mikebarrett

Mar 19

Rally Comes Too Late

By mikebarrett
This group is tough to figure out at times.  Their determination and belief has been downright inspiring at times this season.  They never believe they are out of a game, and have shown the ability, on many occasions, to wiggle out of some very tight spots.  

Early this season, when they were compiling such an impressive record in close games, many wondered if perhaps the law of averages would eventually catch up to them- if they'd start to get burned by playing with fire so often.  

From the beginning this has been a team that's much more comfortable playing from behind. Or, as we've seen lately, playing from way behind.  They aren't simply testing themselves, nor are they doing this repeatedly for our entertainment- showing just how far they can get behind before rallying to make it a nail-biter in the end.  I just think it's a young team, front-loaded in the starting lineup, that's trying to figure out exactly what it is.

The Blazers have developed a bad habit of being a reactive team, rather than a proactive team. They're the fighter in the ring that likes to get hit a bunch of times before deciding how to counter punch.  They're so likable because they always do counter punch, and never quit.

It's also frustrating to watch for fans.  This team has shown that it does indeed have the chops to play with the best teams in the NBA, and for certain stretches can play beautiful and dominant basketball.  It's that they don't know how to turn it on, or turn it off, that has us scratching our heads.

The first quarter on Tuesday night in Milwaukee wasn't one of their better stretches of the season, but they only trailed 27-23 after the first 12 minutes.  It felt like they should have perhaps been down by more, and that they'd survived one of those low points.  Then, came one of their really low points.

It took the Blazers nearly half of the second quarter to score a single point.  The Bucks scored the first 16 points of the second, as Portland struggled, shooting just 2 for 20 from the field.  By the time halftime arrived, the Blazers were down 58-31, being outscored in that quarter 31-8.

Then, as the second half started, we saw that old familiar storm start to brew again.  That sense of urgency, that we'd hoped to see to start the game, was starting to fuel the Blazers and they started to believe again.

The Blazers ripped off a 23-7 run to start the third quarter, and even though Milwaukee kept answering with big shots of their own, the Blazers kept on pressing.  They outscored the Bucks 26-19 in the third, and then outscored them 38-25 in the fourth.  But, just in case you haven't done the math, the big second-half advantage wasn't quite enough.

The closest the Blazers came to catching the Bucks was 100-93 with 1:33 to go.  The hole was just too deep on this night.  Perhaps if they hadn't have put together their worst second quarter of the season, the second half flurry would have been enough.  Or, Tuesday's game hadn't been the second of a back to back.  Or, if we hadn't gotten into our rooms in Milwaukee until 2 am because of a flight delay getting out of Philly.  Excuses.  Yep, we toss them around on the broadcasts, don't we?  It this team wasn't so likable it would be easier to just admit that they continue to try and bring a knife to so many of these gunfights.

Wesley Matthews, playing in front of friends and family in Milwaukee, did everything he could to keep the Blazers in this ballgame.  He ended with 28 points, and hit 7 three-point shots. LaMarcus Aldridge, who's playing his best basketball of the season right now, had another double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.  The Blazers even got a nice night from Luke Babbitt off the bench, who had 9 points in 13 minutes.

But, the Bucks, who had seen Damian Lillard score 27 on the Sixers on Monday, did their best to cut the head off the snake, as so many teams have tried to do.  Lillard, who still had 11 assists to go with his 8 points, was only 2 for 10 from the field, and was harassed into committing 6 turnovers.  The kid can't do it every single night.

So, if you're now expecting the Blazers to downshift, roll over, and start going through the motions like so many non-playoff teams do at this time of the year, you're probably going to be disappointed.  They aren't ready to concede anything, and I love that about them.  Forget the draft, and playing for lottery positioning.  Play to win, each night.  The lessons they'll learn fighting to the mathematical finish of the season are much more valuable than raising a white flag earlier than necessary in order to begin a fruitless pursuit of ping-pong balls.  

The three games left on this road trip will be difficult.  Get used to hearing that, by the way, because that's how it's going to be for the next month.  It's Chicago, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City, and then we come home.




15 Comments

  1. This game gets two or more clothes pins. The Blazers again appeared to be disinterested in the 1st half. Second half rallies don't do much if you seem not to care in the 1st half. Again no defense in the first half.

    Why do you play any player 44 minutes in the second of a back to back? Don't shorten these players careers for a season that is quickly sinking. If the bench can't carry the mail don't shoot the horses you need next year.

    It's time to live with what we've got. See if the bench can step up and produce. if they can't get rid of them. If they can we keep them. Don't break down the starters for a season that is to prepare us for the future. Sorry folks but passion overtook me.

    by Ancientone on 3/19/2013 10:34 PM
  2. Agreed Mike. "The lessons they will learn are more valuable than the fruitless pursuit of ping pong balls".
    I'm the type of fan that will sit through a 30 point blowout. Because I like to see our guys play ball. They have at times delivered up some magic. There is something special about this team. Right now they are not quite there. This is a step in their progression.
    What they did in Philly was worthy. What they did last night in the second half worthy.
    Plenty of work still to be done. Rest of this season and the off season.

    by Divotking on 3/19/2013 11:20 PM
  3. Why is it that replacing a player who is one of the team's most highly-praised (JJ) with one who is among the team's most-ridiculed (Luke) has led to big Blazer runs two nights in a row? Yeah, I know Luke spreads the floor so the shooters and LA have more room to operate, but isn't he supposed to hurt the team on defense and on the boards? So why aren't teams taking advantage of that? What I've been hearing since Luke arrived is that he's supposed to be a major liability on defense, a player the other teams will simply pick on and destroy. But I haven't really seen that happen. What I've seen has been a player who does a better job on defense than we expect and who pulls down his share of boards. Yeah, they scored on him a time or two, and it was sad to watch him dribble down the lane to get his shot blocked, but the team outscored the Bucks and the 76ers when he was in there, and I'd like to know why that happens. Is JJ's defense so bad you can replace it with a below-average guy and still come out ahead? Does his contribution on the boards depend a lot on the Blazers missing shots, so it works out better just to put a guy out there who can shoot? Or should we chalk it up to two NBA teams in a row being too lazy or unfocused to exploit an advantage when they have a lead? Or maybe Luke's just lucky because the other Blazers catch fire late in games when he's out there because the team needs his 3-point shooting. The team did pretty well against Philly with Meyers and/or Joel out there too, which makes me suspect that the answer is that anyone who can fill a defensive role and pass the ball when the starters finally get it in gear will look good, and that JJ has more problems in that department than we'd like to admit. This is two nights in a row he's been on the bench in the fourth quarter. After the 76ers game the Talkin' Ball guys were trying to decide whether he was sitting because management was ready to start looking at the young guys, or whether it was just a match-up decision. They hardly addressed the possibility that maybe Coach Stotts has decided that JJ's weaknesses are part of why we tend to fall behind early, and is trying to find out how the starters play with someone else in there. And right now the verdict seems to be that the alternate line-ups do the job better than the starting squad. Because as I see it, the pattern all season has been that JJ does really well early in games, but the team does better late in games. And I can't really remember a night when the announcers talked about how the team turned things around after JJ came back into the game.

    by David Maclaine on 3/19/2013 11:30 PM
  4. Mike: it makes no since to spot a team 27 points and try a come back, but I am gland the did.

    by Hg on 3/19/2013 11:30 PM
  5. Mike, sounds like you realized your mistake about Matthews hitting a career high in 3-point shots by the way you wrote about Matthews' night in your blog. I actually tweeted it to you as soon as I heard you say that on the air, but not sure how long it took for you to read it or that someone informed you before you read your tweets.

    But yeah, Matthews' career high in 3-point shots is 8 and he did it in Sacramento (Blazers wore red) last season. He also had a game a couple of years ago in Minnesota (Blazers wore black) where he hit 7 three's as well and that was the game where he set his career high of 36 points. I'm doing this all of memory, but if I recall right, Matthews on his career high setting game hit all of his 7 three's in the 1st half and had 29 of his 36 points in the 1st half as well and those 7 three's in a half tied Terry Porter's record that he set at Golden State in 1993.

    by Shem on 3/19/2013 11:41 PM
  6. @David: I like Luke and I think he's under-appreciated. He's a better than average rebounder, his defense gets better with more minutes, and same for his shooting touch. He's more a victim of the team's numbers game than his production. Too bad we can't merge him with Victor Claver to create another all-star.

    Here's something for our resident Steve Blake haters (you know who you are). In his last three games (since Kobe's injury), Blake has averaged: 16 points; 6 assists; 4 rebounds; 2 steals; and only 1.6 turnovers. A lot of teams (including us) would like to have a backup who can do that. I said a few years ago in this forum that someday Steve would be a coaches' dream backup guard. I still think so.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 3/19/2013 11:55 PM
  7. I think that Babbit is better than many give him credit for. His defense at least always includes effort which I don't see much of the time from some of our touted defensive players. We complain about bench contribution. How can you get a contribution from them when you play the starters such extensive minutes. This is the make up of our team and we need for it to really be a team not just 5 "stars". We have a team, it's time to see if it can work looking to the future.

    Sorry for the tirade but the attitude that we can coast because we're so good at a rally just doesn't sit well with me. We have to coast because we are going to play so many minutes.

    by Ancientone on 3/20/2013 7:10 AM
  8. How can you diss JJ when he has so many doubles-doubles. He's doing something right, no many things really right. He is the best defensive player we have. His game is so physical I imagine he is spent by 4th Q. He needs help from some of the other guys on this team. The best NBA teams have a bench they can count on. Why should we be any different.

    by allie-oop on 3/21/2013 6:24 AM
  9. It's a new day. I see a slugfest tonight. Remember last year? Kaleb's first game as head coach. Bulls were good. Our best road victory of the year. I like our chances tonight.
    Ancientone;
    A few more losses and we will see the minutes by the starters drop.
    Hg;
    Your response was so short I'm losing weight out here.
    Shem;
    Have you thought about applying for the job of equipment manager for the Blazers? Uniform combinations could give us an advantage.
    Oop;
    Love me some JJ. A defensive stopper he is not.

    by the golden ladder on 3/21/2013 8:59 AM
  10. any time i mention a great comeback, i try to always add the caveat that we should have not gotten so far down in the first place. basically, that holds true in any situation such as this. i mean, you could say that, theoretically speaking, had we been down only 20 at halftime, then this game would have gone into overtime. of course, the domino effect of the game does nothing to make that an automatic. it's a matter of playing a 48-minute game. We've done that about three times this season.

    i don't think it comes down to any one player's responsibility, though Wesley, LaMarcus and Luke all had strong games (btw, you'll not convince me that Luke's rebounding and defense have improved to the point where he should NOT be in games at the end when we need him).

    what hurt is our defense on the pick and roll and at the rim. despite the previous comments, JJ is a solid defender. the problem is that he's usually undersized against a lot of these guys around the league. this is what Michael Holton was talking about last night on Courtside. JJ would be great at pf, but we've got LaMarcus there so that's not where he'll get the minutes. what we've found out that we need is a big guy about the size of Meyers who can hold his own on the inside. that's coming, but we have to be a little more patient until it arrives. if we don't keep JJ, i would expect Meyers to be next up at the center position.

    @Shem: nice work on the stats. when i'd heard about Wesley's seven threes, i didn't think that was his career high, but i wasn't sure if it was eight or nine.

    @Hg: i think that may have been your shortest comment ever ... perhaps Shem could look it up for us!

    @allie-oop: i agree; we can't diss JJ. as i alluded to above; he's playing out of position. the fact he's doing it as well as he is tells you how good of an actual defender he is.

    @goldenladder: JJ has been a much better defender than that for which he has been given credit. no guy we have is locking it down in the paint like we need them to, but JJ is doing the best job of it so far.

    @Ancientone: Luke is improving big time. the biggest problem with his development over his first three seasons is lack of playing time. that hasn't gotten any better with Stotts' ridiculously inconsistent rotation patterns.

    @dgpdx: i agree about your comments regarding Luke, but i can't agree with you on Blake. great, he's had a nice stretch, but we all know he's gonna stink it up here soon, probably going like 4-45 shooting in his next five games. i don't hate Blake, just don't like his inconsistency. i'll give you this: he's a terrific locker room guy and a great teammate.

    @DavidMcLaine: Luke's rebounding and defense are not liabilities, though i will admit at times he runs into the same problem as JJ; size mismatch. what we sometimes gain on our offensive end, we can give up on defense with Luke. i don't question the use of him in these situations in the least. as i mentioned to Ancientone and dgpdx, Luke is underappreciated and has earned more credit than he is getting.

    @Divotking: i'm with you on the strive to win rather than get all excited about a few ping pong balls, especially when most are projecting this draft to be fairly weak. we don't need more youth at this point anyway; we need some guys a la Eric, who have a few years experience in the league.

    okies, i'm done ... so i take it everyone has eaten and is full!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/21/2013 1:15 PM
  11. Kassandra,it is close to being my shortest post at least, I had to bowl six games, while trying to listen to Wheels, BTW, he was whining badly in the second qtr. Then after bowling, I had much work to do and my body felt like a 72 yr old. I was so sleepy that I could hardly read Mike's post let alone the comments above mine, but I am a die hard Mike fan, so it was beside me to write something. Well anyway I am so glad you have my back and got everybody munching.

    I believe Mike is right on the money with being reactive instead of proactive, now that he mentioned it that could be the whole slow beginning problem. Outlaw said when he was playing for us that BRoy, him and Batum always played better in the second half because they could figure out what they were doing by then. It is probably still going on. I remember having a big discussion about the very thing and it was said you need to be both on defense and offense.

    I surely don't mind Babbitts playing, and I don't know why the playing time is limited. I don't really drewl on it any player we put in is a Blazer and I want them all to do great.

    I think if Meyers puts on some grown man's butt muscles this summer and learn not be pushed behind the rim as Anciantone talks about, then he will be alright. We need to realize he is a different type of Center then we are used to having, lot of how high his ceiling is largely depends on him wanting it bad enough, and all I have seen so far is great.

    by Hg on 3/21/2013 1:57 PM
  12. Kassandra;
    I agree JJ is not a bad defender. However when scouting JJ, what will be on the notes is- tenacious rebounder-high motor-rolls off the pick-can hit the 12 footer. Defense will not get a mention. Our interior defense is lacking across the board. It's not like anyone else is holding down the middle any better. JJ is undersized for his position. He is working with what he has.
    To all;
    Coach Stotts has brought in Babbit to spread the floor the last couple games with some success. I was curios if we might try that to start the game. LaMarcus has said many times he doesn't want to play the 5. It is just a number. He could get to his spots on the floor reguardless. If rebounding becomes a problem we could go to JJ quickly. JJ would still get his 30 minutes a game. Might be good to see how JJ responds to coming off of the bench. Good information for the future.

    by the golden ladder on 3/21/2013 2:06 PM
  13. Caught the Bulls sleeping. Portland was wide awake.
    Meyers best game by far. Doesn't show in the boxscore. He played strong under the rim. His boxing out was the best I've seen. Stotts has played Mr. nice guy with his bench until yesterday. Meyers responded. A very good sign. Meyers earned ( I think ) a career high 26 minutes. Stotts milked every minute out of him and brought in JJ to finish up. JJ our rebounding beast.
    All year I've heard The count down from the bench. 5-4-3-2-1. Thanks Mike for confirming it has been Stotts.
    Lastly. When we went on our run in the 2nd quarter. Mr. Rice (not his real name) yells "They may dress ROSE !!" That was funny.
    On to Atlanta.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 3/21/2013 6:44 PM
  14. @GoldenLadder: any scout with as much information on JJ, who gave that tiny of a scouting report, would be relieved of his duties extremely quickly. i think we agree that he's not the best defender but, but his size, he's considered average to above average. he's not a shot blocker, but that's not every big man's defensive game. it just seems a matter of looking at the big picture; it's great to say he's not a strong defender against some, but when you break it down against other teams, you find he's actually pretty good.

    @Hg: Meyers needs to add some pounds, but i don't think that many. maybe about 15 or so like LaMarcus did a couple summers ago. he's made some strides this season, which is important, because i don't think we're going to hold on to JJ. Meyers may find himself in the starting lineup in training camp.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/22/2013 8:45 PM
  15. Kassandra, not big muscles just strong muscles to hold his own. besides I read that is what Leonard needed to do. I don't go for the big bulky muscles, just the real strong muscles by doing more reps with less resistance.

    by Hg on 3/22/2013 8:57 PM
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