mikebarrett

Mar 24

Road-Weary Blazers Worn Down in OKC

By mikebarrett

The wins in Chicago and Atlanta, which followed the two losses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, were a pleasant surprise for Trail Blazer fans.  Heading into Oklahoma City, and the final game of a five-game road trip, a win over the Thunder would have likely ranked up there with the 30-point road win at San Antonio, and just as unlikely.

But, in the first half of the game, the Blazers appeared to have good energy and were dictating tempo at both ends.  They were switching between man defense and zone, and it seemed to be effecting Oklahoma City’s offense.  Even Portland was turning the ball over way too much, and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t have his outside shot, the Blazers appeared to be ready to record a signature win and end the trip with a winning record.

When JJ Hickson banked in a desperation shot at the first-half buzzer, to give the Blazers at 47-45 lead, belief grew.  After all, the Thunder had recorded a less-than-impressive 4-12 record when trailing at halftime this season.  But, an even more impressive number was Oklahoma City’s 25-0 record at home against teams below the .500 mark.

Unfortunately for Portland, that record now stands at 26-0.

As the Blazers found out, and knew going into the night, is that you’ve got to be very, very good to win in a place like Oklahoma City.  It’s not often that teams grind out wins over the Thunder in that building, and that’s how Portland was staying in the game.  The fear was, being this was the end of a long trip, fatigue would eventually punch a hole in the emotional momentum Portland had gained from the wins in Chicago and Atlanta.  But, to simply blame this on tired legs wouldn’t be giving the Thunder credit.

The Blazers do get some credit, however, for continuing to show resolve and fight even when not many of their normal weapons were firing. 

Aldridge, who’s been on the best roll of his career, just seemed to hit a wall.  His activity level was there, and he still achieved a double-double, posting 10 points and 12 rebounds.  But, his normally-reliable outside shot was well off the mark all night long.  I haven’t even looked at the shot chart, but only remember one shot outside of about five feet going down for him in this game.  It wasn’t that OKC’s defense was shutting him down either.  His shots were wide open.  He just had an off night, going 3 for 14.

The other Blazer who’s been red hot, cooled off as well.  Wesley Matthews, who kept Portland in the game at Milwaukee, hit several huge shots in Chicago, and lifted his team to a win at Atlanta, ended this game 3 for 11.  Damian Lillard had 19 points, on 7 for 16 shooting (it shows you how far Lillard has come when he scores 19 points, dishes out 6 assists, and pulls down 4 rebounds and it’s basically viewed as a ho-hum evening for him).

And, JJ HIckson, didn’t get a double-double.  That’s unusual.

Nic Batum turned in the performance of the night for the Blazers.  Not only did he ended playing some solid defense, he also scored 13 points, and recorded 8 rebounds and 8 assists. 

The biggest sign of just plain being out of gas was huge advantage the Thunder had in turnovers.  Well, more accurately, points off turnovers.  The Blazers can usually survive 17 turnovers, if they shoot well, and if they force turnovers.  But, they were on the short side of a 17-2 points-off-turnovers number, and shot just 41%.

So, Portland ends the trip with a 2-3 record.  Given the time of year, the length of the trip, and the miles travelled, and the fact that four of the five opponents will be in the playoffs, that’s not that bad.  In fact, the way Portland rallied back after losing the first two games of the trip to win in Chicago and Atlanta was inspiring.  A win at OKC would have capped off one of the more memorable extended road trips in the last few years. 

Now, it’s back home, where Portland will play 8 of its final 12 games.  It starts against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

There’s more to say about this game, and this trip, but I’m leaving that to you.  I’m out of gas, and like many others on this plane, am having trouble keeping my eyes open.  See you Wednesday.

12 Comments

  1. I figured you were nearly as tired as the players when I heard you after the game talking about the team being up by five in the fourth. It seemed like you blurred together the stats of the team being up by five in the third and the fact that they closed the gap to being only five down in the fourth. It is, I think, fair to note that the tight rotation that got credit for bringing about the two wins might also have cost us this one, as the guys who spent the most energy in those long minutes, Wes and LaMarcus, couldn't hit their shots in this one. But you've mostly nailed it, I think. The guys played hard and ran out of gas. Hope you and they get some rest and come back strong.

    by David Maclaine on 3/24/2013 10:35 PM
  2. I glad you mentioned LaMarcus had good activity. True his shooting was off tonight. LaMarcus has become a banger. It appears he now enjoys his defender to bounce off of him. He has gotten big and strong and delivers the punishment. He rebounds better. A big improvement in rebounding in heavy traffic. Couple that with his midrange game and it makes him a unique player. LaMarcus is all grown up.
    We do have an answer for Durant. No one stops Durant. However Nic made him uncomfortable. I thought Batum had a fantastic game.
    OKC needs to clean up their technical foul situation. It will cost them a playoff game.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 3/24/2013 11:49 PM
  3. by Divotking on 3/24/2013 11:50 PM
  4. Again Portland 22/53 = 41.5 % 2 points is too poor; 0KC did 54.9 %, that is 32 % better. And also a *very informative* data. OKC attempted 11/82 = 13.4 % 3 pointers; but Blazers attempted 26/79 = 32.9 %. A small percentage is here a clearly winning percentage.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 3/25/2013 2:00 AM
  5. Mike: Running out of gas is what it looked to me like, as the game was much closer then it appeared in the final score. I think tired legs effected our shooting way more then OKC's defense.

    @Divotking: Batum made KD so uncomfortable, that one time Batum slipped and fell while attempting to alter one of KD's shots, that according to the OKC's announcers, KD looked down at Batum and said, Please just stay down and they both were laughing going down the court.

    Nobody in their right mind would have given much of a chance for the Blazers to win, but with OKC worried about us, gave me hope. So I probably wasn't in my right mind either. A two win three loss road trip for this new team is still great. and I am still Proud to be a Blazer Fan

    by Hg on 3/25/2013 5:58 AM
  6. Balloon backed into a pin in the 4th quarter. A good effort overall though. A well rested Blazer team could have pulled this off the way they've played the last half of this trip.

    by Ancientone on 3/25/2013 7:31 AM
  7. okc is a tough team, they were at full strength and were playing at home. that's a real difficult thing to overcome; yet, we were right there for about 32 minutes. i typically would say that as professional players, there's really no excuse for exhaustion such as this, but even i'll agree that five games in seven nights is a horrid pace in the schedule.

    with a more reliable bench over that road trip, who knows how last night's game may have turned out. i'm going to chalk this one up to growing pains. we battled through most of the road trip and came back with about as good a result as we could have expected. i had hoped to come away with three wins over the past week, but i did predict we would drop last night's game. the hope was that we could have picked up our three (or four!) wins over the first four games.

    that being said, i think this team is better than its record. we lament here, and elsewhere, that had we beaten some of these sub-.500 teams to which we've lost, we would be on the inside of the playoff race looking out rather than on the outside looking in. i think there's merit to that.

    i'm by no means thinking we should throw in the towel to the season. the way i figure it, we've got up to nine games -- perhaps beyond -- to discover whether we will be mathematically eliminated. to me, that's a lot of time to make a playoff push. i guess what i'm saying is that, after these two days off, i'm really interested in seeing us make that push.

    one last note; huge props to Eric for outplaying Jackson in his return to okc last night. i wonder if the Thunder are thinking they might have traded the wrong guy (or, in our case, the right guy!).

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/25/2013 7:17 PM
  8. Do you guys remember when Rudy Fernandez set the rookie record for 3-pointers for a season when he hit 6 on the last game of the season against Denver to set a new record of 159 for the 2008-09 season? Then the next season (2009-10), Stephen Curry set the new rookie mark at 166 making Rudy's record short lived?

    Damian Lillard is on pace to erase Curry's record. He has 161 three-pointers and only needs 5 to tie Curry's record and has 12 games to do it. Lillard is actually on pace to hit 189 three pointers this season (rounded off 188.6 if you do the math) as Lillard is hitting 2.3 three-pointers-a-game.

    by Shem on 3/25/2013 9:27 PM
  9. I'm proud of OUR guys not only for this OKC game but also for what they've done all season :)

    @ Shem, thx for letting us know/reminding us 'bout Damian & his/nba 3's situation, just awesome! We've some1 incredibly special in Dame; he'll break more records in the future! :)

    by Simpson on 3/25/2013 11:24 PM
  10. Hi Mike Awesome Courtside Last night (Monday) You and Rice are awesome sorry you guys are on the road for Easter.. Go Blazers

    by LA 2012 on 3/26/2013 8:18 AM
  11. Shem;
    No way am I going to take anything away from Damian's accomplishments but the 3pt. shot is a major part of our current system. I hope he gets the record.
    For Rudy to hold the record under Nate is a feat in itself. Rudy is kind of a sad story. I think he had the skills to stay in the league. I felt what he lacked was the mental toughness.

    by Divotking on 3/26/2013 4:21 PM
  12. @Shem: i didn't realize Damian was so close to that. obviously it's a chunk of his offensive game. i'd say he at least ties the record or takes the record over the next two games. after that, it's all gravy. always appreciate these stats you bring to our attention. thanks!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/27/2013 8:01 AM
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