Jan 02

Still Looking for Complete Game

By mikebarrett
Sometime soon we're going to see the Trail Blazers put together a complete game.  It certainly hasn't happened yet.  In fact, listening to the coaches and players, they haven't been truly satisfied with any one performance so far.  

The positive side of this, of course, is that they're 3-1 and haven't even scratched the surface on what they're capable of as a team.  When this team does start to find its groove, it could be scary.

The good chemistry that exists on this team is very apparent, and the roster has a good balance to it.  And, it's easy to forget we are as so early in this whole process.  The Blazers have played just six games total, including the two in the preseason.  In other words, it's a work in progress.  I suppose you can always say that, but when you've got a new point guard, a new sixth man, are running a new system, and no longer have your three-time all-star, it's natural that it is going to take a little time.

The biggest positive I take out of Sunday's first road game of the season is that this team played one good quarter out of the four, and it was nearly enough to get a win.  Consider they were playing a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Caron Butler, that had called Sunday a "must win," makes the loss easier to swallow.

We talked during the broadcast about how it appeared Portland was simply unable to flip the switch until the fourth quarter, and then stormed from behind to make it a near miss.  But, looking back on it now, I'm not sure it was as much about the team thinking it could get away with skating through three quarters, but think it was more about simply the adjustment process this team is going through.  

The one glaring stat that sunk Portland's chances in this one was the turnover catagory.  They were able to beat Denver on Thursday, while suffering 25 turnovers.  They turned it over 21 times against the Clippers, and you just can't get away with that on the road. 

When you're trying to change your system from one of the slowest-paced teams to one of the fastest you're going to suffer some miscues.  We knew that coming in.  And, the coaches have conditioned themselves to having to accept some of that.  Personally, I hope the turnover total in the last two games doesn't scare Nate McMillan into putting on the breaks and reverting back to a half-court, isolation-type offense.  There is a happy medium here, the team just hasn't found it yet.  It will.

We're also going to see a game very soon where a few of this team's weapons are going to start working simultaneously.  So far, there have been singular bright spots at various points of these games.  It's either been Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge carrying the load while the backcourt struggles, or it's been Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton hot, while the frontcourt struggles.  Or, it's been like the Clipper game, where they've just relied on one hot player, Jamal Crawford, to keep them close.  These things can work together, at the same time, and that just takes some on-the-job training.  That's what they're getting now.

Clearly, opening the schedule with three-straight home games, gave the Blazers some margin for error.  And, they got the attention of many around the country with their 3-0 start.  Portland shot up in the power rankings, and had people adjusting their expectations.  But, now they've gotten their first test away from the Rose Garden, and didn't pass it.  

Tuesday night's game in Oklahoma City will be another stiff challenge for the Trail Blazers, and will serve as another measuring stick for this team.  The Thunder don't screw around at home, as we know, and Portland won't be able to fumble around for it's groove for three quarters and still be in the game.

Practices will be rare during this condensed schedule, but the Trail Blazers got one on Monday afternoon.  Sunday was a teaching opportunity for McMillan and his staff, and practice was a chance to plug in the results.  It's very, very early, as we all know.  BUT, we're going to find out a lot about this team when it takes on the Thunder.




  1. one bright spot you didnt mention was this team alwyas bounces back from a lose and comes out hungry, this new team hard to say it but they're gritty. truely the biggest test is the thunder while having a undefeated record facing a champion team now looking for answers will most likely still pul out the win even tho it took a durant shot to seal the last one, there gelled and a one to punch so i find it the top team to beat so its a "must win" in my book, i think nate when on the road doesnt have that crowd to spark them i think he needs the bench, that guy thats goan come out and give you a lil 8-0 run... i know nate can pull out miracles and can find true games out of guys but i think he needs to go a lil more out of his comfort zone and go big with line up changes, i really like the jamal batum gwall craig and kurt line up when there down they grunt out rebounds and still have the fire power of batum jamal and gwall and kurts jumper is almost automatic

    follow @blazermb

    by jamie (guy) on 1/2/2012 12:44 PM
  2. The Clippers are a team the Blazers can handle. The lack of depth and size are are in the Blazers favor. I expected Portland to play better. I expected the Clippers to play better. As you have said before, not much time to reflect and analyze in this compressed season. Move on. Short memories can come in handy this year.
    OKC is playing well. To go into their house and get a win is a tall order. Certainly not impossible but any visiting team better bring the "A" game. A win is not the championship nor is a loss the end of the season.
    I am very excited about what I have seen from the Blazers so far. There will be some growing pains. They have taken care of their home court. That is always the first order of business. Second is to beat the teams on the road that you should. Third is to steal some games on the road. OKC would be one of those steals.
    This team will have losing streaks and winning streaks. Hopefully more of the latter. The old saying "Its not how you start, its how you finish".
    Ok 3-1, that works. Bring on the Thunder. Blazers will supply the lightning!!

    by Divotking on 1/2/2012 12:56 PM
  3. Great Blog Mike:
    I was only disappointed in our close to the basket shots not going in. That is the only thing that was frustrating me. CP3 was part of the reason that Felton was struggling and Butler was part of the reason GW wasn't scoring. Nevertheless even with the turn-overs we generated enough offense and even defense to beat them, but we need to learn how to finish.

    I had to listen to the Clippers announcers last night, and they used Nate's trick of playing slow down offense to prevent Portland chances to score. Now, I know what that feels like, Also, when Crawford got hot, the Clips called a time out and CP3 said he would guard Crawford the rest of the night because he could beat them single handily.

    As Sarah said in her blog it was an Ugly, Ugly, Ugly game.

    Thanks again Mike

    by Hg on 1/2/2012 12:56 PM
  4. I only got to hear the third and fourth quarter of this game and it looks like that is all I needed to hear. Thanks AM 750. I think this was a game where the Blazers could have and should have run a half-court offense, especially after experiencing the turnovers they experienced in the Denver game. The Blazers had the size advantage, period. I suppose, we must get used to more rotten apple turnovers if the team is going to become a running team. Perhaps, the turnovers are just the players trying too hard. They are passing too much. They are passing right into the hands of the defenders. They are trying to be too tricky. My motto is, if you’re open, shoot the ball. That's what Crawford did and when he got put in the game it made a difference. Again, I am not so convinced by the guard situation. They don't seem to know their roles yet. This might be the post-Roy jitters that started last year. Then with that in mind, isn't a running team more dependent upon their guards? I agree with the previous blog by Hg except for the finishing part. This game was exactly the opposite of that Blazer team that doesn’t finish games well. The team finished good but played like a division 2 team for the first three quarters. That’s three for Sarah’s ugly, ugly, ugly and one for the Blazer’s bench being stellar. Another question I would like to pose, is Lamarcus a running type of forward? There seems to be a bit of communication problem between what Lamarcus is used to doing and what the team wants to do. I would be curious of what you professionals think about that. Of course, I am speaking strictly offense here. There is one bright spot on the upcoming OKC game. It is a back to back for them. However, the ever pessimist that I am has OKC losing in Dallas and winning at home. Maybe the extra energy the Blazers will bring after the loss to the Slippers will give OKC their first in the losing column. I would love nothing more.
    P.S. Is Blake Griffin, the freckled face ogre from the land of rebounds, becoming a new version of Kobe . Where his stardom from television ads gets him all the foul calls? Sorry, he is a great player, (note that a player can also mean an actor in a play) I just couldn’t get over how much complaining he did during the game.

    by T on 1/2/2012 1:58 PM
  5. I agree with everything said!
    I thought Ray Felt was a better defender than he is. I understand he was guarding CP, but it seemed like his guy would would go past him every time!

    Blazer fan for life

    by jimmybball23 on 1/2/2012 2:37 PM
  6. Turnovers were a problem again, but I believe the Clippers had almost the same amount of turnovers if I'm not mistaken. Largely due to the amount of proven talent and unselfish nature of the players, Portland is a good team, but I was worried about a let-down against the Clippers since Chauncey was not playing. Being able to bring full effort against a team playing without a key player (and on the road) is what separates a good team and a great team. The Clippers brought much more effort than Portland for three quarters; our talent almost won the game for us in the fourth, but time ran out on our comeback effort. Hopefully this serves as a lesson for our team. For a while last season, I was starting to believe LaMarcus would try to get between 5 and 10 touches per game in the deep low post, but I guess that will never be a significant part of his game. That's the one glaring thing this team is missing on offense.

    by C. Larry on 1/2/2012 3:05 PM
  7. This loss was not easier to "swallow" due to this being a game the Clippers had to win. The Clippers did not play like this was a must win most of the game. WE spoon fed them this win, pure and simple. This was a game that we easily could have won if we played half to our capability. I honestly expected to see the Clips play a very good game, Then watched them over and over again offer the Blazers a comfortable win, but instead the Blazers choked and simply played some very horrible basketball. I love my Blazers...but thats the ugly truth.

    That being said...time to move on..we got a very good OKC team to play. I do expect us to come out hard and play much better, and hopefully we can pull out of there with a win. Frankly were still watching a team that is in pre-season mode. Very little time to prepare+new faces-old faces= PATIENCE! lol...It will take time for these Blazers to find themselves.

    One thing I do not understand is our style of play options. From all the talk its either we play a very slow tempo grind it out defensive game...OR...run in gun go crazy fast break style. Cant there be a happy medium??

    When you watch the really good teams.. Phil Jackson Lakers...The older Spurs..the Boston Celtics couple years back..You see teams that seem more 'organized' and less reckless....a offense that takes advantage of the situation..if you got the fast break take it..but if you need to post up and setup a half court play then do so..the bottom line is you dont force anything...you play smart ball and hardnose defense and good things will come.

    Now alot of this is just pure experience..teams that have veterans that can get the job done..but it also comes down to good coaching and teaching.

    Anyways Go Blazers...learn and move on.

    by whitefeather21380 on 1/2/2012 4:13 PM
  8. Couple of things I forgot to add that I would like to see. Lamarcus Aldridge-
    Get him the ball in the paint or close to. On most plays he ends up getting it around top of the key..then has to try to back it down..which usually ends up into a double team and miss fadaway jumper.

    But when he gets the ball inside and just puts it up via baby hook or something off the glass...its money 99% of the time. I do still want them to continue rotating that pick and pop...him and Brandon used to make a living doing that...you mix that up with good inside offense and LA will have some huge games.

    Also LA needs to stop running as soon as the opponent or his own team shoots the ball..HE "might" miss!!...and theres something called getting the rebound. I am a huge LA fan....but at 6"11 250lb...he needs to be averaging more than 6-7 boards lol...He did get 9 lastnight yes..but he should be a 10-12 rebounds everynight...some people might not like to hear it..but if your a talented strong power forward in the nba...YOU need to rebound!

    by whitefeather21380 on 1/2/2012 4:27 PM
  9. I agree completely with everything you said! Turnovers killed us. Even though Clippers had the same amount, they still had Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to lead the way. Chris Paul is very tough to guard which is maddening to me. It is also maddening how he can play defense too!

    I was very upset after the game looking at the stat sheet, and seeing that Gerald Wallace had 0 points. Also, he only shot 5 times. I used to think that every time Gerald drives to the basket is an easy 2. Now, it seems like every time he drives the refs call a charge. GW had a couple tough lay-ups that he usually puts in. I was dissapointed that he only attempted 5 shots. Is it just me or does it seem like nobody passes to him?

    One thing you mentioned that is didnt think of before was when you said "The biggest positive I take out of Sunday's first road game of the season is that this team played one good quarter out of the four, and it was nearly enough to get a win." I totally agree, if we could have just played one more good quarter, we would have come back and win. I am sure that the team is going to bounce back and play very tough against OKC.

    by blazerfan8825 on 1/2/2012 6:17 PM
  10. Three things:

    I think Blazer players might have a misconception about one facet of the game -- garbage time. Garbage time is supposed to happen in the 4th quarter, not the 1st -- and it's supposed to involve bench players, not starters. Maybe Nate needs to point this out them.

    More minutes for Nic, dammit! He clearly was our most effective player on offense last night as well as his usual tough defense -- but only played 26 minutes!

    Is Caron Butler that good a defensive player, to hold Crash scoreless?

    by dgpdx on 1/2/2012 6:37 PM
  11. T; I wanted to respond to your question about LaMarcus. LMA is a good running big man. He understands what style of play Nate is preaching. The problem is two fold. First, he is no where near season form. He had zero training camp. Surgery. Second, old habits are hard to break. We lived off of dumping the ball down to LMA the last couple years. He's getting the ball now and if he doesn't take the shot, he kicks it back out. He is not staying with the possession and working for another position. This is because he is so used to the Blazers working late in the clock. All that said, he is still effective. He'll be fine. He is still adjusting to the new style. He'll get there.

    by Divotking on 1/2/2012 6:52 PM
  12. What we saw in this game was the down-side of Gerald and some worrisome weaknesses in Raymond. Everyone loves Gerald because he's high-energy, hustle player, but the fact is that he's a mediocre shooter and mediocre passer who gets out of control and commits at least one charge in every single game. And, yes, on this night Batum was clearly better. Nate saw that and had him out there down the stretch.
    Felton looked utterly off this game, and I hope we're not starting to see the reason two teams in a row were happy to get rid of him. His shot selection was poor, and some of those turnovers were really careless and pretty much inexcusable. The one that made me angriest was when he had made a brilliant drive to the basket and seemed to have a good right-handed lay-up available, and chose instead to pass into a wall of four defenders. But the ones where he just seemed to leave the ball behind were also not too thrilling. The guys on Talkin' Ball were questioning whether this guy can even play point in a half-court offense, and if not, whether we're up creek at the position. Nate's reluctance to play Nolan doesn't exactly ease this worry. I hope we see a lot of improvement against OKC, but right now, "Work in Progress" is about right.

    by Islander on 1/3/2012 2:00 AM
  13. I think Nolan Smith will turn out to be a fine PG. He's a four year player from one of the best college leagues in the US, so he has the fundamentals to be a good one. He's shown flashes already and when he gets his chance, I think he'll be ready.

    by dgpdx on 1/3/2012 3:17 AM
  14. @Islander:
    Hey this is still a new season, Normally the exhibition games wouldn't start this fast in training camp let alone 4 games into a shortened season, You are right in your assumption "work in progress". Nolan is still new to the NBA, and the guy's on talking ball is paid to say those things.

    It is true we have lots of problems to iron out; it is true that Felton has been somewhat havoc, but this is to be expected with everybody wanting a uptempo style of play so quick in the season. Maybe we should teach them to walk before we expect them to run.

    by Hg on 1/3/2012 4:18 AM
  15. Tough game....still can't believe NATE's Blazers leading the league in scoring .I find that stat incredible .That , being said Chris Paul showed why he was one of the most sought after point guards in the league.He carved the B's like thanksgiving turkey.I'm still loving the potential here.To think that we r playing this well and we r not even putting together complete games.......wow.
    Crawford is every bit the ASASSIN I thought he would be,he's one Freakin clutch performerThe man is straight Buttah ......

    by DowntownVinnie on 1/3/2012 7:59 AM
  16. @DowntownVinnie:
    You forgot to mention that Crawford has one of the best crossovers in the NBA now. He is also one of our only players that can create his own shot. The best pickup we have gotten since LA and Broy IMHO, and for peanuts relatively speaking. The man is a CLASS ACT too. Go Blazers!

    by mfre1111 on 1/3/2012 2:33 PM
  17. Hope you and Rice enjoy the game tonight in OKC. As stated there are so many variables with our team and then throw in the lockout and late training camp. And then a totally different system, you can see that everyone, even Nate is getting used to it. On the road against a good team, all you want to see is a team as talented as ours play OUR game. We're still defining that. All great things take time, I am not throwing great expectations out there for ANY team, but it's clear as day this team, if healthy and comfortable chemistry wise, can play as good a game as anyone. Defense, rebounding, control the turnovers better, and get comfortable with their shots (our shooters are good! we don't need to over think or hesitate) and just plain help each other out and stick together.

    Good luck tonight

    by Bull Frog on 1/3/2012 2:37 PM
  18. Also I just want to chime in that because the majority of this team is used to half court, I think it's important to know when to switch back (ie late game situations, when a timeout is needed..etc).

    Also, if we're gonna shoot a lot of jumpers, we have to feel out a play and decide, should we crach the offensive rebound or hustle back and get after quick guards and cheaters running back? When I refer to shooting, I know guys work their arms out and shoot the ball stronger that they should (also from experience I know) but confidence is so key with this group. If they can buy into being an elite team, and find their grooves and hot spots on the floor they will be a force. This might sound strange and a bit late but unexpectedly, the NBA on Christmas was my favorite gift this year (We'll actually the Dec. 26th home opener lol).

    by Bull Frog on 1/3/2012 2:55 PM
  19. @Islander: I don't think two teams were happy to get rid of Felton. NYK really wanted to keep him(in fact he was considered untouchable until the last minute), and I still hear NY fans whining about how they want him back, but Denver insisted that Billups be taken in the deal and Felton was the only guy making decent money that Denver would take back. Karl actually liked the Felton-Lawson combo and wanted Felton to stay, but the starting job had already been promised to Lawson before the trade and Felton didn't want to be a back-up, so he demanded a trade in the offseason. Andre was one of Karl's favorite players so the trade was a win-win. I watched Felton on the Knicks a lot last year and all through college and the guy can definitely be effective in an up-tempo offense.

    Give this team a little time to get used to each other. LaMarcus clearly isn't used to playing this fast. He's looked a little sluggish and was caught off guard by a few quick passes the other night. Felton is obviously not in game shape yet, he needs to shed some weight and his defense will improve. I agree that Nate should play more than 8 guys, but I don't think Nolan is the guy to get minutes right now. I though Elliot Williams looked great in the preseason games. I've watched Nolan play his whole college career, and while he's a nice fundamental player, he isn't really a PG. He played it out of necessity because Duke didn't have a PG, and they've done that a lot in recent years. The previous year when they won a championship, it was Jon Sheyer who was playing point, and he wasn't a PG either. Crawford is a better combo guard than Nolan, so I say let Ray and Jamal split all the PG minutes and Williams can play the 2 next to Jamal when Ray and Wes need a rest.

    by hallj8291 on 1/3/2012 5:03 PM
  20. hallj8291- You are right on the money on every point.

    by Divotking on 1/3/2012 5:51 PM
  21. Great defensive effort! Batum what a baller. Gerald an animal. Matthews just won't go away. LMA and CAMBY. Good win in OKC.

    by Divotking on 1/3/2012 7:37 PM
  22. We came real close to a complete game in OKC. First place in the Western Conference ain't bad, even if it is early yet. Beat LA, Phoenix, and Cleveland and we're 7-1 and rollin'...

    by dgpdx on 1/4/2012 5:39 AM
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