mikebarrett

Mar 30

Leonard Stars in Portland's Loss

By mikebarrett
You never like getting to the point of the season where moral victories become your headlines. But, unfortunately, that time is here.  The playoff race will continue in the west, and especially for that eighth and final spot, but for the Trail Blazers, there are only nine games left this season. The fact that they made it nearly to April, while still being in the conversation, was probably unexpected, and therefore it's a positive, but conceding they will not going into the final handful of games with a chance to be among the top eight is still disappointing.

With that in mind, the future is what we'll be talking about a lot in our final games of the season, and we got a nice glimpse of it on Saturday night in Oakland.  

We all know what the Blazers have in Damian Lillard.  He will be the Rookie of the Year, and he's surpassed all expectations.  Point guard is perhaps the most important position in basketball, and Portland's future is bright in that department.

It's now looking more and more like their other lottery pick will also factor into the long-term plans.  That's not exactly going out on a limb, as Meyers Leonard would have had to show much more than he has already to be given the benefit of the doubt, but showing what he has as of late has been very positive.  Perhaps, to some, it's even been a relief.

The Blazers, as a team, clearly need LaMarcus Aldridge, and to ask them to consistently beat playoff teams without him was probably wishful thinking.  They probably should have beaten Utah on Friday in Portland without him, but to think they'd be able to survive the Warriors, in Oakland, without their all-star, was asking too much.

But, without Aldridge, Leonard was allowed to play 41 minutes and was given the opportunity to reap a little reward for all of his hard work this season- even if it came in a loss.  He's a team guy, so don't look for him to stick his chest out after a performance like he had against the Warriors, but I'm sure, in his own way, he's proud and, perhaps like you, is a bit relieved.  

Leonard went for a career-high 22 points, and a career-high 10 rebounds in Portland's 125-98 loss.  The Blazers got off to a decent start in this game, and were competitive until midway through the second half, so it wasn't like Leonard simply produced against a second unit.  He played solid defense, was active, was a presence, and took advantage of his chances on offense. That's what was most pleasing.

Meyers showed his ability to run the court, change shots on defense, finish at the rim, and show his shooting range, even hitting his first-career three pointer.

He'll continue to get his opportunities, as the final games of the season will present plenty of additional opportunities for him to display his growth.  Consistency will be his next hurdle. Leonard will be in the starting lineup on Monday when the Blazers take on the Jazz in Utah, and that frontline will challenge him in a much different way than the Warriors' did.

As for the other Blazers against Golden State, Damian Lillard was the focal point of the Warrior defense, and that's not going to change for him anytime soon.  With no Aldridge threatening the inside, defenses will continue to make life very difficult on Lillard on the perimeter.  To his credit, he still posted 16 points and 8 assists on Saturday.

Also, JJ Hickson picked up another double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.  It was his 40th double-double of the season, a remarkable feat.

There are only three road games to go for the Blazers, and this trip will continue on Monday in Utah.

Talk to you then.

 

11 Comments

  1. Lets all remember his true age. He is a youngster. He will get bigger. He will learn to keep his feet on the floor. In the years ahead, what all successful vets do is work on their game seriously in the offseason. If Meyers does that he will be alright.
    Lets throw Barton in the starting line-up for a couple games. Let him know those are his minutes and see what he does.
    It has been an entertaining season. Finish strong.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 3/31/2013 7:35 AM
  2. The team with so much potential...
    Loved to see Leonard have this success.
    Please keep JJ. He is truly the energy of this team.
    God knows, we need some energy.

    by allie-oop on 3/31/2013 8:16 AM
  3. Ho Mike:
    We all know what we have in Dame, but listening to GSW announcers, they interviewed Payton in regards to home grown Dame and Payton said this summer he will work with Lillard on his defense as his offense was already excellent. So I feel we can see more improvement on D next year from Dame.

    It is never to late for moral Victories when our All-Star is out and we are desperate against high scoring against a high scoring team. What I saw in Leonard was very exciting. If he too works on his D this summer that will be a Factor.

    I am sure Batum will play for France this summer, but I would like to see him take the summer off and rest his wrist.

    I know Wesley will get treatment for his ankle and elbow again and continue his improvement with his handles and drives to the basket. I thought that was another moral Victory last night.

    I am excited to see what new LMA will bring as he does every summer. He does like that Elbow jumper, but I read a article by him that said, he was watching film and was trying to figure out how to beat the double teams and as he watched the film he realized that he was doing exactly what the opponents was playing him for. That is when he started taking it to the rim. So I am looking for better and more Pick and Rolls instead of pick and Pops, and more dribble drives with better passing out of dbl teams, which will give him more assist.

    I believe Clavor is a keeper, I like Joel to, but don't know what the FO has in store for him. I feel JJ and Maynor are keepers if we can afford them, but I feel it would cost just as much to replace JJ and still not get a better player.

    The GSW announcers also said they resented PDX rich owner and the space cap we have because they have been looking hard at Jarrett Jack. Maybe I am just wanting a lot of JJ,

    by Hg on 3/31/2013 10:53 AM
  4. Here are Meyers Leonard's highlights for those who are interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfcPpHa3EOE

    by Shem on 3/31/2013 12:42 PM
  5. Hg;
    You made some interesting points. I always like to hear your view from the opposing team announcers. NBA TV is blacked out here when the Blazers are on. Comcast has a strangle hold on the Blazers. I hope someday that changes and you will be able to watch your Blazers more often.
    You have always proclaimed yourself NOT a basketball guru. It's about time you shed that title my friend.
    April 10, LAL on KGW. April 16, LAC on TNT. I'll see you then.

    by Divotking on 3/31/2013 4:40 PM
  6. Hg;
    There are two more in April I missed.
    April 7,DAL on KGW.
    Last game of the year April 17, GS on KGW.

    by Divotking on 3/31/2013 4:48 PM
  7. MB, i'm glad you highlighted Meyers' big night. it's nice to see him taking advantage of his time on the court. i think he's shown signs that he can be the center we need eventually. obviously, there are going to be some more learning to do, but at this point that's only going to come with minutes on the court. my hope is that he can reflect on his rookie year over the summer and work on those defensive areas of the game to become a more complete and consistent player.

    i suspected we might have a bit of a lackluster performance after I saw some quotes from a couple of the guys yesterday; specifically, the ones where they admitted they were out of the playoff race. for the life of me, i don't know how a coach throws in the towel with 10 games left. not a quality coach, at least, and not until your team is absolutely mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. to be honest, with an attitude like that, i don't much expect us to win another game this season -- perhaps with the exception of the Lakers game on the 10th. regardless of what is going on with our season, we always seem to get up for those games.

    what i do expect to see is a lot of the younger guys. mind you, i don't expect guys like JJ, Wesley and Damian to not play their regular games, though maybe a few fewer minutes. while i'm looking forward to seeing the younger guys compete, i'd still like to see us at least try and win some games.

    i was not prepared to throw in the towel on the season quite yet, but knowing that Stotts has, i guess it's just time to resolve ourselves to the fact that, other than some exhibition-type games, the season is over.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/31/2013 5:05 PM
  8. @Hg: i suppose with your affinity for JJ's, you'll want us to hold on to Jared as well!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/31/2013 5:06 PM
  9. It often happens, whatever the language is, we stumble upon the insufficience of words. A team has always to play well. But to say a team is "mathematically eliminated" from the playoffs in Spanish as well as in English or French is to say there is nohing more to do whatever a team and all other teams do. The adverb mathematically is taken here as inevitable while we pretend rather mathematics to be the art -not really the science; better the art- of real; of what is possible, but neither philosophically nor materially inevitable. Materially would be a slightly better word.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 4/1/2013 3:34 AM
  10. @Kassandra, I was thinking of Jared; he is a great fit to the team, he is a good mentor to the young, and he can still play defense and get charges. As LMA says: "he has to take charges because he can't jump" LOL.

    Like you, I don't know what the decision for who to keep and who not to keep.

    I don't think we have a chance at making the play-offs, but I do think we have lots of good BB to play and now put some of the bench in that I think will stay to start giving them more PT. The GSW announcers says, that our draft pick is top 12 protected, and we are number 12 at this point. Do you feel the Blazers will try to lose games in order to stay at 12 or lower? doesn't that mean that if we get from no 1 pick to no.12 pick we get to keep it?
    I don't think they will throw games, but play the bench more and hopefully play competitive;

    by Hg on 4/1/2013 7:56 AM
  11. @Divotking: I am sorry, but I still feel like I am not a guru of BB. I just get my info from BB guru's. You might say we need to play better D and I would agree, but would have no idea how to set it up where we could. I can see when the Blazers want to play D they are awfully good; I would not know how to jab them in the butt to make them produce more. Also, our team is offensively orientated; everybody was preaching about not giving up 50+% to opponents, but we were winning, when the team made an effort to slow down the opponents we still gave up a high percentage and our offense suffered; Mike B says that we need to find a way to keep our offense and our defense about even, but I wouldn't have a clue to how to do that. I do understand that the longer a team plays together the better the team D gets, but there is no way IMO, that you can speed that process up other then countless games. then the synergy will take over, To me Synergy means the whole team is better then the sum of it parts; On offense, I feel Lillard does that for us, but Defense is completely opposite.So I say keep the offense going full force and just let the D catch up later, whether then try to force synergy.

    I also feel confused about the bench. they play pretty good D but can't shoot great. which to me is about the opposite of the starting five, but the critique of the starting 5 is they don't play D and the critique of the bench is they don't play O. The way I see it both the bench and the starters has parts of the team that can play both, as Nic ans Wesley plays great D but it effect their O.

    All that means to me that I am not a BB guru, because I see we have a really good team, but need time to gel, but I don't have the foggiest idea of how to do that, When I say keep our players we have, because the are developing chemistry, and everybody tells me I am just a terrible homer, which I am, and the way to get a better team is to trade our parts off for somebody else's parts and we end up with no chemistry and little improvement. Of course that is with exception, I feel the Price, maynor trade was great, because Maynor is younger and Price was plagued with ankle problem that takes time to heal.

    OK, I am not a guru, but I sure like talking Blazers; Plus I am keeping Ancietone on the pudgy side.

    by Hg on 4/1/2013 8:23 AM
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