mikebarrett

Dec 01

Remember the Fourth-Quarter Magic?

By mikebarrett

We are now in Boston, as this four-game road trip continues.  This is the only back-to-back set on this trip, and that’s a positive.  But, consider it will be Portland’s fifth back-to-back set this season, as the team is in the midst of starting the season with 12 of its first 19 games on the road.

I’m hoping that’s the explanation for some of what we’re seeing.  I realize that sounds a tad optimistic, to think it could be qualified that easily.  Clearly, that’s a difficult way to start the season, but it doesn’t begin to explain the last four losses.  No excuse there.

To state the obvious, the Trail Blazers are stuck in a rut.  It’s an emotional rut without a doubt.  There are probably several contributing factors, but that’s the frustrating part- it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows how this team got here this quickly.  There’s certainly the hope that somehow they can escape just as quickly.

The Blazers have been just plain awful in the fourth quarter lately.  Last night in Philly it was more of the same.  You could feel it coming.  I hated to keep bringing it up as we approached the fourth quarter last night, but it was smacking us across the face.  By the time the fourth quarter actually started, the wheels were well in motion.  It was over.

Even at that point we weren’t aware how rough things would be in the quarter.  The Blazers, who led by as many as 8 points in the second half, shot just 4-20 in the final quarter and scored just 11 points.  I’d love to say that was a result of lock-down defense by Philadelphia, but that’s just not true.  Portland was outscored 22-11, and lost the game 88-79. 

In the last four games the Trail Blazers have been outscored in the fourth quarter 110-62.  That’s incredible.  I did the math about five times to make sure I was getting that right.  This is so completely out of character for this team.  You can roll your eyes at that, but let me give you some numbers.

In the two previous seasons, when the Blazers held a lead after the third quarter, it was basically over.  They were never great at blowing teams away in the fourth, but almost always won.  Giving up fourth-quarter leads was extremely rare. 

Two seasons ago, in the 08-09 season, the Blazers were 41-3 when holding a lead coming into the fourth quarter, including a very impressive 13-1 mark on the road.  Last season, the Blazers were 42-9 when leading going into the fourth, and 21-3 on the road.  That’s a combined record of 83-12 in the two previous seasons when leading going into the fourth, and an amazing 34-4 on the road.   

That’s a result of execution, of hitting big shots, and of being a very confident team.  It also shows confidence when you can win close games.  Last season the Blazers led the NBA with a record of 9-1 in games decided by 3 points or fewer.

I bring all of this up to illustrate what I said above- this is out of character for what we’ve come to know about this Portland team.  That doesn’t make this stretch any easier to take, but I’d like to think this is perhaps the exception to the rule. 

Tonight, the trip continues with a game against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, who are rolling right now. 

Gotta get ready for the game.  Talk to you after.

 

23 Comments

  1. I know I don't see the games, but it is still hard to hear and know the team is going through such a tough stretch that even with the last two years and their bumps, we didn't see this let-down or whatever you want to call it, occur. I was really hoping that somehow, we could have gotten these two wins, despite how we were playing recently. As you say Mike, Boston is the defending EC champion and they are on a roll right now. I almost wish that they take us lightly and maybe we can just sneak by, though I know that is probably unlikely. We will have to play real tough to stay in the game, as long as Boston is playing decent as the game starts.

    I know some fans are getting angry, asking heads or rather one certain head to roll at least, but I don't want to talk about that yet, or even think about it. We have some bball to play and that comes first. If the management sees something that needs to be changed, I'll wait for that to happen and then see what we have. Until then, let's just support the team and hope that they can figure things out soon - I know the season has gotten ugly, but we CAN still recover and make our record decent given the circumstances and at least still fight for a playoff spot, because teams like UTH, OKC that we were close with last year, are charging ahead. Whether we win tonight or not, I hope that our 4th qtr play improves and that we can get back to winning ways sooner rather than later.

    -Anees, from Prague (where it is 18 F and snowing, Brrrr!)

    by Anees on 12/1/2010 9:43 AM
  2. Mike Thanks for your great thoughts and a new blog.

    I had to listen to Philly's announcers last night, and they more ore less said to attack BRoy on offense because he can't stop a driver unless he fouls. And key on LMA and BRoy down the stretch and you will beat Portland. As you have often said, once a system is used other teams will use it. Therefore until supporting cast steps up and we quit going to LMA and BRoy exclusively down the stretch the trend will continue. I mentioned in your last blog that a new Mr. 4th quarter is needed, for right now, I think Nate should use Matthews as Mr. fourth instead of BRoy and LMA exclusively.


    I have said as close as the first three games, That if Portland is close or is ahead by the 6 minute mark of the 4th, the game was ours. Therefore I am agreeing with you this is not the Blazers trend.
    Hg

    by Hg on 12/1/2010 9:45 AM
  3. i have conferences all this week and it turns out i might be only able to watch tonight's game, but not friday's

    just a couple of things i wanted to note.

    LaMarcus had 18 points on 8-13 shooting in the first half, then went 1-7 the rest of the way. i'm not going to get on his case as he's been the most consistent player for us this season. my point is that philadelphia made some adjustments at halftime to slow down LaMarcus. it's up to Nate to recognize this and make some adjustments of his own.

    i know Wesley had a whole bunch of points and generally had a pretty good game, but i'm not in favor of him replacing Nicolas in the starting lineup. i don't know if this was done because Nicolas is slumping or because Wesley is unable to produce unless he starts (figuratively speaking), but i don't think that's where our stengths are.

    the bench shot 3-21 last night. that's 14.3 percent. i remember when we used to have a strong, reliable bench. of course we're dinged up right now with Joel's return being delayed and Sean turning his ankle, but neither of those guys would make much of a difference on the offensive end even it they played. we won't win with those numbers.

    we can say if this or if that, but the reality is that this is that with which we need to deal. i've been saying this throughout this skid and i believe it still holds true. there is no fire, no intensity and no energy in the fourth quarter. you just plain can't win games that way. 48 minutes, not 36. that's what it takes to win, and that's what this team needs to focus on.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 12/1/2010 10:29 AM
  4. so we lose another one. I havn't seen the blazers play this bad in four years. The fact of the matter is the front office has made some poor choices. We can blame lamarcus or brandon or any other starter if you would like. But honestly the problem doesnt lie there. We should win games when your starts are scoring 20 ponts plus. The fact of the matter is. The front office has thinned us our for some reason.

    let me exsplain. We trade Martell who had a awsome year last year coming off the bech or starting. and he was a good defender. And what do we trade him for a future shooter? I am not saying babbit will not be a good player but i do not think he is an upgrade from martell. We trade blake and outlaw this trade i agree with. But they were two of our best shooters blake and outlaw was a clutch guys. we trade bayless this trade i thought was good because mathues needed more playing time. But why trade hime when u have rudy wanting to go. and honestly rudy is not a huge offensive threat. Bayless You knew he was going to try to get to the line it is what he was good at. So right there we have lost 4 offensive guys off the bench.

    Now we have sean marks who is not a offiseve threat. Armon Johnson who is as green as they get. Babbit who nate doesnt even try to play. Mise well give him a shot no one else is doing any thing. Patty mills who has played international ball for along time but is still benched HMM? Dante who I like and trys hard but his shot is not falling. Batume now his confedence will keep him from playing to his potential. I think that about does it. Oh wait and Rudy who can drop the three and thats about it. By the way Blazers when he is WIDE OPEN and jumping around and you stilll dont pass it to him that is your fault.

    Nate time to make some changes give the guys on the bench a shot let them try see how they fair in a game. Look at what dante and jeff did for us last year Give babbit and patty a shot it cant hurt.

    by Avgjoe28 on 12/1/2010 11:01 AM
  5. In the first half LaMarcus was our best weapon, because we were going to him down low. If they overplayed him during the set-up, or just assumed he'd be heading outside, he spun to the basket and got a dunk on a lob. When we took the time to get him the ball in the low post, he either got a good shot, or a good pass off. He fleshed that out with some put-backs on offensive rebounds and had 18 points, and I was thinking "Will he get 40 tonight?" Then I remembered that these are the Blazers; forgetting about LA is second nature to them. I still thought he had a shot at 30. When things went south late in the third quarter and then started circling the toilet in the fourth I realized I hadn't seen a low-post entry pass to LA in a while, and kept an eye on the clock waiting to see when we got around to trying that option. It finally came with 2:42 left in the game. LaMarcus worked hard, got a good inside shot, missed it but got his own rebound. That was it; they never tried it again.
    Would a trailing Los Angeles team forget about posting Gasol for most of a quarter? Would San Antonio, with a lead slipping away, forget about Tim Duncan? You have a man who worked his TAIL off this summer trying to become the low-post force we were asking for, and he succeeded in breaking a lot of bad habits. But the team's bad habits are wasting that breakthrough. LaMarcus was 1-7 in the second half because he was mostly taking jumpers. Until our guards really believe that their first responsibility is to feed LA in the post we'll continue to be the team that, as Craig Robinson said afterwards "sure puts up a lot of jump shots."

    by Islander on 12/1/2010 11:08 AM
  6. Kassandra:

    I agree with you on all parts, but you did not explain just how we were going to get our magical fourth quarter back. We exchanged Matthews and Batum and the results were the same. Our bench isn't producing.

    As I already said, I am not a whisper of a coach and I know, if a team can slow down or stop LMA because BRoy is injured the Blazers can be stopped. That is what Phoenix did last year in the play-offs and that will continue until we find some way to solve the problem. I agree that the reserves are big part of the problem, but I have no idea of how to solve that problem either.

    All the problem isn't due to the reserves not producing the biggest problem seems to be a crunch time when we almost always go ISO with an injured BRoy or go to LMA that has been taken out of his game.

    Do you think that all the effort of being a great lock-down defensive team, that seems to be not working is taking its toll on the offensive side with us being short handed? We have always focused on our offense. We were never real good on defense, but were able to shut down there leading scorer in crunch time. As I see it our Defense hasn't improved that much regardless of how much we emphasize it. That could be the reason our offense in the fourth is off.

    Good luck in your finals. Just remember winter break is around the corner.

    Hg

    by Hg on 12/1/2010 11:26 AM
  7. we're gonna win tonight :)

    by sudelander on 12/1/2010 11:26 AM
  8. Kass,

    I don't agree that Joel wouldn't be much help on offense. He can get rebounds, blocks, O rebounds all that can lead to easier points which we need. Always fighting a set defense hurts. Joel could help us to get easier points on offense.

    by mgb on 12/1/2010 12:00 PM
  9. i recommend point 2 of today's nba high 5 over at oregonlive:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/nba/2010/12/nba_high-5_96.html

    and, this one linked over at BE:

    http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2010/12/01/blazers-collapse-leaves-playoff-spot-open/

    getting joel and sean back will help. after that, the pgs and wings have to pick it up.

    by reverse on 12/1/2010 12:22 PM
  10. Mgb:

    Reading your post reminded me of the great pick and roll duo of Van Axel and Joel. Then I remembered Armon is a great pick and roll PG. Do you think some magic in the second unit can be produced that way? We can hope so. But your point on things that Joel does with rebounding, setting great picks, screening his man to stop drivers and slashers from getting their shots blocked is as much a part of the offense as putting the ball in the bucket.

    Hg

    by Hg on 12/1/2010 12:39 PM
  11. I agree with Avgjoe28. Our front office really disappointed me this season. I'm starting to seriously think about just watching for the sake of basketball and cheering on some of my other favorite teams (Blazers always first though). Cho looked like a hero but honestly I think he's not the GM we want, especially if we do not resign Oden, who is the only hope the Blazers really have at this point and in future seasons. If we don't sign Oden, you can kiss all hope goodbye. Every season we're waiting for reinforcements... which is just him. This season he is gone, and Joel and Marks aren't the offensive weapons we need.

    Nate needs to go as well, it's starting to become more and more clear. I respect what he's done, but he's had a couple of years to solve re-occurring problems with this team and he hasn't yet. Everything starts with the coach. I can guarantee that all the championship contenders wouldn't be where they're at with their coach. Even with how much I respect Spo (A Blazer fan), I think he's one thing slowing the Heat down (that, and like the Blazers bench, theirs suck).

    We're waiting for Joel's return (supposedly tonight), but why have the "reinforcements" stop there? Why doesn't Babbit get more than 5 minutes playing time IN THE SEASON? Same with Mills? Everytime I see these guys get on the court they are hustling so much, yet I see people like Rudy and Batum showing nearly no effort or falling in love with the shots we don't need. I'm not saying bench these players constantly but give the 16th draft pick in the 2010 draft SOME PLAYING TIME.

    I wouldn't be so disappointed in our 4 game losing streak if it was in a hard stretch, but we haven't had a back to back yet, we've had 2 games at home, and we've had 2 games on the road against two of the worst teams in the league and have gotten embarrassed by them. The only thing keeping me happy basketball wise is that the Lakers are losing to teams the Heat lost to after their fans gave the Heat so much crap.

    As much as people love Batum, I think he's overrated by Blazer fans. His defense is great, but last year our highlight players were Martell Webster and Andre Miller. One player we don't have this season, and one player we might not resign next season.

    Rudy needs to stop falling in love with the 3. Isn't he only averaging like 3 points a game now? That's one shot. We need much more than that.

    by Herr on 12/1/2010 3:01 PM
  12. DTV,
    You're going to be at the PHX game? Awesome! Me too. My old man and I are up in the 300 level. If you're nearby, we should meet up for a brew at halftime. I haven't followed PHX too closely, but if the Blazers play anything like they have lately, we're gonna need it.

    by 500Dogs on 12/1/2010 3:35 PM
  13. I think you said what we've all been thinking Mike...this team is in a rut. I'm not sure what to pin it on but they need to figure it out in order to be successful. The stats you gave about the fourth quarter this year were mind blowing. I knew we were bad but I didn't know it had gotten that out of hand. We know this team is capable of great things. Maybe the expectations were too high. Maybe the injuries have finally gotten up with us. I could go on and on...there are a lot of maybe's. But one thing I would like to talk about is our lack of intensity. I live in Missouri for school (as many of you know) and I don't get to watch a lot of games. But when I do, I notice that the team is just running the motions. There is no sense of competitiveness or drive. Sure maybe there is some early but it diminishes quickly. All I want to see is hustle and determination to play your hardest every night. Is that too much to ask for?? Let's hope Nate can find something to give this team a spark. If not, then we are in for a long season.

    by CrazyRusty on 12/1/2010 3:51 PM
  14. Philly has won 5 of their last 6 meetings with the Blazers. Maybe it's now time to stop thinking of them as the inferior team and recognize the simple fact that they are the better team. Winning games goes far beyond having talent. We fans keep looking at the potential of our young, talented team but the truth is, potential doesn't win a damn thing.

    I have to agree with those who feel it's time for Nate to go. It's easy to say that the coach isn't the one failing out on the floor but there's a problem with this team that goes beyond injuries and missed jumpers.

    As some have mentioned, other teams make adjustments to shut down our hot shooters or to take advantage of a perceived weakness, but we never seem to be able to adjust to their adjustments. This isn't a player personnel problem, it's a coaching problem.

    Another nagging problem is our long-time propensity to play both up to and down to the level of the competition. This seems more a motivational problem than a performance one, and there again, it falls on the coaches' head. Considering what he has done to refloat a rapidly sinking ship, our best coach may now be in New Orleans.

    Until these issues are addressed, the Blazers are and will continue to be an ordinary NBA team, continually fighting for a low seed in the playoffs and getting an early summer vacation.

    by dgpdx on 12/1/2010 3:56 PM
  15. Particularly pathetic performance. Instead of the cusp of elite to a bottom feeder to fodder for the bottom. This isn't that we can't, this is mental and we can if we get our act together

    by Ancientone on 12/1/2010 4:29 PM
  16. Yeah 500 , that would be fun.I'm in 207.Hopefully we'll be playing 500 ball by then.

    by DowntownVinnie on 12/1/2010 4:36 PM
  17. I'm not sure what Avgjoe28 has been smoking, all I know is I want some of it. Apparently it's a substance that can turn a frog into a prince. I suspect it may be a combination of opium and buffalo chips. It never ceases to amaze me how players come and go and they become legends once they go to another team. Martell was never a good defender. He was often beat by his man on a regular basis. Offensively he was a one-trick pony. (Much like Rudy has become). As for HG's assessment of Armon being "great" at anything, I would call for moderation when throwing that word around. Great God man!, isn't it great that the blazers have a losing record, and are heading for greater things? It's just, well, lack of a better word, grrrrrrreat! Tony the Tiger couldn't have said it better.

    by Phi Slamma on 12/1/2010 4:55 PM
  18. Hg,

    Ya, watching tonite's game I was thinking that was something I left off was the great picks Joel sets. Then I come here to post about it and see you already did.

    The beginning of the end tonite came when Mills came in for Miller. I'm starting to think that Miller is our second best player at least right now.

    Come back Joel we need you!

    by mgb on 12/1/2010 6:49 PM
  19. What a come back and all since Miller came back in. 1 point game with 36 secs left. I don't know if we'll win this, but at least it's been a lot more fun watching!

    by mgb on 12/1/2010 6:59 PM
  20. Kiss the playoffs this season goodbye. Who was the douche that traded bay less away. Will someone mention one good thing rich cho has done for the blazers? Nothing huh?

    by Mikey Smarcz on 12/1/2010 9:12 PM
  21. Did you mean Remember Ray Allen fourth quarter magic?

    by Mikey Smarcz on 12/1/2010 9:17 PM
  22. mgb: you're completely correct about defense and rebounding leading to offense. my comments regarding Joel were in reference to he not being an offensive player. he does contribute to offense, nonetheless, as a result of other parts of his game.

    Mikey: one good thing Cho has done? how about two. when we needed some depth up front, he signed Fabricio. when Fabricio retired, he signed Sean. neither is going to light up the scoreboard, but both fit in, have done some good things, and have given Marcus and LaMarcus some well-deserved rest. yep, that's two things right there.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 12/2/2010 10:31 AM
  23. Yeah oberto was ok. But I think marks is more for a non playoff team. Too many turn overs when he steps on the court. I just hope cho does more than get cheap players and trade off good players for draft picks.

    by Mikey Smarcz on 12/2/2010 4:28 PM
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