coming into tonight's game had some nice flashes and perhaps he built some confidence, going two of three from the field with two steals, two rebounds, a block and an assist in 12 minutes including a nice jump hook over Kevin Garnett. Will Barton was making some beautiful passes  and also had a beautiful up and under lay-up as he collected four assists (three points) on the night including one where he duped the defender in transition that led to a thunderous dunk from Meyers Leonard (11 points). If Freeland has found some confidence and can continue produce with efficiency the way he did tonight, the way that had many expecting him to produce from the start of his NBA career, it would be huge for the Portland bench. Especially so, since it seems Leonard and Barton are finding their way into games earlier than before and staying there. 

    Nicolas Batum knows the Trail Blazers can't afford to let this continue.

    "We've got to wake up. We've lost four in a row now, we play tomorrow so we have to go out there, win the game and play together and have fun," Batum said. "Of course we are frustrated. The start of the season we played great so we have to show some pride and don't play ridiculous like we did tonight."

    The Trail Blazers now match their worst losing streak of the season at four.

    The Trail Blazers will now head to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers tomorrow at 4:30 PM. That game will air on CSNNW and can be heard on 620 KPOJ. The radio broadcast will resume on 1190 KEX after their coverage of the Oregon State Football game has ended.

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