mikebarrett

Mar 06

Off to Florida

By mikebarrett
Get-away games can sometimes be a struggle.  This is especially the case when you’re playing an undermanned team that you should handle fairly easily.  Saturday night at the Rose Garden was a game that featured both elements.  And, even though this Charlotte was overmatched to the point where you couldn’t really term this a “trap game,” the Trail Blazers weren’t entirely thrilled with their effort.  The second half put to rest any concern about the outcome, as the Blazers outscored the Bobcats 53-34, and won it 93-69.

There is clearly no time for slippage at this point of the season.  With this Western Conference playoff race as tight as it is, any subpar play can be cause for concern.  When the Bobcats hung around a little longer than expected, and even grabbed a five-point lead in the second half, the feeling was uneasy. 

This adjustment period continues for the Blazers, as being just about as healthy as they’re going to get is a very different feeling.  It’s easier in some ways to play shorthanded, at least mentally.  Now that this team has more options, and has more players expecting minutes, roles almost have to be redefined.  That’s what we’ve been seeing lately.

The main offensive weapon for Portland has remained constant, even if less is required of LaMarcus Aldridge right now.  That’s a good thing, by the way.  Aldridge had 26 points against Charlotte, and only had to take 18 shots.  On most nights he’ll likely get more looks than that, but it’s not going to be like it was several weeks ago when the team was playing with eight healthy people. 

For the time being, Gerald Wallace will continue to come off the bench.  That’s a very new role for him, but he’s said on many occasions it doesn’t bother him.  Nate McMillan simply believes that really gives the Blazers some punch off the bench and that they now have the luxury of having, essentially, two separate units.  Again, they haven’t had this much of the season.

It’s going to require some selfless attitudes among the players, and there’s certainly no room for egos on this team.  That’s how it has to be when you’re going to have to share the ball, and share minutes. 

Aldridge played 40 minutes against Charlotte, and no one else played more than 29.  Again, that’s a good thing. 

To listen to McMillan’s post-game comments, click here.

We’re now off on the final four-game road trip of the season, and the last to the Eastern Conference.  This trip is tough, and it’s important.  A check of the standings shows you all you need to know about the sense of urgency that’s needed on a nightly basis. 

The Trail Blazers did get a break when Orlando’s Dwight Howard picked up his 16th technical foul on Friday night.  He got a one-game suspension from the NBA and won’t play against the Blazers on Monday night.  Don’t think for a second, however, that this game is now one Portland will be favored to win.  We feel that way, but the Magic certainly don’t.  Because the suspension came three days before their next game, Orlando will have plenty of time to devise a plan for life without their Mr. Everything.

The clear advantage Portland will have in the first game of the road trip is in the middle.  Aldridge will have an advantage against whoever the Magic throw at him.  They are very, very small with Howard out.  Expect them to swarm Aldridge with a variety of double teams, and perhaps even play a lot of zone.  Also expect them to bomb away from the outside.  If they get hot shooting threes, it could certainly not only keep them in the game, but spell doom for the road team.

It’s Orlando Monday, Miami Tuesday, Charlotte Friday, and Atlanta on Saturday.  Nothing easy about the trip, even if the Howard news looks to be positive for the Blazers. 

If you’d like to give your prediction for the trip, or even what you’d be satisfied with, in terms of wins or losses, fire away.  As we’ve talked about, the Blazers don’t have a favorable remaining schedule, especially when you compare it to the rest of the teams they’re in this logjam with in the west.

Talk to you from Florida.

28 Comments

  1. Boy Mike, I was just about ready to ship off to work, you to the rescue as usual.

    I am feeling that the Blazers was too confident that they could just play D and win the game, but as seen a little offensive effort is needed. Or maybe they were so sure they could win that they hope they can get Orlando sleeping on us thinking if they struggle against Charlotte without Jackson and Wallace they haven't a chance against us. Or maybe the thought the just had to play hard for half of the game and still win. Whatever the reason, i knew we would play better the second half, because that is becoming Blazers Identity. a second half team.

    Opponents are going to keep coming at LMA and that is good if Wallace and BRoy is in the game.

    They can't keep dbling LMA and let either one of them open. It is their passing ability when driving to the basket that makes them deadly. It also frees up LMA for the rebound. That was a awesome putback by LMA on a BRoy's drive. I asked Kassandra if she thought that was a designed play since BRoy can't elevate but still has a deadly cross-over and ability to get to the basket. Although bouncing it off the back board is dangerous it sure worked to perfection. Clyde was great at that.

    I am positive the team will play harder against better teams as they have done that all year, but whether it is good enough to overcome home-court advantage, I don't know. I would be OK with a 2-2 split, would be ecstatic with 3-1. unbelievable if it was 4-0. As being a conservative fan, I expect a 1-3. and would be as mad as a wet hornet if it went 0-4. With our new players lets go for a 2-2 split.

    by Hg on 3/6/2011 10:03 AM
  2. My main concern at this point it with Gerald's new role. He still seems a little lost and I am wondering if the lack of minutes is bothering him. Camby played a great game and created the defensive energy we needed. In my opinion, his intensity raised the team level single handedly. The true sign of a great player is raising the level of his teammates. Well done Marcus!

    by Just Tim on 3/6/2011 10:22 AM
  3. I agree we can't become complacent in this road trip. We need to start with a win in Orlando and go from there.

    by mbmurr1 on 3/6/2011 10:26 AM
  4. LaMarcus was so solid last night and showed us, once again, why he was player of the month. Patty gave us a huge lift in the third quarter with his shooting. Marcus is really looking like his old self again.

    Gerald has played in just four games for us. we've seen signs that he is getting acclimated to the team. sure, last night was not his strongest game but, in the end, we didn't need him to step up. i'm not overly concerned that he won't fit in and adjust to coming off the bench.

    we can beat orlando if we play with a team effort. charlotte should be another win. miami is inconsistent this season and we took them to overtime at the RG; it depends on which heat team shows up. atlanta might be the toughest of all. they seemed to have an answer for everything we threw at them last week. we need to be active on both ends and shoot well.

    overall, i'm going to predict 2-2, though i would not be surprised if it's 3-1. i don't think it will be 4-0. i'm going to say we'll beat orlando and charlotte and, if we're fortunate, beat either miami or atlanta.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 3/6/2011 11:29 AM
  5. Kassandra:

    With Miami it is also which Blazer team show up LOL. I Think we will play with the intensity that is needed, but don't know if we can win. Like you said depends on which Miami team shows up. We are a better team then what we have been. Wallace will be there because he is a pro. We are still gelling and I think we will be OK. I go for 2-2 also with the wins the same as yours. Boy that is bold coming from me :D.

    by Hg on 3/6/2011 11:37 AM
  6. I would be happy with 2-2, be really surprise and impress if we do better, probably going to be 1-3 and just hope we don't get swept. I'm just not confident how we are playing right now, but it would be a great time to gel!

    by mgb on 3/6/2011 11:51 AM
  7. Sometimes a road trip with a team that is trying to find it's identidy is an advantage because there aren't as many home distractions.

    by Ancientone on 3/6/2011 12:23 PM
  8. @Ancientone I agree with your statement about identity. I fully expect this team to come home with more chemistry. That's one thing the road is good for.

    by sarahhecht on 3/6/2011 1:00 PM
  9. I finally figured out why everyone was talking about a four-game road trip: the schedule I've been using left out the Charlotte game. If we hadn't made the trade and been forced into the current adjustment period, I'd have been thinking 3-1 on this trip. Right now, 2-2 would be great. We were flat and couldn't shoot a lick for the first quarter-and-a-half last night. Luckily we were playing Charlotte. The good teams won't let us get away with a long lapse like that. Wallace made a contribution with rebounds and steals, but it would be nice if he could make a lay-up. I'm still not sure we end up that much ahead with him taking minutes that would otherwise go to Wesley or Rudy. Surely not enough to compensate for having to play LA forty minutes in what became a blowout, with five minutes going to the ten-game-contract guy whose name I keep forgetting, in part because he hasn't shown anything yet. Is five minutes of replacement-level play and maybe ten minutes of Wallace at power forward really better than having Joel and Dante in there for those minutes? Right now the answer is clearly "no." With luck, Wallace will start to mesh sooner rather than later. At the moment Brandon's return seems okay; he's filling a role-player slot right now (at a major-star salary), though I'm not sure that he's really an improvement over having those minutes slide to Wesley, Rudy, Nic, and Gerald. Yes, he can get his own shot, and he passed off when that was appropriate, but I still worry about the return of the old stand-around-and-watch-Brandon syndrome, given that he took the second-most shots on the team during his 20-minute stint. But it's certainly better than having him hog the ball for forty minutes. And I am very pleased that Nate has figured out that he can't steal minutes from Patty to distribute to all the other guys who want them. If I were thinking only about the upcoming road trip, and the choice was between benching Patty or Brandon, I'd put Roy on the pine in a heartbeat. We need the little guy's speed and creativity right now. I don't mind giving Brandon some minutes in order to play his way back to whatever turns out to be his new peak-level, but I'd still keep him out of the second of back-to-back games, which on this trip happens to be the toughest contests. In Game One of each pair give Wes and Rudy and Gerald and Nic the limited minutes they played against Charlotte, with Brandon getting his work in, then sit him and push the other guys in the second game. I think you'd end up in Game Two with a tighter, more focused squad with ample energy to meet the challenge. I just wish our roster had the flexibility to give LaMarcus more rest in similar situations.

    by Islander on 3/6/2011 1:37 PM
  10. I don't know how you all feel, but for me, I feel more confident on the road than at home. At home we seem more sloppy. That being said, other teams seem to do better at their home.

    I'm sticking with 4-0, but I'm starting to become nervous against the Heat, like I did against the Lakers. Both teams were on horrible stretches when we will end up playing them. Lakers lost to Cleveland, and the Heat are now on a 5 game losing streak (or maybe it's 4).

    So, we're going to need to come to play every night. Atlanta scares me the most, but this road trip will be a huge test for the Blazers and they need to take it seriously. If we had a garaunteed spot in the playoffs, I'd say this is a good road trip because it's against good teams on the road and we need to win these games to gain confidence for the playoffs since we'll likely have no homecourt advantages.

    4-0 is my predition. Just you wait and see.

    by Herr on 3/6/2011 2:07 PM
  11. Go Herr i was hoping someone would stick with 4-0. What i have noticed is that gerald provides some serious defensive pressure off the bench and brandon provides a player the opposition may end up doubling off the bench. Those are two elements we did not have before they came back and i think it will make a huge difference in the coming weeks.

    Still dreaming nightly of a bench line up of brandon, gerald, rudy, oden, perdergraph, mills next year. if that group developed chemistry in a big way, we could just have 2 equal 5 man groups you rotate, with rudy bleeding in with the other group since he plays so well with them already (would miss rudy to LA).

    by Lapinnoir on 3/6/2011 3:35 PM
  12. All I can say is I believe that once this Blazer team develops the correct chemistry, they'll be an elite team and a contender. Unless we go against the Lakers, I'm feeling the 2nd round. I hope we go against the Thunder. Their trade is VERY overrated. Even though Green only averaged 15 points a game, they lost a LOT of offense with that trade. Green was the third option, and all that scoring load goes on Durant and Westbrook who already play very heavy minutes for a healthy squad. They already had a lot of scoring to do on their shoulders. They just made it easier to shut them down offensively so that they can improve in the paint defensively.

    4-0 on the road trip.

    by Herr on 3/6/2011 4:33 PM
  13. There were only a few things about the game I really enjoyed last night: 1) LA's block 2) Camby's block 3) Dante's return 4) Joel's return and his fouling out! (The Joel Pry-bil-la chants were awesome) 5) LA's putback dunk off BRoy's miss. For me, the rest of the game was pretty dull. The first half just stunk, the third quarter start was anxiety-ridden, and then the blow-out was boring.

    I think Gerald needs to start. I think it is disrespectful to his status as a player to have him off the bench. I understand Nate's philosophy, but Gerald is already unhappy about being betrayed by his former team and has said repeatedly he expects and wants to start. That he has earned it. Unhappy players don't make adjustments any easier. Just my opinion, but I think we would see a better player if he were starting.

    I will stick with my original stance that I will hope for 3-1, expect 2-2, but not be surprised by 1-3. Going 0-4 would be just plain bad at this point. Miami, having lost 4 in a row, all to teams above .500, will be absolutely STARVING for a win. I think they are going to slaughter us, lol!

    by SisillaRiann on 3/6/2011 4:38 PM
  14. Supposedly CP3 was carried off on a stretcher today. New Orleans will likely win tonight, being up 14 with 5 minutes left, and pushing us back to 7th. However, they're at a huge disadvantage, since I'm hearing it looked similar to the Marquis Daniels injury that kept him sidelined. Sad, and I hope he recovers swiftly and can return to 100%, but this is some help for the Blazers playoff hopes.

    by Herr on 3/6/2011 5:44 PM
  15. I loved the post game interview with Patty. Yes, there will be no room for egos on this team, and chemistry is something that leaves much to be desired, but a full roster is still the best thing that has happened to the Blazers. When was the last time our favorite team was truly, truly all healthy (except for Greg O, of course)? That second unit, when it gels, is going to be hard to beat! I look forward to Roy starting again of course, but at the moment, as he manages his minutes and gets into the groove, I'd like to see him come off the bench. Well done, Nate.

    Looking forward to the Orlando game. Have a safe trip guys!

    by Kap on 3/6/2011 6:17 PM
  16. Miami and Orlando are in turmoil (I wish)

    Kick 'em while they're down!!

    GO BLAZERS!!!

    by Tobyus Sanchezo on 3/6/2011 6:27 PM
  17. And we need a payback game against the Hawks. That was not fun when Atlanta came up in here and applied a massive beatdown on our team.

    by Tobyus Sanchezo on 3/6/2011 6:31 PM
  18. Agree with Tobyus, we need some payback on their turf.

    by Kap on 3/6/2011 6:40 PM
  19. @oregongal47 hope we make the heat cry all the way to their locker rooms.

    by Kap on 3/6/2011 7:07 PM
  20. im predicting 3-1 i am with kassandra we will either lose to atlanta or miami (depnding on which miami team shows up). I do think atlanta is the toughest of the teams. on any given night you can lose and scratch your head as to why? who would have thought the spurs would get clobbered today...on that note I will see how this pans out for the team. I think the road is a great place for the guys to bond and I think they are beginning to figure out their roles. and Gerald is playing better each game. the roles will change as we try to match up against other teams. I think we will do well on this road trip.

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 3/6/2011 6:58 PM
  21. @kap i agree, great interview by patty mills. incidentally, mills is my new favorite blazer. i love what he is doing on the court but his larger contribution might be what he does off the court. i noticed him chatting with wallace on wallace's first night when he wasn't suited up. that's the stuff that makes teams better. and mills is a fierce competitor. watch him he is out there giving 100%.

    as for the upcoming road trip, i say if we get a solid win against orlando we go 4-0. if we lose or get a sloppy win in orlando i say we finish the road trip 2-2. we definitely need to clean things up.

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 3/7/2011 12:46 AM
  22. @danman. Yes! Patty is a catalyst to making this team tighter even off the court. Things like he and the gang going on Twitter are stuff that makes this batch of Blazers easy to root for. There's a genuine bond. Here's hoping, as you do, for a 4-0!

    by Kap on 3/6/2011 8:06 PM
  23. Speaking on the topic of chemistry, it's going to take awhile for Wallace to fit into the mix, but you dont have to look any further than Twitter this afternoon to see whose chemistry is bubbling over. 1/2 Man 1/2 LaMazing, Patty and Wesley were havin a blast in Orlando this afternoon and along with Rudy and Nic, these guys have really forged a tight bond. BRoy seems to be working his way back into things on the floor and Camby picked up right where he left off. I'm pretty confident that these guys are gonna make a run this next 2 weeks and get themselves and this city pretty fired up for the playoffs.

    by bigjeff911 on 3/7/2011 12:04 AM
  24. I hope everyone else is right about this team being ready to make a run. What I see is a team that has not played a really good game since the trade. We won with a lucky comeback against Denver, and were bailed out in two more by the discovery that playing one good half of basketball is all it takes against teams like Sacramento and Charlotte. It took this team a while to sort itself out at the beginning of the year, when there were several injuries and a major new player shaking up the pieces. We're in a similar transition and I have no idea how long it might last. I want to believe that we'll gel in time to beat Orlando and start this trip off right, but if we don't, I'm no longer sure the group has the collective confidence to bounce back with a strong effort the following night against a Miami team seething about its latest failure. And if we start off 0-2, we'll have to fight like crazy to salvage the trip. So here's hoping we can start the trip with a strong win.

    by Islander on 3/7/2011 12:32 AM
  25. Islander:

    You have a good point. But beating Orlando would still set the alarm off of being burnt out or overly confident too beat a team that is good with lots of good parts. Therefore IMO, either way the game against Miami is a rough call.

    Before the trade, I predicted a 1-3 trip; with GW, and Orlando being without their big star, we have a chance for a 2-2 trip, but it would help if GW was ready to make his stand.

    But regardless of the if this, or the if that, starting out a road trip with a win is always helpful. OTOH, we are versatile and Nate has taught these young players that you take the positives out of each loss, and you learn from mistakes. That is what BRoy was talking about when he said we finally got beat after going 3-0, and now we can start learning how to get better. Therefore if we go 1-3 and get stronger for the play-offs (providing we make it) there will be some positives to take from this road trip.

    One more Note. We do play better against elite teams, Atlanta was the first one after the trade and we mostly got beat because of lack of rebounding and Camby wasn't Camby yet, and BRoy was tentative and Gerald was lost with a new group. So, I take it one game at a time going forward. The games in the past is out of sight.

    Thank you for your post, it is very educational and I am not disagreeing with you at all, just adding to it.

    There is one critique and that is, I read all your post because you know what you are talking about, but you never start a new paragraph and that makes it hard for me to read. I am old and slow. But no offense intended, just keep on posting; you are very delightful poster.

    Hg

    by Hg on 3/7/2011 4:59 AM
  26. Haven't been around for awhile, so I'm sorry if this has already been debated, but a lot of folks have been clambering for Wallace to start (there must be 5 FanPosts on BEdge about it). At first, I was with Nate: bench needs help, don't mess with the starter's chemistry. Now, not so much...

    My problem with the Start Crash fan club was the automatic assumption that Batum would ride the pine if Wallace started. I think Matthews and Batum are a great defensive combo, able to guard everyone from 1s to stretch 4s and switch on 2s and 3s. That's a lot of range. Speaking of range, both can hit the 3pter. I don't want to see their dynamic broken up, which is why I've landed in the Bench Camby camp.

    While many say, "Start your best 5 players!", I say, Start your best 3 players and surround them with guys that compliment their abilities. Whether one of those complimentary players is worse than someone further down the rotation is irrelevant—it’s not about them. Using this rationale, I’d say LMA, Crash, and Miller are our best 3 players, and that Matthews and Batum are better compliments to them than Roy, Camby or Rudy are.

    So I'm not saying Batum > Camby, I'm saying Batum + Crash > Camby + Crash. Camby is obviously still recovering and it would do him some good to come off the bench for now and the foreseeable future. I think Crash is tempo-setter and needs to be out there, but not at the expense of our perimeter defense and shooting.

    by 500Dogs on 3/7/2011 1:03 PM
  27. Hi, Mike --

    During the fourth quarter of a recent game at the RG, you commented that, "Just when the Blazers looked like they were ready to apply the hammer, the opponents came rushing back into the game." You've made similar comments in the past and, given the Blazers' apparent inability to put other teams away, I'm wondering if the team even owns a hammer?

    So, I've got a very nice 20 oz framing hammer that I don't use anymore. If I send it to you, will you pass it on to the team with instructions of how to apply same?
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 3/7/2011 7:03 PM
  28. Nice win tonite. Love the video crew saving us 3 points in all. :)

    Islander, please through in a paragraph now and again! heh

    by mgb on 3/7/2011 8:06 PM
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