Dec 02

Defense Blamed For Another Loss

By mikebarrett Posted in: GregOden, BrandonRoy, Grizzlies, Jazz, Rockets, Heat, NateMcMillan
There are some very troubling stats from the last three games for Portland fans. Some of the stuff is hard to believe, and some of it is pretty explainable. For me, the most amazing thing to consider is that the Trail Blazers haven't held a lead in a game in the last 11 quarters. It's actually over 11 quarters, and can be traced back to the loss to Memphis, when the Grizzlies went on that incredible 31-2 run.

Right before the Memphis game, the Blazers had won three in a row. They blew out Minnesota 106-78, Chicago 122-98, and then got past an inspired New Jersey team 93-83. Portland grabbed an early lead over Memphis, and then the run happened. The Blazers missed 17 of 18 shots during that stretch, and trailed 45-17 on their home floor, when the run was finally snapped.

The only reason I bring up that game, and that run, is because that's when all of this seemed to start. Can that be true? Listening to the players, even before that run, nothing was feeling exactly right. Could it be that the run Memphis put on them really caused some major cracks in this team's confidence to develop? Are we still seeing a hangover from that 10-minute stretch of basketball?

All of this is probably a stretch, but you go searching when you see a team fall so far out of character. The good news is (and you know this is true if you've been around this league) it can snap back in just as fast as it went sideways. I think we're all ready for that to happen.

On Tuesday night at the Rose Garden we saw similar breakdowns, and some of the same issues come up that have troubled this team in the last several games. In particular, they dug themselves an early hole and made it an uphill battle the rest of the night. In the past three games the Blazers have been outscored in the first quarter 93-60. That's not exactly setting the table for success.
Against the Heat, the Blazers kept battling, and I don't think the effort can be questioned. Everything just looks so difficult right now, and nothing is coming easy. Even after halftime, when this team usually responds so well, they couldn't mount a charge that really threatened Miami's lead. The Blazers shot just 32 percent in the second half, and really the final score (107-100) is as close as the game was in the second half.

If it's true that defense creates offense (and that's true in this system), then I guess we've hit on the issue. The numbers back that up. The Blazers allowed Memphis to shoot 54 percent. Utah shot 61 percent on Saturday. Miami, averaging 45 percent for the season, shot 54 percent in this game.

Also, I can't remember a time when Portland beat a team so badly on the backboards, yet lost decisively. The Blazers outrebounded Miami 49-34. Greg Oden finished the game with 13 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. He had 11 offensive rebounds, an incredible number. I guess when you shoot 39 percent there are a lot of rebounds to be had, but he still was a beast in the middle.

We've talked of all the adjustments this team has had to make this season, and Tuesday night, when they could afford it least, lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a bruised knee. It's been bothering him for several days, and Tuesday morning he realized he wouldn't be able to go. Rookie Dante Cunningham got the start in his place.

Now then, this is a terrific time for Portland to get their first three-day break of the season. However, it'll only be a break in terms of them not having any games. They'll be getting some much-needed time on the practice floor, something you don't get much in the hectic NBA schedule.

Saturday night they'll once again get the chance to right the ship at home, where they've now lost four games this season. They lost only seven times at home in all of last season. They host the Houston Rockets for the third time this season on Saturday.

After that game, it won't get any easier. Monday a four-game road trip starts in New York, where the Knicks beat Phoenix by 27 on Tuesday night. The trip will then take us to Indiana, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.

To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments following the loss to Miami, click here.
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