Looking at the box score
from Sunday night’s loss to the Nuggets, it doesn’t look as if the Trail Blazers offense was the problem. They scored 106 points, with is usually more than enough for a team like the Blazers. They shot a ridiculous 56 percent from the three-point line, primarily due to both Rudy Fernandez
(4-4 from three) and Jerryd Bayless
(3-3 from three) shooting 100 percent from beyond the arc. And they got to the line 36 times, with is 11 more than their season average. In a vacuum, Sunday’s game was a nice offensive night for the Trail Blazers.
But what suffices in a vacuum doesn’t fair nearly as well against a Denver team that averages better than 107 points per game. The Nuggets can score with any team in the league, what is a perennial question mark for the Mile-Highers is defense, though those questions are becoming less prominent, as the nationally televised audience saw on Sunday. While the likes of Fernandez (14 points), Bayless (24 points) and Andre Miller (19 points) all had better than average scoring outputs, the team’s leading scorers, Brandon Roy
and LaMarcus Aldridge
, struggled to deal with constant double-teams from the Denver defense, resulting in below average offensive night’s for Portland’s cornerstones.
Seeing a myriad of double-teams isn’t anything new for either player, especially Aldridge, who is double-teamed in the post or on the baseline by every team in the league.
“Every team is double-teaming, so I know it’s coming,” said Aldridge. “But teams do it different ways and they start giving you different looks so you can never really get comfortable with it.”
Roy, despite being the better player, doesn’t see as many double-teams, possibly because it’s a bit trickier to double on the perimeter, but late in games when Roy is the Blazers primary scorer, opposing teams will frequently send another defender in an attempt to force the ball out of Roy’s hands.
The Nuggets, however, sent double-teams at both Aldridge and Roy throughout the entire game, with a great deal of success.
“Teams are going to (double-team Aldridge and Roy),” said Nate McMillan. “It’s no different than us trying to double-team Carmelo (Anthony) (Sunday) night and double-team Nene. When you do that, your weakside has to knock down shots. We know that’s going to happen. Teams are not going to let Brandon and LaMarcus play, and our weakside got to be able to knock down shots.”
Aldridge was near his season averages in points and attempts versus Denver, but was never able to get into any kind of rhythm, making just three of his eight first half attempts.
“Last night they clogged,” said McMillan. “What they’re doing is squeezing those guys, in a sense, showing them a crowd. They’ve got to look for opportunities to be aggressive but if two are committed to them they’ve got to pass the ball and trust their teammates.”
While it might not be Aldridge’s preference, drawing the double-team isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Trail Blazers offense. But the only way to make opposing teams pay for double-teaming is to make the right pass, which is still a work in progress.
“I don’t turn it over, so I think I’m doing a pretty basic job,” said Aldridge of his ability to deal with double teams. “When I get really good at it I’ll start finding guys for easy shots. But I think right now I’m just OK at it. I’m not bad, but I’m not finding guys for easy shots.”
Passing to the open man is only part of the battle for Roy. He’s accustomed to swinging the ball when the double-team comes, but as Roy explains, it’s not just about whom you’re passing to, it’s also about when you’re passing.
“I’ve got to be more patient with the double teams, even let it come to me a little bit more so that way my teammates can get open,” said Roy. “Instead (against Denver) when I seen it coming I was kicking it too quick. I’ve got to do a better job of playing with a double-team.”
Which is why the McMillan used much of Monday’s practice sending double-teams at Roy in anticipation for Tuesday night’s game against the Kings.
“Coach was trying to double me as much as possible, and I feel good with it,” said Roy. “I feel like I got in a good rhythm trying to drag the double-team, hold it long enough and not let it speed me up. It was good that I got to work on that.”