mikebarrett

Jan 19

Shooting Woes Continue in Atlanta

By mikebarrett
Things aren't usually as simple as they seem.  This is especially the case when you try and breakdown a 48-minute NBA game.  When you start to search for keys to a win or a loss, you usually land on multiple reasons, one often leading to another, and so on. 

But, as of late with this Trail Blazer team, it hasn't taken someone with incredible basketball IQ to figure out pretty quickly what the problem has been.  On Wednesday night the Blazers shot 38 percent against Atlanta and lost the game 92-89, to a streaking Hawks team that is one of the elites in the east.

After the game, Wesley Matthews said via Twitter, "Feel like I'm shooting on a damn carnival rim!"  Obviously, he's talking about those rims that are only slightly bigger than the ball.  I thought that was probably the quote of the night, and is a pretty good description of what has been happening to Portland's guards as of late.  And, it's a very good indicator of Portland's lack of confidence from the perimeter right now.

As we often say, a team's confidence from the field is incredibly contagious.  When things start going good, it often starts going good for everyone.  The problem is, nothing has been falling for the Blazers.

So, is it really just this simple?  Honestly, nothing else seems to be that broken in Portland's game plan.  It's not like their offensive sets aren't resulting in good shots.  They're getting good shots.  They're just missing. Long misses lead to easy opportunities for opponents, and down the hill we go. 

Outside shooting hasn't been a strength of this team for the last few years, and it was discussed as a concern even during training camp.  But, we're seeing three of Portland's biggest perimeter threats all putting up career-low percentages, all at the same time.  It's a perfect storm of clanking, and something had better change.  It has to.  Let's just hope the touch comes back sooner than later.

The bulk of the shots, from Portland's backcourt, are going to come from three guys, Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford, and Wesley Matthews, as you know.  Historically, they are dependable and reliable shooters.  Crawford can be streaky, just like Matthews, and Felton was one of the more accurate three-point-shooting point guards in the NBA last season.

In the first four games of this road trip, Felton is 16-46 (35%), Crawford is 15-53 (28%), and Matthews is 13-42 (31%).  Those are all very similar numbers, and they're all taking roughly the same number of shots.  All are also equally sharing in the frustration of missed shot after missed shot.

The frustration felt after Wednesday's loss in Atlanta led to a players-only discussion after the game, led by LaMarcus Aldridge, which is in itself a very encouraging sign.  We don't know everything that was said in the meeting, but Aldridge said it was basically an attempt to rally confidence and belief and to start holding each other more accountable.  That part, I thought, was interesting.  

We've gushed over and over again this season about how great the chemistry is on this team, and how much these players enjoy playing together.  That's not about to change, but the concern now appears to be, do they like each other too much?  I know, that sounds crazy, and that'll never be a legitimate problem.  But, I think what Aldridge meant is that the players on this team are too concerned about hurting feelings and perhaps not willing enough to challenge each other, perhaps with some fire and brimstone.  That's a necessary quality to have on a team.  Maybe they need to get a little mean and nasty and not worry about ruffling feathers.

Now, I don't think you can take a bunch of nice guys and just make them artificially angry and bitter.  That's not what is being discussed here.  And, believe it or not, I think this is a pretty good problem to have.  I'm also not really concerned about this team's current struggles.  Disappointed?  Sure.  But, nothing we're seeing now is beyond repair, and it I really think most of these problems will solve themselves as soon as their scorers start making shots.  

While we're waiting around to start the TV broadcast before a game, we're actually on the court with the players while they're warming up.  We're practically in the layup line. We leave them alone, of course, unless a player strolls over and starts a conversation.  That does happen on occasion.  

Last night, Matthews was standing near me and we started to talk about his shooting.  I always stay very brief and really just listen.  He walked up and just shook his head.  Sensing what he was feeling, I simply said "keep shooting. Don't think too much. It'll start to fall."  He replied, "everything feels so good.  I don't know why it's not happening."  Obviously, it wasn't an inspiring chat (my bad), as he followed with a 2-13 night.  My point is, these guys are maybe too aware of this, and are pressing too hard.  Matthews seems to be aiming the ball, and taking too much time to release it.  That's what happens when you're searching.

Here's the positive side of this, and what has me confident that this won't last.  The Blazers can't shoot much worse than they are right now (I know, that's a dangerous thing to say).  Despite the fact that the guards aren't hitting, they're still putting themselves in positions to win on the road.  Atlanta has won 7 of their last 8, and is a good team.  The Blazers couldn't throw the ball in the ocean from a boat in this game and could have easily won it.  All it'll take is one of these guys to bust out, and the others will follow.  It'll happen.

Nothing is a given, and the NBA is very tough to predict.  Exhibit A would be last night's upset, when lowly Washington beat Oklahoma City.  But, the Blazers should win the final two games on this trip.  If they do that, they'll end the trip 3-3.  They won't be happy with that, even if it happens, but considering they're mired in this offensive slump, a .500 result on a six-game trip is acceptable.

In this compressed season, as we've said repeatedly, turn the page quickly and develop a short memory.  That also happens to be the key mental approach for any good shooter.  The Trail Blazers have capable shooters, we're just not seeing it now.  

We will.


 

27 Comments

  1. I agree on every point Mike. Stay the course. The shots will start falling. When they do it will change the everything. Defenders will have to take a half step out, opening things up for LA and Gerald. I think off season work might be showing up a little. I'm guessing. We know what work Batum did and it shows.
    Early in the year you asked what we liked about the team and concerns about the team. My concerns were backup point and rebounding. I'm hoping Nolan surprises me. All good teams rebound well. We have been out rebounded on a regular basis. Maybe making some shots will help in that category.
    Nobody said it was going to be easy. Every champion overcomes challenges. We need to keep looking forward. Night after night, game after game. This is an unusual year.
    On to Toronto. GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 1/19/2012 12:12 PM
  2. Hey Mike: I thank you for the update.
    Our shooting woes are for real, but give credit to our last few opponents for learning how to win against us. To Me, that is beating us at our own game. Keep pressure on the ball and clog the paint. Atlanta, NOH, Houston and to extent SAS, didn"t shot exceptionally well against us because we were playing the same type defensive game. and in these type games it is the team that can get a player with a stroke going usually wins, last game it was Nico, but of course he wasn't available this time, but it could have easily made the difference.

    Does Joe make you miss Brandon, it sure makes me miss him.
    Both teams had players hurt so we can't blame the lost to injuries except we couldn't replace our injuries as easily Let's say we haven't anybody to fill BRoy's shoes, and they still have Joe. enough said.

    I agree completely about tighning up when they try to shoot.
    you say that after our start a 3-3 split would be acceptable, it could end in 1-5 or 2-4, so we have to be perpared for anything as the team doesn't win the games they are supposed to win all the time LOL. We played good against Atlanta because they are a good team, but play bad against Houston and NOH because they ar supposedly bad teams. The pattern I am seeing is we play good against good teams and lose becuase they are better, and play bad against the bad teams and lose because of the lack of effort. I know it isn't that way, but it seems to be. So much so, that it is easier to predict a win against a good team then it is against a bad team.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 12:55 PM
  3. Great post as always Mike. I have yet to miss a game this season. I made it to two home games in Portland against the nuggets and the lakers. The rest I have watched on direct tv from my house in Sacramento. It's obvious to me we are not the same team on the road as we are at home. "I think we have to give credit where credit is deserved with the rip city fan base". Never the less it's hard to watch this team on the road. To me it's almost like a Heckle and Jyde scenario with this team home and away which we also saw last year. Somehow this team is going to have to find a way to play with the fire and passion that they play with at home and use it on the road. Early this year when we we're off to such a great start, it almost seemed like they team had no pressure, they we're just going out, pinning their ears back on D fense, and running with the ball. Shooting without second guessing and having a lot of fun while doing it. I think if the team starts to relax and take the pressure off themselves and get back to playing aggressive defense, the rest will fall into place. The wife and I have tickets to the golden state game next week a few rows behind the blazer bench again. We got a picture last year with you and rice and hope to again this year. Look forward to seeing you in Golden State.! As always RIP CITY and GO BLAZERS!

    by CGblazerFAN1 on 1/19/2012 2:43 PM
  4. i was completely disgusted with last night's game barrett. from the beginning of the game, the blazers looked bad defensively. the very first shot from the hawks went uncontested by many of the blazers just standing around and watching. i watched them continue to stand around and when the hawks went to shoot, more watching and no contesting. i agree the shooting was horrific, but the defense was worse. the lakers game was a complete game and they played defense, so why not give that kind of effort every night? why not tell yourselves that you and the team are the only ones that can be depended on and help each other out. when matthews had the ball stolen back after stealing it from the hawks was ridiculous and wallace had every opportunity to yell out to wesley and let him know who was behind him. if there is no communication on the road how the hell do you expect to win out there? if the blazers cant handle this roster then trades should be made and maybe its time for coach to be let go. there is no reason this team should have only won against the NOH, every game on this road trip should be in the win column. horrible performance guys. you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    by Imwytdashyt Epps on 1/19/2012 2:45 PM
  5. Good Grief Imwytdasht Epps; That was a basketball game played by humans not a TV game played by a bunch of computerized look alike.
    Back off hombre you are treading on thin ice. Maybe the did play an awful game and made worst by a good defensive game. Maybe you are just an angry fan that sounds like the second coming of Hades, but nevertheless this is the Blazers that you are blasting away at and us faithfuls take offense to such blasting

    With that being said, I hope you have a good day.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 4:05 PM
  6. Despite the fact that the players in the current rotation have had consistent problems shooting, Nate refuses to insert any of the young players to mix things up and see if they may be hot that particular night. It's mind boggling to me. What has he to lose? They can't do much worse than the players he's been playing. I'm a fan of the team, but I'm not a fan of the coach. I think the Blazers win in spite of McMillan, not because of him.

    by Romeobodeodo on 1/19/2012 4:45 PM
  7. @Romeobodeodo: I am a fan of the players, the coaches and the BlazerFandome. But I am not a fan of yours, I think we support our team in spite of you not because of you.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 4:54 PM
  8. Positives:1 LMA continues to look like an all star and to be taking a leadership role he hasn't shown.

    2 I thought Nolan played very well during his stint and would like to see more of him.

    3 Nic was looking good before he was injured. Maybe he deserves some time at the two to help our shooting woes. he can certainly defend that position and it might add more rebounds to our total.

    4 This isn't a positive but Jamal isn't a point gaurd. Are we playing him out of position too much getting him out of his rhythm. See #2.

    5 Thomas and C Smith are great role players. Let LMA play less minutes so his legs are still under him a the end of the game.

    Any thing else Hg?

    by Ancientone on 1/19/2012 5:01 PM
  9. @Ancientone:
    I think you covered it all and I do agree 100%. I am sorry for being out of line, but we already lost because of poor play or poor coaching or maybe both, so there is no since in rubbing salt in the wound.

    It is not like the coach can say go in there and make your shots and it is not like the players are trying to miss their shots therefore it does no good to ridicule them after the game. As far as the coach giving LMA more rest and quit playing Crawford at the point, I have to agree.

    I'll give you an A lol.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 5:31 PM
  10. Easy Hg, take a breath. Everyone has a voice.
    Ancientone; I like your thoughts. Batum at the 2. Only problem is we are full there. Matthews is solid. Shooting slump is all. He'll work through it. Jamal must get his minutes.
    I like the Nolan Jamal combo. Good for Nolan. He doesn't have to "run" the team, just get the ball up safely. Jamal can bring the ball up but that is not what we brought him here for.
    As for LMA, we need to keep him out of the 5. Does anyone have magic dust to put on Cambys ankle?

    by Divotking on 1/19/2012 5:51 PM
  11. @Divotking:
    As you remember when you slam the Blazers or the coaches then you are walking on the fighting side of me.

    I have no problem with saying the team played bad type comments, but they are not robots and they can't play perfect or to our standards.

    I have no problem at all with Ancientone, we go back aways. he is cool and has some great thoughts. He is short winded when blogging, short and sweet, but that is because he is conscientious of me going to the frig for a snack LOL.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 6:03 PM
  12. Hg ; You weren't out of line, you were merely speaking from the heart.

    by Ancientone on 1/19/2012 6:25 PM
  13. Wow Ancientone, thank you I thought I was getting to fiesty again.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 6:32 PM
  14. Looks like this slump has even gotten some here a bit testy. I agree with the idea of Batum getting some time at the 2 and of Nolan Smith getting more minutes. Beyond that, there isn't a lot Nate can do until shots start dropping again.

    The team decided this season to trade turnovers for fast breaks which, given their makeup, seems like a smart idea. But -- you gotta turn your fast breaks into points for that to pay off. We're missing so many easy shots now and also committing several more turnovers per game than last year. That's a killer combination.

    Another thing that stands out: when one of our guards shoots from the corner, or in the paint, the weak side forward must rotate out to help stop the other team's fast break. Opponents have been getting way to many easy buckets because we're not doing that.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/19/2012 6:34 PM
  15. Andre Miller! A 28-10-8 line vs. Philly (in Philly). Trading Miller for Felton looked good on paper, but there's something about Andre that isn't quantifiable, you can't put it down on paper. An intangible, they call it. Whatever it is, he's got it by the ton.

    He's still one of my all-time favorites.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/19/2012 6:38 PM
  16. Well said Don, It takes time, but that might not happen this year, but Chemistry and good play doesn't gel in a given time and that is what everybody wants.
    I believe
    I trust
    and I know that we will make it.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 7:20 PM
  17. @hg, look "hombre," the fact is the blazes are too nice. they even said that themselves, so i am not treading on thin ice. this team needs harsh constructive criticism in order to get better, what would you like for me to do sugarcoat this abysmal, crappy, uninspired play as of late by the blazers? im not going to hold my tongue for anybody including you hg. just as i said in my last post, these same blazers took it to the lakers a few nights ago and did everything a "team" is supposed to do to win a game. get over yourself and accept the fact that these blazers could and should be winning these road games flat out. go back and watch the game versus the hawks and come back and tell me im wrong.

    by Imwytdashyt Epps on 1/19/2012 7:54 PM
  18. Hg; I like your passion. :) I wouldn't trade this team we have now for a Rasheed, Bonzi, Rider, Zach team with a 20 game winning streak.

    by Divotking on 1/19/2012 8:14 PM
  19. The problem last night, for the most part, was the shooting. Except for a couple of stretches, the defence was ok. Not great, but overall we did hold them to under 100 and certainly made this game winnable.

    The offensive execution wasn't too bad most of the time either. Turnovers were low and there were plenty of good looks throughout the game. But except for a couple of times in the 2nd half the shooting was ice cold. It isn't just perimeter shooting, as the commentators have mentioned when it comes to shots 2 feet away from the basket and in, Portland is the second WORST team in the league. When you combine those two together? You get games like Atlanta. I'll also give Jamal credit the last couple of games for passing up big shots when he knew he'd been having an off night(s) (I don't count those drives down the open lane, those are a go no matter how bad you're shooting). I know I've ragged on him for not doing that in Houston, but he did it for the most part the last couple of times out and that shows real maturity. I'll also give The Rhino credit for playing well, he has a bright future on the frontline in an area Portland will be needing the most help with. If Kurt can teach him some of those infamous defensive tricks, we will have a great forward for a long while.

    @Divotking - I really don't miss those prima donas, not one bit.

    PS - It was great to see the Lakers get blown out of Miami. Given how much time their starters played, I can see them getting into trouble against Orlando. Seeing them lose to anyone is almost as satisfying as a Blazer win. Hopefully we'll get both tomorrow.

    by outcast on 1/19/2012 9:12 PM
  20. Indesit Epps: you are wrong. The Blazers has the capabilities of beating any team in the NBA; should they win every game they play, NO Way Hombre. They played good defense, they set up their shots, they had great looks but the shots just wasn't going in. Atlanta, played good defense, they set up their shots, they had good looks but for the most part their shots wasn't going in. Because we missed shots there are no way you are going to convince me that we should have won that game, If fact we should have been blown out.

    The part of sugar coating is not needed. They played to stay in the game, they played to give themselves a chance to win but couldn't pull it off. that is no reason to unload on them to say they should be ashamed of themselves. I feel they put it all out on the floor, maybe that wasn't good enough for you, but it was all they had at that moment so face the fact we are not the greatest NBA team playing, so maybe you should try getting over your self and be realistic. We lost to Atlanta because they played harder at home. that is nothing to be ashamed of.

    by Hg on 1/19/2012 11:45 PM
  21. Is there any team in the league playing well on the road this year? I'm sure there is, but I also know we have more road wins than the Lakers do. There have indeed been stretches when the team has lacked energy, and we can argue about whether it's lack of desire or travel fatigue or the crowded schedule. I know I've been swearing at the TV a lot lately. Mostly the guards--very loud on that letting-him-steal-from-behind lapse of Wesley's that sealed the game--but Aldridge has been erratic too, and Gerald's inside misses are getting pretty hard to take.
    There were some positives in Atlanta. Nolan Smith got playing time and did well. (Of course, Nate took him out the moment we caught up, and the game headed south again, but that's another issue). Craig did indeed show off his role-player value again. And the team did fight back from a hole, even with Camby and Batum injured and Kurt on the bench because of some bad foul calls by the refs.
    The Blazers did miss a lot of pretty good shots, but they also threw up their usual share of poor ones. But a comment Kerry Eggers made on Talkin' Ball really took me aback. Someone asked the usual question about when Jamaal Crawford's shot was going to come around, and Eggers said "He's a career 41% shooter." (Of course, if thing go on like this, I'd imagine his career average will be even lower at the end of the season). KE made the point pretty clear: why would you expect someone with those career stats to improve the team's shooting? Mike and Mike have been going on game after game talking about how the Blazers have to shoot better than the 39-42% range they've been in for a while. But how on earth is a guy who normally shoots in that precise range--and who's now 31 years old, and therefore not plausibly projected to improve--going to bring us out of that slump? In Atlanta Crawford got his twenty in front of his former home crowd, but he missed an awful lot of shots getting there, and the Blazers lost the game. If it was my choice, I'd play him fewer minutes, strictly as a shooting guard, and would be looking around for someone who wants a "proven" player and will cough up a draft pick to get him. And then I'd give Nolan and Eliot a chance to show me what they can do.

    by Islander on 1/20/2012 12:31 AM
  22. Here's for hoping that our Blazers shooting woes get better quickly.

    They are more than capable, and we'll get back to be that team that was leading West.

    Thing are dangerous, being 7th, with Dallas behind and many other good teams too. We HAVE to prove that we're not just a "good" team.

    by Tiago Torigoe on 1/20/2012 4:31 AM
  23. Why everybody so down on Blazers? Have you looked at standings in west conf. recently? #2-#8 only separated by 1.5 games. Every team in that range has lost 4 to 7 games (Blazers 6 losses). Even Lakers have 6 loses. Blazers road record also compare favorably and if win these next two very favorably.

    Time for fans, announcers, writers, talk shows, etc. to take a reality check.

    Sure they are having a shooting slump, but even so are doing okay. The slump will pass and things will get better. It's up from here.

    by NOYB on 1/20/2012 2:04 PM
  24. i suppose you can change/fix nearly everything, except fr a contagious shooting slump. if you're allowing deep open shots, you can tighten perimeter defense. if you're not rebounding well, you can reposition players to block out. if you're turning the ball over, you can protect the ball better.

    unfortunately, the only way to break out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting. the real unfortunate thing is when it affects the win-loss column.

    i really would have loved to see us take that game at atlanta. i haven't predicted each game like some have, so i didn't pencil it in as a loss, but with how the hawks are playing right now, i can absorb this loss. we fell to a very good team on their floor which just so happens to be across the country.

    we really need these two last wins on the road. going 3-3 on the trip isn't ideal, but at this point, it's necessary.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/20/2012 2:21 PM
  25. LMA is a beast. Opposing coaches do not like it when LMA comes to their town.

    by Divotking on 1/20/2012 7:42 PM
  26. @Divotking; That was a nice performance by LMA tonight I just loved it. I also loved some of our shots starting to go in. I loved just 14 point in the first quarter by Toronto. Our Blazers just squashed their team. But I didn't like letting them back in the game so many times.

    by Hg on 1/20/2012 11:31 PM
  27. @Hg; Toronto badly needed a win. They did have some fight. They came up against a better team that also needed a win.
    Shout out to Adelman. Well done. Making progress. Trouble in tinsel town. The Lakers and their step sister the Clips. Love-Minnesota.

    by Divotking on 1/21/2012 8:42 AM
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