mikebarrett

Feb 10

Blazers a Step Slow in Orlando

By mikebarrett Posted in: Magic
It's remarkable to think that the Blazers could have weathered a 1 for 16 shooting night from Damian Lillard and still won, but had the defense and rebounding come through just slightly better, that would have been the case.  But, surrendering 17 offensive rebounds to the Magic, who were starving for a win, and allowing 110 points to a team that normally averages 94, was just too much to overcome.

Knowing Orlando was returning home, riding a long losing streak, and getting healthier by the day, gave us plenty of reason to be concerned going into this game.  But, when J.J. Reddick started tossing in everything he touched, the red flags were flying up all around the Portland bench.  When Nikola Vucevic began picking up right where he left off from the last time these teams played, the concerns grew to panic.  And, when Gustavo Ayon looked like the most energetic athlete on the floor, it was time to officially circle the wagons and call 911.  

Lillard is allowed an off-night once in a while.  The super rookie has been so consistent this season, and this team has come to rely on him so much, you would have thought an uncharacteristic bad night by him would be too much for Portland to even stay close.  But, despite his 1 of 16 effort, the Blazers hung tough.

What kept Portland in this ballgame, even late, was the fact that the Blazers, minus Lillard's numbers, shot 61 percent.  The bench was 12 for 16 from the field.  Add Lillard's numbers in and the Blazers still shot 51 percent.  They came into this game 9-0 on the season when shooting 50 percent or better.  

So, we've established that even with Lillard's struggles, offense wasn't the problem.

Early in this game, energy wasn't the issue other.  The Blazers shot out of the gate doing exactly what they wanted, and quickly built an 11-point lead.  J.J. Hickson was leading the charge, and was helping keep the Magic thinking this wouldn't be their night once again.  But, when Hickson was taken out of the game for a breather, that's when things turned.

The second quarter turned out to be the killer for the Blazers, as that's when Reddick and Ayon started doing their damage.  But, even despite that, Portland trailed by only 6 at halftime.  Heck, they trailed by 9 at halftime the last time these teams met and still won.

The Magic though were able to sustain their advantage, largely because of their dominance on the backboards.  They ended up with a 50-38 edge in rebounding, including a 17-5 advantage in offensive rebounds.  That resulted in a 15-6 win in second-chance points, and those are as mentally damaging as physically.

Vucevic, who was involved in the Dwight Howard trade, has been brilliant at times this season, and was again in this game.  He ended with 17 points and 19 rebounds, and did everything he could to make life difficult on LaMarcus Aldridge.

Even with the Orlando defense hounding Aldridge, he ended up with 25 points, adding to his impressive totals on this road trip.  He's averaged 27 points per game in the four games so far, and has shot nearly 60 percent from the field.  Nic Batum, who looks to be slowly getting over a very sore wrist, had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.  And, Wesley Matthews, who scored 24 against the Magic in the first meeting, had 17 in this game, and was 4 for 9 from behind the three-point line.

Then there was the Blazer bench.  Along with going 12 for 16, the second unit scored 28 points, and got a huge lift from Joel Freeland, who had 6 points and 6 rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.  Normally, a night like this from the backups would be enough for a win.  On this night it wasn't.

Lillard was very aware after the game how costly his performance was to the end result of this game.  Again, to his credit, he dished out 12 assists and kept fighting.  He just could not hit a shot.  It wasn't like Jameer Nelson shut him down, the shots Lillard was missing were shots he normally hits.  Everyone has nights like this in the NBA, we just haven't seen it from Damian.

There are now two games left on this trip, and the next task is daunting to put it mildly.  The Miami Heat are rolling and LeBron James has been brilliant, even by his standards, as of late.  And yes, the Heat also will be motivated by their early loss in Portland this season.

I tossed out Portland's all-time record in games played in Miami to coach Terry Stotts the other day.  It caused him to raise his eyebrows and say "wow."  We probably make too much out of stuff like this, but Portland is 18-5 in this city since the NBA moved here.  

It's an amazing mark, and something of note, even if it will have little bearing on what happens Tuesday.

Talk to you then.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Mike: I can''t tell if the Blazers were slow or Orlando was just hitting on all cylinders. I was worried about this game as the team is often guilty of not bringing their A game against teams that doesn't threaten them in the play-offs.

    I know this pushed us down in the standings, but there is a lot of BB to play yet, and a lot can happen.

    although it was an important game it wasn't a do or die game, In fact Lillard has said this is not a do or die year and are in the middle of the pack team. that is pretty good compared to what I thought we would be.

    You have taught me to worry, I am thinking if we go all out Tuesday night and lose to Miami anyway, do you think we would have enough in the tank to beat NOH? Nevertheless, I believe you have to go out and try to win every game.

    by Hg on 2/10/2013 9:52 PM
  2. I forgot about the game--had an appointment for the first part of it anyway--and only came in for the last five minutes. I said, "oh, they're out of it." Then they hit a three and I said, "oh, wait a minute, they can still come back; they've done that a lot." And then Damian missed a three, and the Blazers gave one up and I realized that the fire was missing, and they had given up. I gather that was pretty much the story of the game; no shots going down for Lilliard, and no real effort on the defensive end. It's sad, but it probably will be okay in the long run. Nic has come back right when I despaired of him getting healthy, and LaMarcus had big games when I was afraid fatigue would be wearing him down. But if Lilliard isn't hitting and neither JJ nor his back-ups can figure out how to protect the paint, good performances by pretty much everyone else won't help. And if we lose the last two games of the trip, management will feel free to make a deal to get something for JJ before the deadline, which will open a lot more space to figure out if Meyers and Joel can contribute more than the occasional dunk, and the struggles while working that out will keep us out of the play-offs, which as I understand it, will preserve a high draft pick that would otherwise go elsewhere. So we can switch back from our raised expectations and settle back into the business of watching young guys fight hard to prove that they belong here. I can live with that, because I can see how good this team might be in a couple of years. Maybe tomorrow will fail to come this time too, but really, with Nic blossoming and Lilliard the real deal, how can you be too down about the future?

    by David Maclaine on 2/10/2013 10:24 PM
  3. I watched. Sorry for the loss.
    LA was steady as is usual. DLill is entitled to an off night.
    The bench was good.
    IMHO, defense has been lax of late. When the opponents score 100+, I have to wonder where we have been.
    Still wishing that our guys would develop alternate shot styles. Nic, Wes and Lill always prefer to shoot from the outside. They need to have alternate styles to keep the opponents guessing and to split the court. Lill needs to learn from Roy and draw fouls in the 4Q, to make up for the 1-16 debacle.
    Nic needs to toughen up. Wes needs to execute. He can do both bout seems to prefer the outside shot.

    DRIVE to the HOOP please!

    by allie-oop on 2/10/2013 10:44 PM
  4. Can anybody tell me why, after Nic had those quick three triples, why didn't we continue to feed him the ball? Nic is great at setting other players up to score, but it feels to me that they very seldom do the same for him. He had the hot hand tonight and still, nobody was setting him up to score. By the way, did the coach at least consider telling Damian not to worry about getting his shot, when it became apparent his shot wasn't going into the hole? He knows how to pass, he should have seen who the other players on his team were. He should have been the pg, not the shooting guard tonight.

    by Mieke Appel on 2/10/2013 10:44 PM
  5. 12 ast thats point guard esc just saying; However i get your point i think he thought it had to get going sooner or later.

    by Avgjoe28 on 2/10/2013 11:59 PM
  6. I don't give Lillard a pass. 1-16 or worse has only happened 16 times since 1985 (28 years), never twice to the same player. It is what it is. And yes, if not for the 17-5, the Blazers could have sustained that 1-16 and won. I am still a huge Lillard fan and hope he can use this as a reminder that he is not immune to such games and to never allow it to happen again. Orlando is a beat up, bad team (albeit an NBA team). This loss goes right up there with the Wizz/Det/Sac type games and why the Blazers will end up losing their pick and the Playoffs. Frustrating. I don't care about fancy b-ball shoes, or disney world excursions, I want this team to win games! Defend, rebound, score. And... GO BLAZERS! ; )

    by Blazer Fanatic on 2/11/2013 1:59 AM
  7. I agree with Mieke, why did we go away from Nic when he was hotter than a pistola? Most shooters in this league are streaky and not making sure the hot guy keeps shooting is like picking up your chips after 10 straight passes.

    We seem to have solved our slow start problem, but now we are losing games when we start faster than the other guys: both tonight and at Dallas. We could easily be 3-1 on this trip but now we must win the next two just to break even. And the next two aren't going to be any easier...
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 2/11/2013 2:16 AM
  8. Two clothes pins. No defense. No attempt at defense. No rebounding and players standing and watching Orlando run them down.

    Good game for Freeland. Good defense also from Claver. Leonard playing 3 feet out of bounds behind the backboard on one play. He needs D league time to see if he can learn to play.

    by Ancientone on 2/11/2013 8:12 AM
  9. I agree with Blazer Fanatic. Dame is generally playing well, but gets no pass for last night's game. He let the team and fans down. He needs to upgrade his assists to around a dozen a game most of the time - 6-8 is not acceptable when playing with the likes of LAM, Nico, Wesley, and JJ. He should be getting double doubles with much greater frequency. I'd say never wear those blue shoes again!

    by DeVinMzM on 2/11/2013 11:59 AM
  10. Damian had 12 assists. A poor shooting night. He gets a pass from me. Mr. Rookie Of The Year. Shake it off it's a tough crowd.
    Meyers appears to have stick'em on the bottom of his sneakers at the defensive end.

    by Divotking on 2/11/2013 12:38 PM
  11. @ DeVinMzM, I also agree w/ Blazer Fanatic (pretty much on anything she says; she IS THE authority on OUR Blazers! ;) ~12 assists most games is NOT what we need from Dame (there will b DEFINITELY some games where this will b necessary; actually, I WILL agree w/ u that he needed 12+ in this game, more like ~16 is what was necessary for the win in this 1); for Dame to average ~8 assists for the rest of his career is perfect :) Dame's scoring is just about right too; IF he can increase it w/ little effort/wear & tear on his body... then ok but if not, I say just cont. w/ his point average of what it is now but increase efficiency w/ fg% & become a monster on defense (which WILL happen ;) & Dame will b everything that we've ever/will ever need him 2 b. Increases in points & additional assists (above Dame's ~8) should b coming from all our other guys.

    by Simpson on 2/11/2013 1:28 PM
  12. I think we should trade JJ Hickson during the next week trade deadline t grab that #8 spot or a early summer

    by LA 2012 on 2/11/2013 2:44 PM
  13. I'm thinking we should pull a Popovic and rest the starters against Miami across the board. Waiting for the miracle comeback at the end of games is wearing on the starters. Our bench isn't getting better playing 5 minutes a game. Joel and Victor played really, really well on the upside

    by riverman on 2/11/2013 3:59 PM
  14. Damian not only put up blanks on offense, his defense was terrible. Stotts should not be afraid to bench a rookie once in awhile even if he's a great rookie.

    by riverman on 2/11/2013 4:00 PM
  15. you know, i get that guys are going to have an off night, but when you're 1-8, 1-9 and 1-10 ... it's probably time to stop shooting the ball. this was my biggest criticism with Crawford last season. I understand Damian wants to help the team win, but there are other ways to do that than to keep shooting when you're ineffective. i agree with riverman above when he says Stotts should not be afraid to bench a rookie -- or anyone else for that matter -- for the good of the team.

    i was perplexed by something Jay Triano said on Courtside last night; he thought he bench was highly responsible for the loss (he didn't say it in that many words, but it was that essentially). i see that he was talking about the bench surrendering the lead (though no more than three bench players were in the game at once) in the second half. my issue with that is that when you look at the +/- of the entire 11 guys who played, the bench guys had the top six of those, led by Joel at +11 and Victor at +8. i felt those guys played really well off each other for the 5-6 minutes they were on the court together. i'd like to see more of that.

    speaking of Joel, Victor, and throwing in guys like Jared ... this rotation/end of the bench thing has gotten old. it's like going to see Titanic and not knowing if the ship is going to sink at the end. the rotation pattern is way too inconsistent and just plain not getting it done. i mean, no wonder we have issues with the bench when half those guys don't even know if they're going to get into the game on any given night.

    the other thing we need is to go back to square one, pretend it's each guy's first day of practice, and teach these guys how to box out. our rebounding is either really good or really bad. we need to ensure it is on the side of the former.

    there was a distinct lack of energy in this one. it's almost as if they were looking at miami. i mark this up as a shameful loss.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 2/12/2013 12:25 PM
  16. @Mieke: i don't know why we always have seemed to stop going to the hot guy (Nicolas in this case) it transcends the coach and players. it's like an alarm goes off when a guy hits three straight shots and we just don't keep going to him. worse yet are the times when a guy hits three or four straight shots, is playing well, and our coach decides that is the time to rest him. it really is just baffling.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 2/12/2013 12:29 PM
  17. That is NBA basketball. Damian Lillard. Enough said.
    Congratulations LeBron.

    by Divotking on 2/12/2013 7:05 PM
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