Nov 27

Trip Rolls On in D.C.

By mikebarrett
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told me on Tuesday night that it had been a "productive day" in Washington D.C., and that the team spent most of its practice session watching video of the last two games.  He then added what I already knew- they weren't spending time watching the offense, but the defense.

On Monday night in Detroit, the Pistons shot 53 percent and beat the Blazers 108-101.  The Pistons came into that game averaging just 93 points per game.  It's been a familiar problem for Portland, and one that they're very aware of, and are trying to fix.

What's interesting is that we have usually only been spending a lot of time focusing on the defense when the offense happens to fail this team, like it did in Detroit.  In other words, a good shooting night by the starters acts as a pretty good band-aid for the defense.  It's not that everyone hasn't been pointing out the high shooting percentage the Blazers have been giving up, but winning, no matter how you win, is a pretty good cure all.

But, the problem persists.

Quite obviously, what the defensive problems do is put way too much pressure on the offense.  As we mentioned on the TV broadcast, right after the game Monday night, when the Blazers don't shoot well right now, they're not going to win.  Detroit isn't one of the elite defensive teams in the league, and that's what made Monday's loss disappointing.  

After the game it was very easy to take a quick look at the offensive numbers for Portland and see the reasons for their 42 percent shooting.  Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, who have been so good lately, really struggled from the field.  They combined to shoot 6 for 27.  When those two guys have off nights, in the same game, it's going to be tough to overcome.  That's just the reality right now.

Matthews has been struggling with a sore elbow on his shooting arm.  It hasn't been talked about much, but I talked with him about it again before the game against the Pistons.  After watching him continuously flex the elbow after every shot in the pre-game warmup period, I asked him if it's still giving him problems.  He simply said, "I just can't get it loose."

To add to that, Matthews jammed his right thumb at some point during the game, and he spent Tuesday getting treatment on it.  It was very swollen following the loss.  I'm not sure of his status for Wednesday's game, but Wesley is not one to miss games, for any reason.  He hasn't missed a game in his NBA career.  He's as tough as they come, and you usually can't even get him to talk about things like this.  He keeps his nagging injuries to himself.  Always has.

We did see some positives during the loss in Detroit.  LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 10 rebounds, showing that his back problem wasn't a problem, at least in that game.  And, Will Barton provided a much-needed boost for the bench unit.  Barton had 12 points, and that helped the bench combine to score 22 points.  Ironic that when the bench provides some good production, a couple of starters struggle, and that total by the second unit gets lost in the shuffle.

Nothing on the road is easy in the NBA, but the loss in Detroit was particularly painful.  Not only was that a game Portland expected to win, but it set up a very scary situation that'll come their way on Wednesday night.  The Washington Wizards still haven't won a game this season, and you better believe they've got this one pegged as their get-out-of-jail game. The only thing more painful than starting a trip 0-3, will be if that third loss ends up being the first win for Washington.

That's plenty of extra motivation, for both sides.



  1. Hi, Mike, you didn't blog Monday after the game so I guess you took the Wild One up on the bar offer. I don't blame you -- if anything can drive a guy to drink, it's the kind of performance the Blazers put on against the Pistons. We face some teams on this trip we should beat and 0-2 isn't a good start on that.

    Really worried about tomorrow's game against winless Washington -- I'm sure the guys do not want to be their first victim. No excuses for not bringing it all against the Wiz.

    by dgpdx on 11/27/2012 11:32 PM
  2. Sometimes a road trip pulls a team together.

    Are we sure it's the players and not the design of the defense? With such a young team it's hard to say, but every team finds aa shooting grove against us. Even Dwight Howard shot free throws well against us now that I think about it.

    by Ancientone on 11/27/2012 11:55 PM
  3. Hey Mike thanks for the Blog.
    Part of Lillards problem in scoring was the out and out Blitz Detroit put on him. The Detroit Announcers said the whole defensive scheme was to slow down Lillard, so I guess it worked.

    I don't feel the pain of losing because I just look at this early games as a growing curve; playing in the eastern seaboard is completely bad because you have the Refs bias and totally not interested in you.
    I did feel the team was a step slow on D, but I took that as being tired and not trying. I don't worry about the opponents %. just the rebounding and steals.
    But I can sure see why the defense can create all kinds of problems for the offense.

    by Hg on 11/28/2012 12:10 AM
  4. I think Stotts needs to get a bit more vocal.
    Seems it was a physical game but we got most of the fouls.
    I loved watching Kyle Singler drive to the hoop.
    Still wishing we did more of that.
    We rarely keep anyone guessing what our next play will be.
    Just saying...

    by allie-oop on 11/28/2012 7:14 AM
  5. good morning MB! i appreciate how you went both back to the Pistons game and forward to the Wizards game. we should learn from the past, yet not dwell on it, and move forward.

    defense is definitely an ongoing issue. i really thought we'd have a better handle on that this season. our guys have the athleticism to play the type of lock-down defense we need to. not to get too technical this early in the morning, but it seems to me we play more effective man-to-man defense than zone. i understand there are times when a team wants to utilize the zone, but i'd prefer is sticking to our strengths.

    the thing about the Pistons game is that several guys underperformed. I'm not sure how we change that, but it merely sounds like playing down to the level to our opponent. we can't do that against the Wizards!

    i am going to give kudos to LaMarcus and to WillB for their performances sunday night; namely how Will led the bench to 22 points on the night (20 in the first half). i hope this means LaMarcus will be ready to go tonight, and that Will has earned some more time on the court.

    obviously, the Wizards are not a good team , so i'm looking for the guys to take out some frustration on the Wizards, rather than lower our level of play down to theirs.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/28/2012 7:21 AM
  6. Hi Kassandra, great response as usual.
    Playing the Wizard today is a matchup of the worst defensive team against the worst offensive team in the NBA at this point. something has to give.
    We are getting better as a unit, our bench with Barton and Leonard producing is getting better.
    If Okafer is playing center at 6'10" and JJ is 6'9" that should be a great matchup and because of that I pick JJ as my pick to click.
    I think Lillard will be able to guard their price, our price should do OK on D also.
    My question to you is: Do you think that putting so much emphasis on D is resulting in our lower offensive production, or is it that we are playing against the eastern bias refs and better defensive teams because of it, or all of the above, or none of the above or some of the above, or LILLARD has a Bulls-eye on his back, as the way LILLARD goes so goes the Blazers? Now that is one heck of a question don't you think☺?

    by Hg on 11/28/2012 10:39 AM
  7. JJ was a beast. If he develops some post moves he'd be dangerous.
    While I'm on the topic. Post play is something we used to have.
    DLill will get those calls after his freshman season.
    That was a stinker. Gets tougher from here. Going to have to dig deep to get some positive out of this trip. Fight, work, desire.

    by Divotking on 11/28/2012 7:12 PM
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