Jan 14

Fourth Quarter Dooms Blazers

By mikebarrett
It was a late arrival into Houston, as the Trail Blazers are getting set for their first set of back-to-back games on this six-game road trip.  So, get some sleep, some much needed rest, and prepare for the game on Satuday night, correct?

One problem.  The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were taking place on the street that runs past our hotel.  So, starting at about 7 am thousands of fans, who lined the marathon route, begin cheering and screaming as waves of runners come through.  It sounded like they were all in my room.  I assume this was the case in the player's rooms as well.  So, forget about sleeping in.  It was a wake-up call no one wanted, or needed, on this morning.

The Trail Blazers play the second game of this six-game trip tonight in Houston against the Rockets, and if you see some yawning (from us, and the players) now you know why.  Four hours of sleep doesn't cut it.

Last night in San Antonio the Blazers suffered through a brutal fourth quarter where they shot just 8 for 21 from the field.  We've seen them weather storms like that before, but the problem this time was that as they were struggling, the Spurs were practically flawless.  Portland's early lead in the quarter was completely erased when San Antonio shot 62% in the quarter, and outscored the Blazers 34-18.

For the game, the Blazers shot 41 percent.  The Spurs, who fell behind Portland by 8 points early in the game, shot 51 percent, and improved to 8-0 at home.

To make matters worse, the Trail Blazers lost Marcus Camby in the first quarter to a sprained left ankle.  He appeared to come down on Kawhi Leonard's foot, and his left ankle rolled over.  He was helped off the court and headed to the locker room.  X-rays were negative, and evidently there wasn't significant swelling, so that's a good thing.  It's tough to tell how bad these things are initially, so we should learn more today.  It's Camby's hope that he only misses a couple of games, but we'll see.

Ah, Friday the 13th.  I don't believe in such things, but when Camby rolled the ankle he had played exactly 13 minutes and 13 seconds in the game.  That stirred people up when I tweeted that after the game.  Then, of course, you start remembering that Greg Oden hurt his knee against Houston, Joel Przybilla blew his knee out against Dallas, and now Camby versus San Antonio.  Must be something about Texas teams.

The Rockets played last night as well, but played at home and rolled over Sacramento. 

Obviously, without Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge's roll will change.  He's done this before, however.  He'll start at center tonight for the Blazers, and it's likely that Gerald Wallace will move to the power-forward position, and Nicolas Batum will start at small forward.  Aldridge had a very solid game last night, scoring 29 points, but will have a tough time matching that tonight.

The Rockets will put Samuel Dalembert on Aldridge, and that's been a tough matchup for L.A. in the past.  Dalembert is long, and is a very good shot blocker.  It'll also be tougher for Portland to run, and get easy baskets, simply because Wallace, playing inside more, won't be able to lead the fast break the way he's used to.  They'll need him to rebound.

Here's the obvious must for Portland- they've got to start hitting some outside shots if they want to have a chance in this game, and on this trip.  Against the Spurs, Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton combined to shoot 8 for 28.  And, the Trail Blazers were just 5 for 18 from behind the three-point line.

The Blazers this season have had very hot stretches, and very, very cold stretches.  It's amazing how this team can hit stretches where they just can't hit a shot.  That has to change.

You try to not place too much importance on any one game.  We kind of fell into that last night.  It was a situation where you felt if the Blazers beat San Antonio, they'd beat Houston, and get off to a great start on the trip.  Well, they didn't beat the Spurs, and that makes tonight much tougher.  Being a good bounce-back team is something they'll have to become if they want to leave Texas with a split of these first two games.

Time for game prep.  I'll talk to you after the game in Houston tonight.


  1. Hey Mike,
    Good news about Camby. Could have been worse. The 5 position is where we are the thinnest. With him out, you said Nate will go with LaMarcus at the 5. Last night he started Kurt in the second half. I know Nate likes to go with his best 5 players. I worry about LA's minutes.
    What do you think about starting CJ but keeping him to reserve type minutes. That keeps the usual rotation. Bring Kurt at reserve but play him more starter type minutes. I feel this will give Nate more options late in the game. Is CJ ready? Does Nate have enough confidence in him to try this?
    Feltons shot will start falling. Crawford looks like he is pressing. He is a one-on-one specialist. I would like to see him be the third option in the 24 second clock. Seems like he is deciding to go one-on-one early in the clock. He is a 4th qtr. guy. I think he thrives on playing against the clock.

    by Divotking on 1/14/2012 9:59 AM
  2. You're right Mike, they have been horrible shooting the 3 this season. But for some reason, they can hit mid-range jumpers better. Simple fact is that NONE of them are 3 point specialists. To me that identity was gone when Martel Webster was traded and they haven't found anyone to fill that role since.

    by blazerdarren77 on 1/14/2012 10:40 AM
  3. I thank you for taking time to blog Mr mike. there is no sleep for the wicked, so suffer with me, I postponed all my work until after the game and had to work all night to make up for it. It probably would have felt better if we had won.

    We definitely felt Camby's injury and LMA being in foul trouble as Splitter went off on a tear. BTW, Splitter will become a force if he keeps playing like that.

    It seems as it doesn't matter how many out side shooters be get, they all become bad when the sign up for Portland, just like the Centers are going to be hurt when playing for Portland.

    I told Kassandra in her blog that I was a optimistic realist, but the reality of Crawford's shooting is making me become a pessimist where he is concerned. He not only misses most of his shots most of the games, but he almost completely alienates the rest of the team.

    Doesn't Greg travel with the team? give him a steroid shot and suit him up, we need him LOL.

    I still have a very optimistic view of the team, but am starting to feel a little doubtful.

    I predicted a win last night but a loss today, Maybe they will reverse it and the results will be the same as I predicted a 4-2 record for the 6 game swing.

    OK, get some sleep you have a big night ahead. I have to watch the Houston announcers, isn't Clyde one of them?

    by Hg on 1/14/2012 10:41 AM
  4. Man, what a disaster last night. After a superb first quarter, the second and third quarters were shaky, but they just completely fell apart in the fourth. In the fourth they were not getting the stops they needed, and, worse, they started playing the same kind of slop ball offense we saw in the first three games of the season. If the guards are not hitting shots, then they shouldnt shoot. Run the pick and roll/pop with someone who is shooting well. Simple stuff, instead of throwing the ball away, rushing shots, settling for bad looks. They might have gotten away with that nonsense against a second rate team like Sacremento, but never against a first rate like San Antonio or Orlando.

    After these two debacles, I can't help but have this annoying seed of doubt that maybe the Blazers arent as good as we thought they were. Heresy I know, but after seeing last night and against Orlando it's easy to see it this way.

    The article in The Oregonian about this suggested maybe part of the problem is that they still have some lineup issues, particularly in the front court. That would explain the seemingly endless rebounding deficiencies. It also mentioned part of Wallace's problem is that he is often paired against bigger people on defence, which doesn't take advantage of his strengths. There may be something to that, but I don't know.

    Here's to hoping we don't blow it yet again tonight against Houston.

    by outcast on 1/14/2012 10:51 AM
  5. It they really do lose tonight...even going 3-3 looks less likely

    Told Chris Haynes that Camby was absolutely integral to this team playing well...last night shows why. Thomas and Smith are great bench guys, and I know Kurt carried Chicago last season when Noah went out, but I had really hoped we wouldn't have to test either of them seriously, not for any real time. I know everyone is getting hopeful about Pryz, but that means someone else goes. And everyone should remember that Joel did not look good last season after returning, had to stop playing again for another surgery, and he is not a sure thing even if he does return.

    Wouldn't it be fantastic if they guy they keep paying to sit on the bench and rehab could actually play? I know it's not his fault, but I must admit frustration that Greg takes up space and money for a position that this team really, really needs to shore up. The going on three-years of hope for his return has soured me. This team is simply gorgeous talent-wise until we get to the 5....then I just get depressed

    Best of luck to the guys tonight, I really want them to win....but I did pick Houston for this one :)

    by SisillaRiann on 1/14/2012 12:06 PM
  6. @EowynAmarie:
    "Told Chris Haynes that Camby was absolutely integral to this team playing well...last night shows why."

    While that certainly didn't help anything, the Blazers problems go much deeper than that. The issue is that most of the time they just don't play all 4 quarters, usually only one or two. That's what happened against Orlando, it happened again last night, and in fact that has been the case in every lost game. Until this changes the Blazers will simply never be excellent team. You won't win championships like this.

    As for Greg, I have to agree, although I wonder even if he came back could he really handle the new high speed offence? It would be great if we could find a big man with his size that could really run. I think after this season Greg should be let go.

    by outcast on 1/14/2012 1:50 PM
  7. The only constant so far for the Blazers is a glaring inconsistency. Until that is resolved, it's not possible for Nate to know what he can count on seeing from game to game. Only LA has been consistent on offense this year and one guy isn't going to cut it.

    by dgpdx on 1/14/2012 3:56 PM
  8. three words; SIGN-HIM-NOW

    by Divotking on 1/14/2012 8:30 PM
  9. three words; SIGN-HIM-NOW

    by Divotking on 1/14/2012 8:30 PM
  10. i didn't get to watch the game; out with my fiance (yes, true). i was able to check the game tracker a few times. it looks just as you said, MB, fourth quarter collapse.

    i guess i'm just confused at how a roster so talented can have such letdowns in games. given that we can match up with nearly everyone, i don't think it's the opposition. i think it's something within the team. is it motivation? fatique? lack of interest?

    i don't have the answers, but after these losses to the spurs and tonight to the rockets, i think some serious examination much be done. something is broken. while i don't know how, it needs to be fixed.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/14/2012 10:24 PM
  11. Sign Batman and play him 36 minutes a game! His time has come!

    by dgpdx on 1/15/2012 3:17 AM
  12. @Kassandra:
    I agree with you that something is broken within because every one of our losses were winnable including the Orlando game. The Phoenix game I can understand. The rest of the losses are somewhat confusing.
    I asked you on your Blog about starting fast and finishing slow or starting slow and finishing fast. That seems to be the way it is. We opened up quick at San Antonio and finished horrible. Last night we started pretty slow and finished great.
    One thing, guessing of course, it could be still young in the season and Nate is trying out different combinations, another thing as you said in your blog last night why didn't Batum get touches or shoot the ball in the closing minutes, he had the hot hand. We went down what, four times to score when we were ahead by one and not once did Batum shoot. Is that on Nate? is that on the players not being able to finish or what? Crawford and Felton are the only one's that can create for themselves outside and their shooting is horrible. LMA is the only inside threat we have and since Nic wasn't getting the ball for lack of passing, LMA couldn't scratch his head without being triple teamed. And of course our lack of rebounding when Camby is out is notorious. And in our type of offense that is critical.
    These are some of my guesses on what is broken, but I have no idea on how to fix them.

    by Hg on 1/15/2012 7:04 AM
  13. What went wrong in the 4th quarter against Houston I put squarely on Crawford and Matthews. Despite clearly having a bad shooting night, what do they do in the final 5 minutes? Shoot of course. I mean sure, it's one thing to take some shots early in each quarter to see how you're shooting, but during the final stretch, if you aren't shooting well don't freaking shoot. Instead of running plays to get Batum on the outside or allowing Craig Smith to do that post up thing he was doing so well, they tried to take it on themselves and played selfishly. There was absolutely no good reason to lose last night since several of Houston's key players were in serious foul trouble.

    I'm starting to lean towards the opinion that Crawford and probably Matthews should be traded. They were brought in as scorers, and this season they are shooting at an all time low. If they don't improve, we need people who can get the job done a lot more consistently or at least have the maturity to pass up important shots in those occational off night.

    And BTW, Felton needs to knock off the three pointers if he's having an off night in that area. Those lost posessions don't do anyone any good.

    by outcast on 1/15/2012 8:22 AM
  14. @outcast:
    Matthews was brought in because of his defensive talent. Crawford was supposed to be the Maturity that you were talking about. Of course he is classified as a chucker, so he is not looking for an open man but to get his own shot away.
    Batum said they called a play for him but he couldn't get open so he diverted to LMA who missed. Therefore maybe we should put it on the shoulders of the whole team, but mostly from the lack of rebounding.

    by Hg on 1/15/2012 9:21 AM
  15. @Hg

    Good point about Mathews, however it doesn't change the fact that he was putting up brick after brick after brick. 2 for 8 field goal shooting and 1 for 4 in three point shooting, plus no assists. That stat speaks volumes about what he should not have been doing. Crawford's were almost as bad, 3 for 12 FG's, 2 for 6 in three pointers, most of these in the critical 4th quarter. That says they should not have been even attempted.

    by outcast on 1/15/2012 3:02 PM
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