Hawks Lock Down Portland
Following a trade, it's sometimes nice to get a game (or a practice) to attempt to mesh and make adjustments. A game against a lesser opponent would have perhaps provided that for the Trail Blazers. But, Sunday night, against a big, physical Atlanta Hawks team, Portland didn't have that luxury.
The Hawks, who were coming off an impressive win at Golden State on Friday, holding the high-scoring Warriors to just 79 points, were equally as brilliant in this game. They came in with a solid defensive game plan and had the Blazers frustrated offensively. They built a 23-point lead, and held on for a 90-83 victory at the Rose Garden.
Two things I do know- Atlanta is not as good as it looked tonight, and the Trail Blazers are not that bad. But, a combination of factors led to the result we saw on the court tonight.
Portland was not only trying to deal with the process of integrating Gerald Wallace into the system, but also were trying to adjust to having Marcus Camby back in the lineup. They were trying to play him, but limit his minutes. And, even though Brandon Roy is back, they placed a restriction on his minutes as well.
What really threw the Blazers for a loop early in this game, however, was when LaMarcus Aldridge banged knees with an Atlanta player and had to leave the game for an extended period of time. An already out of sync offense was struggling for any decent look at the rim against one of the better defenses in the NBA.
It's either a combination all of the above, or, the Blazers just couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. Yes, sometimes it's just that simple.
Despite getting off to a very slow start in this game, Portland trailed the Hawks by only one point after the first quarter. What followed that was a totally bizarre second quarter. The Blazers shot 8 for 28 in that quarter, while the Hawks went 7 for 12. I don't think I can remember a time when a team attempted 16 more shots, in a single quarter, and still lost the quarter by double figures. That's crazy. It tells you just how jumbled the Blazers were offensively. And, again, you've got to give some credit to Atlanta's defense as well.
The Hawks are big, and love to get you in a half-court game. The way they worked the double team on Aldridge was impressive, and slightly different from what we've been seeing. But, it wasn't enough to tilt the contest in their favor that dramatically. What killed Portland was its inability to hit anything from the outside. If you're that off the mark from the perimeter, it makes defending Aldridge that much easier. The Blazers simply never made them pay for leaving people open.
The Blazers scrambled back in this ballgame in the fourth quarter, and did have an impressive rally going. But, every time they would start building momentum, the Hawks would answer with a huge shot and restore order. The biggest shot of the game came from Jamal Crawford, who buried a three with 1:34 left to push what was a six-point game to nine, at 85-76. That was that.
The Trail Blazers, in the middle two quarters, were a combined 11 for 44 from the field. No matter what else you do, that's tough to overcome. They certainly couldn't overcome that on this night. They finished the game at 39 percent from the field, but even that's a little misleading because they had to go 12 for 21 in the fourth (57 percent) to get it to 39 percent for the game.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
The loss was especially painful on this night for a couple of reasons. The Rose Garden was lively and loud before the game. The crowd had given Wallace an incredible welcome, and was buzzing, ready to see their team blitz another team from the east. Instead, the Hawks grabbed, held, pushed, and shoved their way to a nice halftime lead.
The NBA scoreboard was also cooperating on this night, as New Orleans and Memphis were both losers in this game. It was a chance to make up ground, and pass the Hornets, and get back into fifth place in the west.
It wasn't a devastating loss, but it was a costly loss. We won't know how costly for a while. In this tight race in the west you just can't afford to be giving away home games. The Blazers now stand 2-2 on this five-game homestand, and wrap it up Tuesday night when they host the Houston Rockets. The Rockets, by the way, walked into New Orleans and beat the Hornets on Sunday.
Monday night, I'll be hosting Trail Blazers Courtside
, with Michael Holton. Our scheduled guests are Nate McMillan, Gerald Wallace, and Patty Mills. Patty may bring Rudy Fernandez with him, but that's yet to be determined. Join us, on the radio (95.5 FM), on television on Comcast Sportsnet, or by logging on to trailblazers.com for the live stream.