mikebarrett

Nov 30

Blazers Suffer Nasty Loss

By mikebarrett Posted in: LaMarcusAldridge, Grizzlies, BrandonRoy, GregOden, NateMcMillan
It would be easy to make an attempt to point to just one thing that went wrong on Friday night at the Rose Garden, as the Blazers were upset by the Memphis Grizzlies 106-96. But, it seemed a perfect storm of problems derailed Portland early, and that was that. They did charge back, and cut it to 8 points in the fourth quarter, but it was way too little, way too late.

Going against the grain of opinion, I’m going to first give credit to Memphis. That doesn’t absolve the Blazers of responsibility, and we’ll get to that, but the Grizzlies earned this win.

They’ve been playing better, and with the addition of Jamaal Tinsley, have clutch scorers to rely on. They are the youngest team in the league (Portland is #3 on that list), but with Tinsley and Zach Randolph they’ve got a veteran presence in there late in games. There is some good talent in their first seven or eight, and I haven’t yet figured why they haven’t had more success this season. Maybe this is the kind of win that will jump start them. They should be a lot better than their record. But, I also understand that it usually feels that way after you lose to someone.

Now then, there’s nothing I can write in this short blog that can explain the Blazers falling behind a team like Memphis by 29 points in the first half (or falling behind by 29 to anyone, for that matter- especially at home). The amazing thing is, the Blazers didn’t initially get off to a bad start.

At the first timeout of the game, the Blazers had a 15-11 lead, and everything looked to be going as expected. They hit 6 of their first 12 shots, had 5 assists, were outrebounding Memphis 6 to 4, and only had one turnover. This was at the 5:43 mark of the first quarter. After that, and I mean immediately after that, things went south for the home team.

I can’t say I recall a 31-2 run, ever. The fact that it came on Portland’s home floor, at the end of a successful home stand, made it just about unthinkable. The Blazers went an astonishing 1 for 18 shooting during that run, and when it was over the score was 42-17. The lead would grow as large as 29 in the first half.

We say this all the time, but digging out of a deep hole takes so much energy. And, you basically have to dump the game plan you’ve worked on, and change what you are in order to try and mount a charge. Still, we saw Portland come from double-digits down 18 times last season to win, so we knew a run was coming. A run big enough to erase the damage that had been done in that first half? That was probably an unrealistic thought.

In the second half, the Blazers were doing good things, and it appeared momentum was starting to shift. But, most of the time they were simply trading baskets. As Brandon Roy stated after the game, it was like the team thought it could simply rely on offense to get them back in the game. Problem was, Memphis didn’t exactly go ice cold, and kept things in attack mode enough to hang on. I mean, 29 points is a big cushion.

The Blazers had the crowd behind them in the fourth quarter, as they made yet another charge. They had the Memphis lead chopped down to just 8 points, and had the ball, but turned it over. They would get no closer. The Grizzlies, in dramatic fashion, snapped an 8-game losing skid to the Blazers.

Nate McMillan was obviously frustrated following the game, and implied that he’s been concerned lately about energy and focus at home. It was at the start of the home stand we saw the Blazers build a 20-point lead on Detroit, only to see that lead shrink to 1, before holding on for the win. He was still shaking his head when I rode up the elevator with him after we'd arrived in Salt Lake City in the middle of the night. I know when to start a conversation, and when not to. I simply said, "get some sleep," knowing that was probably asking too much.

As much as McMillan talked of worrisome feelings going into this one, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins stated that after the morning shootaround he felt something positive was happening, and said he expected his team to show a ton of energy and confidence. So, evidently, this storm was brewing long before tip off.

To listen to Nate's post-game comments, click here.

Obviously, we're in Utah now, which isn’t a good place to ever look to get back on track. The Jazz just had their bad loss at home last week to Oklahoma City, and then responded by taking apart Chicago on Thanksgiving night. In other words, they’ve figured some things out. It won’t help that this will be a back-to-back situation for Portland, and that Roy played 42 minutes and Aldridge 45 on Friday.

As I said following the loss at Golden State a week ago, back-to-back situations are nice for only one thing- getting a bad taste out of your mouth in a hurry. It worked for the Blazers after that game. We’ll see if they’re able to pull that off again.

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