Bucks Roll Through Portland
On a night when everything went right for the Milwaukee Bucks, and nothing went well for the Trail Blazers, Portland fans got a reminder of what exactly their team has been missing this season when Brandon Roy strolled into the building and into a courtside seat in the first half.
The ovation for Roy was enormous, of course, and there was the brief thought that perhaps Roy's appearance would light a fire under the Blazers, who were already behind when he walked into the building. Instead, Brandon got a first-hand look at the team he used to lead, and rescue, on so many nights like this one.
Like on so many tough nights this season, we were left with the what-ifs concerning Roy's bad break, and even though he's never been far from our thoughts, could more than ever envision him bouncing off the bench to lend a hand against one of the NBA's hottest teams.
After the game I got to spend 10 minutes with Brandon in the Blazer weight room, and witnessed several of his ex-teammates walk through to give a hug and share a word or two. Brandon told me he's watched nearly every game this season, and even though that was good to hear, it was a painful reminder of all that we've been through lately. We saw Greg Oden in Indiana last week for the last time as a roster player for the Trail Blazers, and then saw Nate McMillan off in Chicago just days later.
Like all recoveries, it's a process, and this one won't end anytime soon.
On the court, we saw a well-rested and red-hot Milwaukee team take apart the road-weary Trail Blazers 116-87. It was the sixth-consecutive win for the Bucks, and they did to Portland exactly what they did to Golden State way back on Friday, the night of their last game. Ironically, that was the night of Portland's last win, in Chicago, the day after Nate was fired and two starters were traded.
We've talked about what a difference belief and confidence can make, and don't think for a second the schedule doesn't make a huge difference in a season like this. Playing the first home game following a long road trip is always difficult, and because of Milwaukee's rare three day break, it seemed to be a perfect storm once again battering Portland's boat.
The Bucks were brilliant, and the Trail Blazers made them look even better.
In Friday's game at Golden State, the Bucks blew the doors off the Warriors in the opening quarter, leading 31-12 after one. So, it actually seemed like Portland had weathered the early storm when they trailed by only two after the first quarter of this one.
Then the coaches starting going to their benches, and that's when things got ugly. With the starters already worn thin from the brutal schedule, the Trail Blazers badly needed their second unit in this game. But, the group off the bench ended the first half without a single field goal. The Portland bench ended the game just 2 for 29 from the field. That's simply too much to overcome.
The margin for error for the Trail Blazers, given the trades and schedule, is so thin right now that the team can't have so many players have off shooting nights at the same time. Jamal Crawford went 1 for 8, Nolan Smith, who had been playing so well, went 1 for 9, and Kurt Thomas, Luke Babbitt, and Craig Smith, were a combined 0 for 9.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee was so good, we kept scratching our heads wondering how in the world they came into this game four games below the .500 mark. Clearly, they are no longer that team. Just ask their five previous opponents. You hear coaches use the term "connected" when describing their teams. The Bucks were so connected it was scary, and were brimming with confidence. In short, they made this look very easy.
For the Trail Blazers, it was a rough way to begin a crucial stretch of the schedule. Now they get one day off before hosting Memphis on Thursday, and then play the Lakers on Friday in L.A.