Nov 08

Deep Clippers Survive Portland

By mikebarrett
The Rose Garden crowd was back in the game, as the Trail Blazers came to life in the third quarter on Thursday.  A huge come-from-behind effort led by Nicolas Batum and Meyers Leonard brought the Blazers to within four points after they had trailed by as many as 25.  But, the big, long comeback finally took its toll on the home team, as they simply ran out of gas and fell to the talented Clippers 103-90.

As we often say after games like this, you simply can't dig yourself a huge hole like this, against a team as good as this, and expect to survive.  The comeback was impressive, as no one can doubt their internal fight, but you can't play from that far back and live to tell about it.

The Clippers, who embarrassed the previously-unbeaten San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, are a very good and a very deep team.  Even with Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill in street clothes behind the bench, the Clips got plenty from their second unit, and that was the difference.  More specifically actually, Jamal Crawford was the difference.  

Crawford, who heard a scattering of boos from Blazer fans when he entered the game in the first quarter, was exactly the player Portland thought it was getting last year in this game.  He went for 25 points in 28 minutes, and seemed to answer every Blazer threat with a huge basket.  

The Blazers owed their comeback not only to a much improved effort, but to one single coaching move that changed the entire game.  After being outscored 31-17 in the second quarter, and trailing 60-39 at halftime, Terry Stotts put Batum in charge of defending Chris Paul in the third. The Clipper offense sputtered with Batum denying Paul the ball, and the Blazers outscored them 32-17 in the quarter.

As we've seen before, when Batum gets that lock-down mentality on defense, something magical starts to happen with his offense.  Batum put his team on his back, and got the Blazers to within four points, at 86-82, after delivering a perfect lob pass to Leonard on a fast break.  But, soon after, it was more Crawford, and more Clippers, as they charged back with a 14-3 run that put the game away.

Batum ended the game with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and three steals.  Leonard, who has put together very solid back-to-back performances, had eight points and six rebounds, most of which came during Portland's big run.  

While the defense was terrific in the third quarter, it just wasn't there in the first half, when the Clippers did most of their damage.  The Blazers gave up 62 percent shooting to Dallas on Monday, and then watched the Clippers shoot 53 percent in this game.  Consistently allowing percentages like that, when you've already got a razor-thin margin of error offensively yourself, makes things too difficult against solid teams in this league.

The other big topic as of late, the bench, was another issue for the Blazers in this game.  They did get a great effort from Leonard, and got pretty solid play from Ronnie Price, but just don't have enough punch in that second unit to hang with some of the quality reserve units in the west.  We're going to see a lot of games like this during the season, when Coach Stotts demands huge minutes from the starters, but that is going to take its toll.  Fortunately, as mentioned above, we saw progress from the bench.  In the future, it just has to come before the team is down 25 points.

The convenient part of all of this is that we've easily identified what needs to improve, and I'm not trying to be cute by saying that.  It's no secret, but Portland's starters, most nights, are going to be good enough to win their time on the floor, and now just need help from the reserves.  One solution, that would give the bench a proven scorer, would be perhaps moving Leonard into the starting rotation and bringing Hickson off the bench.  I've mentioned this before, and it could be a logical solution down the road.  We'll watch and see.

The Blazer offense shot just 43 percent, and even though the effort and intensity was there, it's going to be difficult to beat the elite teams in the west with an average like that.  LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 points, but was 7 for 17.  Wesley Matthews was all over the place defensively, but shot just 4 for 12, and even Batum, who had a fantastic second half, ended 6 of 18.  Damian Lillard, who had his hands full with Paul, had a solid 16 points, four assists, and three steals.

A fun comeback, and credit should certainly be given to the Blazers for battling back, but familiar issues were to blame in this loss.  The Clippers are good enough to know how to take advantage, even in the Rose Garden, where they've had very little success in their history.

It's another learning experience for the young Blazers, who will have another practice to make adjustments before another, and perhaps more difficult test arrives.  San Antonio visits the Rose Garden on Saturday.


  1. Hey Mike great Blog.
    Things don't look good all the time, there is going to be bad bad night. Our comeback was terrific.
    I believe Leonard will be inserted into the starting line up shortly
    I believe Batum should stay guarding PG until Lillard gets more adjustment;
    Especially Sat night against Parker.
    We are doing great in my book.

    by Hg on 11/9/2012 12:50 AM
  2. Agreed...Leonard needs to start the game and bring in JJ to guide the second unit or at least to make up some kind of rotation that makes sense with who we have. Yep, we have a very good starting team...one that can compete with almost any team...but the bench is going to dictate the outcomes of our games and right now we need help! Thanks for the blog Mike ;-)

    by daddylogan on 11/9/2012 1:35 AM
  3. The Blazers need to improve their shooting percentage. Period.
    From the field and the free throw line. Period.
    There is no leader among the starters. Period.
    I am hoping that Lillard eventually fills that roll.
    Blaming the bench removes the responsibility from the starters. They all make too much money to shoot like that.

    by mzelena on 11/9/2012 8:09 AM
  4. Abysmal shooting except in the third quarter. No defense except in the third quarter. Don't blame Jamal, you take the open shots you are given. Batum was right, we are running team and you can't run if you don't play defense. Pride shouldn't just show up in the third quarter.

    by Ancientone on 11/9/2012 8:46 AM
  5. I can see the improvement needed as mentioned in the last three post. We can say we had a bad game
    we can say that our shooting % for at least this game was bad
    We can say our defense sucks almost every game
    We can say that LMA's shooting to many outside jumpers
    We can say that Lillard is not the leader yet
    and yes we need to play more then one quarter
    But the fact is we are playing pretty good ball against many good teams and we are young and getting better.
    If anybody would have said we would be 2-3 over the first five games with our opponents, I would have said you was drinking the Kool-Ade.
    Everybody loves the exciting ball movement, player movement games, but no one ever looks at the reverse side of such an offense. When our shots are falling we look great and when they are not we are dead meat to the opponents demand.
    Like it or not with this type offense, with new players, new coaches and a new direction there are going to be many games like the one last night. If we live by the three we die by the the three sort of to speak.
    But hey we tried driving to the basket and was either blocked, altered or plain missed lay-ups.
    As Ancientone said they have to get better at D to improve and we all know team D takes time, so I shout to all of you PATIENCE.
    BTW, I thought we played a bad 3 quarters of the game also. But putting Batum on the PG in the third, showed some solutions to the problem and even raw Leonard showed good D at center that we desperately need. So as Mike indicated we need JJ, but where he can be better used, fire power on the sec unit.
    We need all that Lillard brings, but only 5 games in, up against the best PG in the NBA, he needs to be given some help; and that is where Batum is going to be going in the near future starting with his old buddy on Saturday.
    Oh where is LeBrona the Prianha when I need her LOL.

    by Hg on 11/9/2012 10:17 AM
  6. They Need FAITH nd be on the same page nd stop shooting like crazy if no shots going in try the paint go hard in the paint batum needs to do that good body length and they need to start using JJ a littl more on Offense remember when lamarcus was out he filled the role and did preety good nd PLAY DEFENSE GO HARD OR GO HOME

    by www.mirandajesus45@yahoo.com on 11/9/2012 11:40 AM
  7. LaMarcus actually is a good decision maker when it comes to taking shots.

    I'd like to see more post-pass out-reposting from him though.
    When he gets his game going in the paint is when this team will start to thrive. It will open up a lot of looks for everyone else, and even get LA more looks from mid range. And once LA catches fire, the rest of the team seems to follow suit.

    Bottom line..

    by Tycoon on 11/9/2012 4:09 PM
  8. 42 minutes on the floor. 0 free throws made. 0 free throws attempted. 4 rebounds. Falling in love with the pick-n-pop. Everyone knows who I'm talking about. One play stands out the most. Matthews feeds him on the right block, cuts under the hoop to clear away the double team and LMA tries to hand the ball off to him instead of going strong to the rim. Turnover. He has 60 some million reasons why he should stick his nose inside and punish the other teams bigs. Playing LMA at the elbow, all Blazer fans know, he will fall in love with the jumper.
    It is only game 5. I'm ok with it as long as it doesn't turn into a trend.
    This is a good coaching moment for Stotts. He can get in LMA's grill and let him know the toughness of this team starts with him.
    Let's see what happens. GO BLAZERS !!

    by Divotking on 11/9/2012 6:22 PM
  9. This was the first game I found myself yelling at J.J. We all love his hard work, but there was a stretch there where it seemed like every time he touched the ball in a crowd he lost it. The stats had him down for only one turnover, but it seemed like there were four or five "he's got it; no, he doesn't" rebounds or steals" all in a short span. He just doesn't catch the ball very well. Apparently the coach noticed that too; he only got 22 minutes when all the other starters were in until their tongues hit the floor. Of course Meyers had something to do with that bench time.
    By the way, can someone tell me why Jared Jeffries is on this team? The bench has been bad, everyone agrees. Our bench includes four guys who play the four or five, and Freeland and Babbit are hardly playing. It seems to me that both have something to offer. What's the point of running Jeffries out there? Meanwhile, we've got Price and Pavlovic trying to fill the gap at guard because Elliot Williams got hurt and Stotts apparently isn't ready to give Nolan Smith another shot, or put Barton on the floor until garbage time. And, oh yes, Claver, who can shoot and pass the ball, and is certainly tall enough to play a role on the boards is getting no time at all behind Nic at the three. I've heard all the talk about the veterans' stabilizing influence, but I really haven't figured out what their on-court contribution is supposed to be. At the moment, they're keeping younger guys on the bench, but not showing me any good reason they're out there.

    by David Maclaine on 11/10/2012 12:55 AM
  10. isn't it Stotts who wants to play LaMarcus more at the elbow? i think he's just doing what the coach has asked him to do. i agree that it's not working. LaMarcus spent about four years being a jump shooter. then, we were pleasantly surprised over the past couple seasons when he would move down low more. now, the steps LaMarcus has taken over the past three summers to become more of an inside presence is going into the crapper.

    i want to see LaMarcus go to the paint on 80 percent of our offensive plays (while he is in there, of course). his outside shot should be used to keep defenses honest and to set up other parts of the offense.

    of course, it's like Divotking said, it's only the fifth game. there is a lot of time to tighten up the offense (and the defense for that matter). we definitely need to use this first stretch of the season to solidify our rotation and game plan. i hope Stotts has a clue of how to do that.

    count me in the camp of those who want to see Meyers start. i think J.J. is doing a remarkable job and i don't want to see his minutes reduced, but we need his tenacity, scoring and aggressiveness in the second unit. what that unit needs is a leader, and Hickson could be the perfect guy for that.

    last summer and through training camp, i saw many comments and reports about Damian and LaMarcus being a new connection in regard to lobs. i think that would be great. something i've noticed is that Nicolas and Meyers seem to have a similar connection. we've seen Meyers can complete it (with full post-dunk flex!) and i think if Nicolas can look that way a couple times a game, it could open up his own options. food for thought at this point, i suppose.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/10/2012 10:51 AM
  11. Hey Kassandra:
    Did you read my post from above that asked for the return of LeBrona the Prianha, I think with that lob to Leonard from Batum won my heart. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    And to add to your thought, I want LaMarcus in the paint, but if not, Batum and Wesley are both developing a post game, and Leonard is learning fast. With JJ coming off the bench we will see more action from the starters.

    by Hg on 11/10/2012 12:58 PM
  12. Game Nic

    by Divotking on 11/10/2012 9:28 PM
  13. @Hg: LeBrona is alive & well & observing some of the previous behavior on twitter by an old "friend" of ours from a couple years ago. anyway, that's a long story and person not worth wasting time on.

    on the Spurs: LaMarcus did attack more and Nicolas played a full, 48-minute game which both shows up in the box score and does not. i might even venture to say that this was his best all-around game as a Blazer. he seems hungrier now and i fully hope that translates into more efforts like this. i liked LaMarcus' game, but who oh why was it he to took the possible game-tying shot. we've got guys to do that, and while he is our best player, he shouldn't be shooting that if at all possible.

    i didn't have many expectations of Damian going into the season, though i did have some expectations of what we would need at the point. he is exceeding them thus far and i'm glad. J.J. is invaluable; i hope there was never a serious moment last summer when we would not have re-signed him (that being said, his services off the bench would make us a more complete team).

    Wesley has been an inconsistent disappointment this season. this was the year he was supposed to take the next step. imo, he's gone backwards. i don't doubt his hustle, but it's his overall effectiveness which has been lacking. frankly, i'm more impressed with Sasha's performance in his limited minutes than i have been with Wesley's. that being said, there's plenty of season left so who knows what may happen.

    it's really our bench which has me most puzzled. Meyers is coming along faster than i would have expected and i like what Ronnie is doing in his limited time. my big question: why are Joel and Victor not playing? these are the guys who can really make a difference on both ends of the court. the bottom line is: we need more than points from our bench. it's been truly sad. i love Nolan as a person, but he's just not cutting it on the court. i hate to say that, but ... well, you know.

    just saw Rice on twitter (he really needs a spell check on that thing!) saying the bench needs to play defense & not worry so much about scoring. i seldom disagree with the Wild One, but i can't buy into that. we need to get some offensive production from our bench. they don't have to win the game every night out, but they have to at least not lose it which, imo, has happened in at least three of the four losses. basically, we should not be breaking out the party hats to celebrate our bench when they score 14 points. that's truly pathetic.

    that's a big reason why i want Stotts to flip J.J. and Meyers. it's not a knock on either at all. as i said above, i don't want to see J.J. lose minutes; just want to see him play those minutes in a different spot. Meyers in the starting lineup also gives us a more formidable tandem up front, and could give us a solid five in the second unit.

    suffice to say, while i would like to see a lot of progress, i'm still patient. however, at some point, that patience will run out. Stotts needs to make some adjustments. if you always do what you've done, you'll always get what you got.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/11/2012 6:39 PM
  14. Hey Kassandra:
    I have to agree with you on your whole line of reasoning. Great post.

    by Hg on 11/12/2012 3:41 AM
  15. thanks. i'm just trying to look at things objectively.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/12/2012 7:26 AM
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