Dec 08

The four-game road trip started in New York city on Monday night, and started with a frustrating loss to the Knicks, who have now won four of their last five. They've posted some impressive victories as of late- drilling Phoenix by 27, and winning in Atlanta- and they'll certainly add this win to their list.

But, as much as New York is looking at the past week as a turning point in their season, clearly the Trail Blazers are facing a similar fork in the road. It's a long season, but given all that has happened in the last few days, there is reason for concern. I probably didn't really need to state that, and it's difficult to determine exactly how much should be made of this loss.

This was the first game, of the rest of the season, without Greg Oden. Rudy Fernandez was watching the game on TV back in Portland, and so was head coach Nate McMillan, who will miss the remaining three games on this trip. Was the team as emotionally shell shocked as they looked on Monday night? Should we have expected this? And, most importantly, will they be able to bounce back after repeated shots to the midsection?

The optimistic way to look at this, is to remember that this was the adjustment game. Early in this game we talked about the mental state of this team, and how it's understandably fragile right now. If it's one thing we've learned in the past couple of seasons, it's that this team usually finds a way to circle the wagons and push on. Perhaps more now than ever before, it's time to get busy winning, or get busy losing. I'm not sure if we're truly at that crossroads yet, but we're about to find out.

Brandon Roy scored 27 points against the Knicks, and was able to bounce back from a cold spell, and put up solid numbers. LaMarcus Aldridge battled his way to a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Jerryd Bayless scored 14 points, and give terrific energy off the bench, but played only 17 minutes. As far as the positives go, that was about it.

Traditionally, when this team shoots 47 percent, and out rebound their opponent, they win. But, they turned the ball over 19 times. If you know me, you know I don't ever pay much attention to turnovers. I simply don't think they are as big a factor as others do. The issue here is shots attempted. When you're attempting only 66 shots in a game, then 19 turnovers is a devastating number. If you're attempting 80 or 90 shots, you can live with 19 turnovers.

I haven't even done all the math on this, but of those 66 shots attempted against the Knicks, how many were taken out of desperation with the shot clock winding down? Isn't a shot taken under those conditions just as bad as a turnover? I don't think there's any question about that.

I'm not suggesting the Trail Blazers drastically change their approach to the offensive end. But, something has to change. They have got to find a way to get more shot attempts, and easier, more quality looks.

The defense has taken some hits lately, as we've talked a lot about the field goal percentage this team has allowed. This game was odd from that standpoint. They actually only allowed the Knicks to shoot 41 percent. When this team holds its opponents to the low 40s, it usually wins. But, when you allow 13 three pointers you can throw that 41 percent number completely out the window.

It was the first time Brandon and LaMarcus lost at Madison Square Garden, as Portland had beaten the Knicks five-straight times. It also got this trip started on a sour note. They reason this team has been so good on these long trips in the past couple of years, is they've gotten the first game on these trips. Now, it's a chance to rebound on Wednesday against the Pacers in Indiana.

The Blazers will only have nine players available once again, and get used to that. It's very likely that help isn't on the way. We are what we are right now. In my opinion, the Blazers are better than that they showed on Monday, and I'm willing to take into account the mental hangover that most likely was a huge factor in this one. But, I know it's going to ask a lot of you to extend that many more times.

Given all that we know, what are you hoping to see? More shots? More running? More Jerryd Bayless? All of the above? Again, I don't want to read too much into this trip, as it's an adjustment period, but this could very well be a defining period in what has been a very difficult season so far.


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