Mar 27

Thunderstorm at the RG

By mikebarrett
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks told my broadcast partner before the game that it's almost surprised him lately how well his team is playing, and how dominant they have become.  And, he said if they keep playing this way they'll win the whole thing.  After watching the Thunder roll through Portland on Tuesday night, it's easy to see why even their own head coach is impressed.

Smooth and easy.  That not only describes how OKC played on Tuesday, but describes the way nearly everything has gone for the Thunder since moving away from Seattle.  The next time the team gets a bad break, or a key injury, it'll be the first time.  They have no idea what adversity is, and should, I suppose, actually get a lot of credit for that.  Their design, and path to where they are hasn't seen even one pothole.  I'm quite certain their fans, who had the team dropped in their lap, think it's this way everywhere.

This isn't bitterness, it's envy.  It's a useless emotion, and probably a sign of weakness, but it does apply here.  While the Blazers have found heartbreak, trouble, and bad news under every single overturned stone (some of their own doing, but a lot out of it out of their control), the Thunder have gracefully waltzed up to a championship window that's now wide open- likely for the foreseeable future.

It's not like this just suddenly turned into this, but given the recent appearance by a now-retired Brandon Roy, and departure of Greg Oden, coupled with watching the Thunder cruise through the Rose Garden with ease, ripped the band-aid off a badly-infected wound.

It's hard to imagine a Thunder team winning just 23 games in a season, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  But, that's what they did, and allowed them to stumble into the final piece of their three-headed monster, James Harden (who actually was taken one pick after Hasheem Thabeet in the '09 draft).

On Sunday, the Thunder dismantled the Miami Heat.  On Tuesday, perhaps fearing a letdown, Brooks had his team running around like caged animals during pre-game warmups.  You could tell, they were focused and were all business.  With recent hard-fought battles in Portland fresh in their minds, and a great respect for the Rose Garden, they came out firing.

Everything was going to have to go perfectly for the Trail Blazers to have a shot in this game, and in the opening quarter, nothing went right.  The Thunder, on the other hand, looked like a well-oiled chainsaw.  The Blazers were 6 for 23 shooting in the first 12 minutes, while the Thunder were 13 for 20.  The lead was 14 before Portland fans had finished their first beverage.

OKC's lead was 18 by halftime, and they only briefly paused to catch their breath in the third quarter.  The Blazers, to their credit, rallied in this game.  They went on a 17-2 run to get to within five, at 73-68.  The Thunder answer though, and took a nine-point lead to the fourth.

In the final quarter the Thunder's big three seemed only mildly amused, and took turns dishing out body blows to the Trail Blazers.  First it was Harden, who went on a personal 7-0 run, and then it was Westbrook, who was brilliant once again, scoring 32 points.  And, of course, sprinkled into the fun was Durant, who went for an easy 25 points, on 10 of 14 shooting.  

On a night when the Trail Blazers could have made up some ground on the logjam at the bottom of the western race, the Thunder simply didn't allow it.  They won the game 109-95, and improved to 38-12.

There were some bright spots for Portland, and both came in the form of players who weren't even on this team two weeks ago.  J.J. Hickson, who was sent adrift by Sacramento and landed in Portland, had 14 points in his Blazer debut against the Lakers.  Against the Thunder, Hickson had a team-high 21 points, on 9 of 10 shooting, in just 26 minutes.  He'll be a restricted free agent after the season, and I guess being put on waivers by the Kings served as pretty good motivation to take full advantage of an opportunity like this.  

Jonny Flynn was the other Blazer who was especially fun to watch in this game.  Flynn, who was the sixth-overall pick in that '09 draft mentioned above, is also getting the chance to show he simply needed the right situation to blossom.  Flynn, who got the bulk of the point-guard minutes in the second half, had 10 points, five assists, and lit a spark under the Blazer offense. The NBA is funny this way- Flynn was in a bad situation in Minnesota, suffered a serious hip injury, rehabbed with Houston, and now is finally healthy.  Could it be that the Blazers have found a guy that could stick in the future?  Tough to tell that just yet, but you've got to give Flynn credit for doing his best to prove himself.  

For the Trail Blazers, it was another night where we talked about the difficulty of digging a deep hole early and expecting to be able to recover.

Just as familiar was seeing everything go Oklahoma City's way down the stretch, as they put a cap on another impressive performance.


  1. Another loss...nothing new.. its the 11-12 Blazers. That is why I did not get excited when we won vs a sub par GS team. Its all good though, Im just sitting back watching. They will win a few more and then well get to watch other teams play in the playoffs.

    Anyways I will say something that bugs me-LMA

    Soft as butter...a jelly fish..Hes a really nice guy..heard he is sensitive. That may be too. I like him. BUT wow..he just lets Collison punk him. You can start seeing the game plan every game now from all the teams. Play faceup vs Aldridge, bump his body...and he'll just melt. He will step back and shoot off balance turn around jumpers. And after that, what does a team have to worry about????? Outside scoring? LOL..no. Or a Batum who is a freakin enigma , will he come out scoring..or go hide in the corner like hes in trouble?? wierd....we have a wierd freakin team lol

    Once in every few games LA will man up and go to the rim, use his body..get inside..and when he does..he scored 30 points...you would think a light bulb would go off and go hmmmm..when I stay aggressive and score in the paint I have great games and we win more often. So either he is stupid..or hes not a true leader..and I dont think LA is stupid. But is that what you want from your go to guy?? Just take a punch in the mouth and melt away..heck no..I dont care if you miss shots..or mess up..IM A BLAZER FAN!!!!!!!!!!....give me some dam passion!!..Please

    I like what I see in some of the new guys tonight, thank you gentlemen. I respect Mathews for hustling...but thats about it..this team just rolls over and dies...Gets run over and doesnt get up. You can say a million times that your not giving up and your trying to make the play offs...but I am not seeing any action..not seeing that out on the floor.

    If we lose 70% of our games but atleast give it our all, I would be a much happy Blazer fan right now. I have no words really to even explain how disappointed I am.

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/27/2012 11:13 PM
  2. Hey Mike; great blog and a rightful contribute to OKC. I only got to watch glimpses of the game while trying to focus on my bowling. As said before, I am a one trick pony; either watch the game or bowl, I can't seem to do both.

    I am a big big Blazer fan, and I don't see why LaMarcus has to take on all five players to get beat up to prove he belongs on the team. When anybody else can make a shot, or take pressure off him, by spreading the floor he only has to go against 4 that sags in on him. But, gee I wonder why he can't get inside?
    When you are the only scorer out of five and the other team knows that, guess what they are not going to let him get in the paint, I don't care who thinks he has no passion after getting smacked around. If you find a crack in the wall then you can get through the wall, but if not you will just bounce off and make the most of it. That is my take on LaMarcus.
    You can single out every player on our team and disect them and find fault. to pick out one and rake him over the coals really agitates me. It takes five players to play the game; to be the leader and go to guy is one thing, but to be the only guy to go to is completely different. No, LMA is not stupid, but neither is OKC defense. when they know LMA is the only threat, they will shut him down like all the NBA teams. Give him just one other guy that can score like JJ on a consistent basis, and he will take it to the rim and get his 30 while getting punched in the mouth, but until then too many punches in the mouth will slow any body down.

    by Hg on 3/28/2012 4:32 AM
  3. Mike: I am sorry about the rant. We are on the way out with 3 of our starters being gone for the night, regardless of how good or bad they are, is tough to overcome. I thought we played them tough and with passion and we were very competitive. I like our new players game and I think Flynn and JJ are keepers. I think because of Thabeets length he will be a good project player to train for the NBA.
    We had nobody with enough experience to set up the offense last night or nobody that could stay with Westbrook. Say whatever, but with that disadvantage against the top western conference team and we are sunk before we get started. but I am pleased with our performance.

    by Hg on 3/28/2012 4:40 AM
  4. eh, i know most blazer fans hate the lakers with a passion and kobe even more. even mike and mike appear to dislike him. So maybe this is a bad example.. (well it kind of is because kobe is kobe and LMA isn't on his level...)
    but it still holds true. when kobe and shaq broke up. kobe couldn't do it on his own. you could say alot of things why. but the basketball reason was the defence was keying on him. he wasn't going to score 81points everynight so someone else would have to help him in carry the load. which wasn't happening consistantly... kobe needed gastol. needed someone to at least make the defence honor.

    now moving to the blazers. the defence is set to stop LBA. 1v5 isn't good odds. i dont care how good you are. even kobe couldn't. jordan couldn't either.
    LMA needs someone to consistantly score 15+ points. that was sopposed to be jamal crawford this year or felton but frankly. neither has played well this year. neither are the player the blazers need. they need someone to make the defence play honestly. someone to take advantage of them triple teaming LMA. No one on this current roster does that consistantly.
    this season just shows hos much the blazers miss brandon roy, and i'll say. dre too.. those two made the defences play honestly. felton/crawford just arn't doing it. like they were sopposed to.

    hickson is quite aweful on defence.

    by Brandon Weinant on 3/28/2012 4:54 AM
  5. Oh what would I give to have 5 players with J.J. Hicksons hustle and attitude?

    by Ancientone on 3/28/2012 6:58 AM
  6. still sick of watching us miss baskets...
    still sick of watching no defense...
    still sick of watching no play making...
    just saying

    by allie-oop on 3/28/2012 7:28 AM
  7. Why doesn't somebody call out Westbrook for being a reckless oaf with no class. The way he fouled Batum when his team was ahead by ten or more was dangerous and unprofessional.

    Bad. I love basketball on the court. Leave football plays on the grass.

    by Paul H Pease on 3/28/2012 9:13 AM
  8. Everybody is sick of us missing baskets, no defense and no playmaking. It is true I am sickening Blazer fan and a worst homer then Mike, and I am sick of everybody being sick of us not playing up to their standards. It is said by that other Mike very often that it takes lots of time to play great team defense; it takes time for players playing together. So because of the fact that everybody but LMA, Batum and Matthews are all sorta new, and it takes all 5 to play team d. play making and even making shots. Beings as how we are pretty much out of the play-off equation because of all the above, lets give these new players some slack. Hickson may learn to play good or adequate D since that is desire anyway. Whatever we have is what we have for this year.

    Ancientone I am with you on JJ's hustle, I know you are a stickler on defense, but against OKC that is thrown out the window anyway.

    Angi: can you call out the famous piranha for help. I can't remember the rest of her nick name.

    by Hg on 3/28/2012 9:18 AM
  9. I'm enjoying watching Hickson play. That's a really good low post player and he really didn't get enough love for going 9-for-10 from the field... What a great pick up he was... Once again though, Blazer guard play and defense was a catastrophe.

    Flynn seems to be be a keeper as a backup, but he seems to be a jump passer, which is a fairly serious flaw. Probably fixable, but it needs to be addressed. He may be quick and effective on offense but there was one play last night where Westbrook juked him and he came about 4 feet off the ball — easy layup...

    Oh well, at this point it's all about getting two decent picks and landing a couple players in the next draft. Worst case scenario would be actually making the playoffs and losing one of those picks, then getting annihilated by 30 points four games in a row by the Thunder...

    by Carrite on 3/28/2012 10:09 AM
  10. There is nothing surprising here. The team has traded away veteran players from last year and is calling it a season. They are not a playoff team and it is now time to look at players that were benchwarmers elsewhere to see if they fit into our "bright" future. I would not expect the team to be back in the playoffs for at least 2-3 years. Twelve years since we got out of the 1st round. What a story of mediocracy!!!

    by blazerrod on 3/28/2012 10:44 AM
  11. It just shows what can happen with good ball handlers who get inside and put pressure on the defense. Portland has not had someone capable of wrecking a team like these three can since Brandon Roy. Instead we have become a jump shooting team without the shooters needed to be successful at that. Penetration and tough defense are OKC and Portland would do well to try and emulate that.

    by cmeese47 on 3/28/2012 10:46 AM
  12. I watched the whole game, and there's a few things that really jumped out at me almost from the opening tip:

    OKC looked very, very, very good on both ends of the floor. Their execution on the offensive end was clinical.

    Nolan Smith was a bit overwhelmed I think. He just seemed like he was trying to do too much. Not an uncommon mistake for rookie point guards thrust into a starting role on the fly, and going against that defense made it even harder for him.

    I wasn't really impressed with Hickson after the GS game, and I sadly didn't get to watch the L.A. game, but I was very impressed with his performance last night. If he can continue to bring that kind of energy and hustle on a nightly basis it will go a very long way towards helping this team in the future. Keep him please!

    The game was decided in the first 12 minutes. Partially this is due to very poor shooting, part of this was due to poor offensive execution, and part of this was due to early foul trouble for both Pryzbilla and Thomas. I am curious why we didn't see more of Rhino in that game. I think because of his size and nose for rebounds we could have really benefited from him. Also I have not seen much of Pryzbilla late in games and am wondering why. Yes I know he's old and not in the best of shape, but we really need his presense down low during close games to help shore up our defense and rebounding.

    LaMarcus is our all-star and number 1 option on offense, but we really need to find second AND third options we can look to every night to fill in the gaps. Most teams know that if you want to beat the Blazers, punch 'em in the mouth early, then shade Aldridge and keep him to around 20 points. My point is that LaMarcus is still just 1 guy, and defending 1 guy is easy. Defending 2 is sometimes difficult but manageable for most good defensive teams. Defending 3 is a challenge for anyone. OKC and Miami and last year's Dallas teams are prime examples.

    I liked what I saw from Flynn last night as well. Give him more minutes. If Nolan is struggling on a night, give Flynn a shot.

    Advice for coach K:
    How can I put this delicately? Keep up the awesome work on getting our guys hustling and playing hard. Ride the hot players in any game as long as you can (until they ask to be taken out because they are tired, or are showing clear signs of fatigue). If a player who is a normal part of your rotation isn't playing will, don't be afraid to pull him out and ask him what's going on, why he thinks he isn't performing well. In the mean time, give someone else a chance. Good things may happen. All players have off-nights, but many games are won by surprise, unusual heroes.

    by soulseeker on 3/28/2012 11:55 AM
  13. HG- ummmm trust me, LA could have been much more aggressive. I am not talking about when a team doubles or triples LA. There are many times he is one on one with a defender and can take him if he wants to, but instead passes the ball. Collison pushed him out everytime, did a great job keeping him from getting the ball. IF your going to a true all star player and leader of a team, you are not going to allow that....So once again..I will re state, I am disappointed with Lamarcus.

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/28/2012 12:08 PM
  14. That being said, once again its a team loss. We are simply not as good as OKC, that is a given. But coming to the RG used to be a serious thing if you were the other team. No matter the record, you knew you were going to have to fight to beat a Blazer team at home. Not anymore.

    And yes of course the new guys that just came in, it takes time to fit it...I understand that..I do after all have common sense. Besides the new faces are playing pretty decent. What I dont like is watching a Batum who gives us a awesome game 1 night..and then for 2-3 nights will just disappear completely!!..I shouldnt complain about that? lol cmon.

    And I have seen teams all year plan their D around LA, when that happens..other players on this team needs to start shooting the outside shots to open the defense up, and find ways to cut to the basket as well.

    BUT if you are being played 1 on 1 and you can score on a guy..do it!!!..take the opportunity please...you mentioned that you want to be a "starter" for the next all star game?? Yes LA did say that...well step up and play big! If you got to take slap in the face..bumps and bruises to the basket and make some free throws so we can die in honor then fine, I just want to see more out there!

    Make all the excuses you want, bottom line is that OKC came in tonight and did what ever they wanted. Are they a very good basketball team? Yep they are, but your telling me we couldnt have made it harder for them, by playing solid defense and fundamental basketball? Get out of here!

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/28/2012 12:21 PM
  15. There is a lot of things all players on every team can do to make it better, But why pick out LMA, because he wants to be an all star; maybe he can't pack the load of being the only scorer, maybe he is just tired, No matter what the reason, he is our PF and I like his play.

    by Hg on 3/28/2012 1:25 PM
  16. Aldridge is not the one to blame for the loss. What about guys like Crawford who shot horribly? What about our total lack of defense? What about our horrible first half? Aldridge actually played pretty well. I would have liked to seen him take more shots since he was shooting pretty well. The thing we needed last night on offense were two more options. We got a big boost from Hickson but no one else really did much. Just like we call some games team wins. This was a team loss. The truth is that everyone should have played a little better but they did not. They just lost to a good team.

    Hickson and Flynn did some great things out there. Hickson was probably the best player for us. He was playing defense and killing it on offense. Flynn had 10 points which is good but there were too many defensive lapses. We really needed someone in there who could defend Westbrook better. I thought Batum did a decent job on Durant in the second half. I liked what I saw from Hickson and Flynn but I am not ready to name either one as a long-term solution until I see more. It's going to take more than one or two games to prove they can help us for a long time. I hope they do that.

    by Angi on 3/28/2012 2:57 PM
    4th worst record
    16-35 .314

    OKC is all that. Best defense I've seen them play. They have all the pieces. Durant is Durant but Westbrook is the key to their success.
    I agree with you Mike. Everything would have to go perfectly for the Blazers to beat them. They are in a different class right now. I actually thought the Blazers played well. They made a nice run in the third. Matthews got up in Durant's junk.
    Everybody wanted Nolan to get some quality floor time. How did that work for you.
    I wasn't that impressed with Jonny. Yea he's fast. It's only one game I'd have to see more. Certainly a defensive liability. Might make a backup.
    It's one of those years when I get excited about a Blazer game- to see the other team play.

    by Divotking on 3/28/2012 5:38 PM
  18. MB: Looks like you were having fun on this blog. You used terms like "well-oiled chainsaw" and "caged animals" and used your metaphors and similes really well. LOL. I liked the way you said they were "grinding" us out the whole game. One could say you had a lot to talk about from the opposing squad. That's fair because they won. But it only takes me back to a time where your blogs were so colorful with red, black and white all over it. Bias was bliss. This all sounds like poetry :(. Sad story but you also pointed out that this Thunder team was a 23 win team in one season. That got them started and have been a wrecking machine ever since. There was also a time where Portland was with the Thunder every inch of the way. Now like you say, the thunder have "gracefully waltzed" up their way to a championship window. Portland could only wish now and have no windows but 4 grey walls. I hope losing and losing and losing will only put adversity into these players heads and that they fully understand this moment. Because us fans and they too hope we never have to come to this breaking point again. At least not in the near future. I hope that losing our ROY, our ODEN, our players who have come in and went during that era, McMillan, coaching staff, key components that were involved in the process of building a championship contending team will only usher in a new era of greatness. That "thunder" greatness. Because that's what we are all about to witness, which is what we want.

    by Ballinrotation365 on 3/28/2012 11:26 PM
  19. I'll actually be pretty surprised if the Blazers don't beat the Nets tonight. The Nets are awful.

    by soulseeker on 3/29/2012 10:41 AM
  20. soulseeker
    We are playing the NewOrlean Hornets tonight. but we should win against them also.

    by Hg on 3/29/2012 11:00 AM
  21. heh...my bad. got a lil ahead of myself there.

    by soulseeker on 3/29/2012 11:50 AM
  22. First off I said this was a team loss, not LA's fault. Please read. And why pick out LA? Because he is "our" all star power forward. When I watch Kevin Love, he often down low, grabbing boards getting put backs, nice post moves despite double teams, he scores and scores and grabs boards, last game was 40 points 19 rebounds. Do you not think a team plans their D around Love when they play the Wolves? lol...yes they do. Look at Blake Griffin..a monster..he gets played hard too, teams throw all kinds of defense at him..but still he shows that effort.

    LOOK, if you guys are happy with LA's play, then thats your opinion and you are welcomed to that opinion. I feel that if your a 6'11 all star power forward, you should be aggressive and scoring as many points as you can to help your team. And 5 rebounds there 8 rebounds there just does not cut it either.

    Is Jamal playing like crap? yep...are others not stepping up?? YEP...YEP.. Is any of them a all star?...are they the #1 go to guy on this team? Are they going to be here next year? ....NO, NO...PROBABLY NOT. I have my reasons to focus on LA, and I honestly do not feel like he is playing to his potential.

    Moving on....hope we can pull out a win vs the Hornets...Go Blazers

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/29/2012 1:52 PM
  23. whitefeather;
    LMA has never been a strong rebounder. I view it as one of his weaknesses. To his credit he has worked in the off season and improved parts of his game every year. I hope he works on rebounding.
    Kevin Love is a rebounding beast. Something you didn't mention is his passing. Great outlet passer. He reminds me of Bill Walton in a PF body. Yes I said big Bill. Love is in the conversation for MVP. Keep an eye on that Minnesota team in the years ahead.

    by Divotking on 3/29/2012 3:26 PM
  24. whitefeather, i get your frustration because aldridge has shown what he is capable of but we don't see it on a regular basis. last year when he wanted to be in the all star game so badly and then playing like an animal afterwards showed that he can be dominant, but it was short lived. that's the frustrating part. his heart just isn't into it this year. he's not strong mentally.

    by thedanman on 3/29/2012 4:48 PM
  25. Completely agree danman&Divotking...

    LA proved last year what HE CAN DO..when he tries. And this year Im just not seeing that, at least not very often. He does need to work on his dribbling, I have noticed that when LA is facing big guys who are stumps, he has a hard time getting past them, and its not because hes slow...LA is quick and athletic...it is because his dribbling cant keep up with his movement.

    I hope he can be more determined...but hes played for what 6-7 years now? Its time to play hard every day..like a vet..if not then to me thats not a leader. A solid pf, 2nd go to guy...but not a #1 option on a potential championship team, which is the end goal right? lol

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/29/2012 7:01 PM
  26. It's getting hard to beat the bottom feeders on our home court. That was smelly. Jamal hold your nose.

    by Divotking on 3/29/2012 8:22 PM
  27. Divotking, how close are we to bottom feeders. I thought NOH's played tough tonight. I know in my heart that we could have blown them out, but the Blazers has been guilty of playing down to their opponents for years.
    Now, I hope they play up to the opponent tomorrow night.

    by Hg on 3/29/2012 9:09 PM
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