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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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