Nov 12

Hawks Jump On Top, Hold On

By mikebarrett
It was a much different game than we saw on Saturday night at the Rose Garden against San Antonio, but it doesn't matter in the end- it's still a loss.

I've often heard it mentioned that there's nothing more meaningless in a game than a first-quarter, double-digit lead.  Not that it really matters, but I've never agreed with that.  Too many times I've watched the opening minutes of a game not only set the tone, but be the story of the game.

Against Atlanta on Monday night, the Blazers were very sloppy with the basketball right out of the gates.  They spotted the Hawks a 9-0 run, and really, Portland never recovered.  Yes, they did battle back to take a lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a 15-2 run, but immediately handed control back to the Hawks, who ended up scoring the final 10 points of the game and won it 95-87.  

Saturday was a disappointing loss, but certainly explainable, as the Spurs are always tough to beat and simply won that ballgame.  Tonight, really for the first time this season, the Trail Blazers will say they lost this one.  They lost it by committing 20 turnovers, and by once again going silent offensively in the final minutes.

Unlike Saturday, Nic Batum, who was devastating with his late-game heroics against the Spurs, took only three shots in the final 12 minutes against Atlanta.  Still, he ended with 19 points and 7 rebounds, but very down in the locker room after the loss.  He simply said most of the plays late in the game were run for LaMarcus Aldridge, and he just didn't have the ball much.

Another story from Saturday, that didn't work out to be a factor tonight, was the fact that the Hawks shot only 44 percent.  The Blazers allowed the Spurs to shoot 57 percent, and even though the Hawks were lighting it up early, cooled down significantly as Portland's defense was much better.

Still, Portland shooting 5 of 23 in the fourth quarter of this one sealed a deal that started with that nine-point deficit early.

The loss ruined a fantastic night for J.J. Hickson.  I'll say it again, but you simply cannot ask more of Hickson than what he's he's given the Blazers this season.  All heart and scrap, and right now the heartbeat of this team.  Against the Hawks he had 19 points and a whopping 18 rebounds.  Rebounding, which we thought would be a huge issue before the season, wasn't for Portland for the second-straight game.  They outrebounded the Spurs, and lost.  They outrebounded Atlanta, and lost.

Bench points was lopsided once again, but that's just the way it's going to be on most nights.  I did think the bench was much more effective in this game, despite that fact that they didn't provide points.  Meyers Leonard was active in his 15 minutes.  Joel Freeland, despite going 0-5 from the field (I swear to you he's going to eventually start showing he's an effective outside threat), played much better defensively.  And, Ronnie Price stuck his nose into traffic and turned in a respectable effort.

We've said lately that the offense isn't the issue for Portland, it's the defense.  In this game, the opposite was true.  The defense improved, but the offense wasn't there.  The Blazers shot just 36 percent as a team.

But, it was the start of the game that spelled their doom against the Hawks.

The Trail Blazers will again look to end this skid when they take on the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday night. 

See you then.


  1. JJ played a great game. My belief is that for this season to go anywhere, Lillard has to emerge as a superstar and Nic has to play at the level of his contract. Neither really did that against the Hawks, and the result was predictable.

    Just a note that I'm watching the Phoenix halftime show on League Pass and they've got Channing Frye on there, doing a nice job. I always used to joke that Portland needed to keep him under contract so that he could take over for Rice when he retired as a player... I think the timing works out about right, eh?


    by Carrite on 11/12/2012 10:55 PM
  2. I sense the disappointment in everyone, and I wasn't in the Rose Garden, but I really have to say that I am by far not as frustrated as I thought I'd be after a pair of close home losses. I see a lot of hustle and effort out of our guys. Hickson spends more time above the rim than he does on the floor, and Batum is definitely playing at a different level -- one that I've been longing to see for ages. Lillard is an extremely good rookie, and I get such a joy out of seeing him succeed and struggle. I have never once thought "why isn't Wes trying harder", and I've been pleased with LA's defense (of all things) even if his offense hasn't caught fire just yet. Win or lose, this team is fun to watch. That's my opinion!

    by jsciv314 on 11/12/2012 11:14 PM
  3. Why are we calling so many plays all of a sudden? I thought Coach Stott was going to "let them play basketball" a lot this year. Play calling is OK at times, but, like tonight, it takes away from the naturalness and flow of the Blazers offense. For example, look how few times Nic Batum put the ball on the floor and tried to make something happen as opposed to Saturday against the Spurs? Also, when lots of plays are called, we don't push the ball up and try to get early offense, which has been successful in past games. Our starters are talented enough that we don't need to force anything to "get a guy going" like we tried to do with LA tonight. Just let the offense work!

    Of course, 10 fewer turnovers and we'd all be celebrating a win tonight...

    by dgpdx on 11/12/2012 11:35 PM
  4. The Blazers are LAST in fast break points, league wide...so much for a loose offense that runs. Of course, consistent tough D is supposed to spark that, but, well, it's obvious that's not happening yet.

    Found it interesting that almost every play late was for LA, on the block. Nic was hot in the 3rd, but they went away from him. Of course, he was not going inside and his jumper started to miss, but still...I guess I do feel a little frustrated that so far, no one has found a way to get Nic and LA to play well TOGETHER, just as it was always a failure to get Nic and Wes to have good games at the same time (still true btw!)

    I just love that the calls for Wesley to be moved just keep getting louder! Everyone needs a scapegoat I guess :) Would love to know your opinion on that particular point Mr. Barrett! Recognize Wes is probably the most movable asset, but really, how realistic is making that kind of move when you're not likely to get a significant "upgrade" in exchange?

    Anyway, good to see more improvements in this game, despite the loss. Hope everyone is starting to scale back their expectations again :)

    by SisillaRiann on 11/12/2012 11:47 PM
  5. It seems like everyone is tip-toeing around the fact that Damion Lilliard had a very bad night and it cost the Blazers the game. He had twice as many turnovers as assists, led the team in shots taken (and misses), scoring fewer points, with a poorer percentage, than any other starter. He also got to the free throw line--How many times?--oh, yes: zero. He seems confident in his shot, even when it's not going in, but I don't know how confident he will be on the other end, now that he's found himself subbed out for the sake of Ronnie Price's defense. But until he shows that he can guard someone, sometime, you've got to expect the coach to be a little leery of his D.
    I don't mean to imply that Damino was solely responsible for the loss. Wes and LaMarcus shot badly too. LA and Nic both had an inexcusable number of turnovers. And even hardworking Hickson fumbled the ball away a few times and was inconsistent on defense. And Meyers got lost out there several times, and Freeland missed all his shots and Pavlovic spent his minutes as though he was in a witness protection program, keeping a very low profile indeed. I understand that it will take time for this team to get sorted out, but when the shots aren't dropping and the other team is running the ball back at us, the game is awfully unpleasant to watch. But as always there are consolations in the guys who brought us the game, and really appreciate MB pushing his voice to the limit to bring us the call--he's always so much better than the network clowns, who seem to think that actually calling the game is beneath them--and hope he's got something left for tomorrow. I thought for sure he'd head straight to bed this time, crashing to try to recover from the bug, but instead he gets in another post. It's not just players who are showing up to play hard in spite of illness. Hope to see broadcast crew and team doing better tomorrow.

    by David Maclaine on 11/13/2012 1:12 AM
  6. Hey Mike: Slow at getting to my computer tonight.
    Kassandra stated that the Wild One on twitter was saying that we should abandon our offensive work for better and better defense. She stipulated that she strongly disagreed with him probably for the first time, and I agreed to the extent that we need better D but not at the expense of our offense. Where it is often brought out that a good offense is created by a good defense, which is true, but everybody including you and the Wild One, evaluates % and not steals or rebounds to a good defense; I say to heck with the % as long as we are in the game and playing hard. If you spend all your energy cutting down the number of shots a great shooter makes and lose focus on the important things, like winning. Oh ya, we cut down their % in the second half and still lost by about the same amount as we were behind when the % was high.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not angry at you are the team, it is just that the team is new, team D is hard to achieve and even said by you and the Wild One that it takes sometimes up to a year or even more for team D to be effective because of chemistry. I must point out that this team is brand new, the coach is brand new and the direction is brand new, but now all thinks that our team stinks on D and now O. So I stipulate as Kassandra does, getting better D at the expense of the O isn't the way to go. Play your game and let the D come, the wins and losses will be about the same in either case, and the game is much more enjoyable for the spectators and the players.
    I heard the Wild One say before the season started that although LaMarcus may enjoy playing offense from all over the court he would be much better playing low post, I agree, but if playing low post is not LaMarcus' game then it is for not. Wheels and Tone made a point that since Wesley and Nic has been working on their low post games, let LaMarcus roam and let one of them post up. It would surely be worth a try.

    I Love the two Mikes, I love the Blazers, and of yet they are not disappointing me. After the first six games of hard work and over achieving, they are entitled to an off night to a team that is not in the West. Bad timing for sure, but the team is guilty of losing games they are supposed to win and win games they are supposed to lose. In fact I have stated many times, and I am not trying to blow my own horn, that the wins and losses isn't as important to me this year as just keeping their heads in the game and being competitive and in that respect I am surely not disappointed.
    Wow! I best shut up Ancientone doesn't need to put on weight that fast,
    JYP300; See you at bowling tonight. I didn't get to watch the game, so you can fill me in.
    Go Blazers

    by Hg on 11/13/2012 3:31 AM
  7. well, i was about to further explain my position from my previous comment in relation to last night's game, but my friend Hg already has!

    over the past few blog comments, i've tried to offer up solutions -- and i remain solid to those -- but there comes a time when someone needs to be pulled aside for not getting it done. our defense is largely pathetic and what's sad is that we know these guys are capable of playing defense.

    i don't look at an opponent's fg percent as the best indicator of whether we're playing good defense. You can hold someone to 30 percent, but if you're allowing a lot of second- and third-chance points, it's going to go for not. rebounds, steals, blocks and creating turnovers are much better indicators of how a defense is performing (i will say, fg percent is a stat by which i guage an offensive performance though - i.e. indicator of taking high percentage shots).

    the problem is, our head coach is lost when it comes to defensive preparation. that much is abundantly clear. of course, how could we have ever known that hiring an offensive-minded coach would lead to horrid defensive preparation? relax all, Kassandra is being rhetorical. truth is, we should have known that a defense under Stotts would be this pathetic. i don't expect that to change for the remainder of the season.

    i had tried to want to give Stotts a chance, and i still do, but the truth is, i felt something like this coming from the day he was hired. for those of you who remember me saying i was skeptical about his hire but wasn't completely clear as to why, it is now coming into focus. the direction and motivation just aren't there and it's affecting both ends of the court.

    enough negativity for now.

    J.J. could get me to back off my stance of swapping he & Meyers in the starting 5 after hard work like that last night. that was absolutely. i didn't draw the connection until after the game, but i'd notice yesterday afternoon where he'd tweeting some tough and challenging (& somewhat incoherent) comments. i actually thought he may be losing it. turns out maybe he was just psyching himself up. i look forward to more of those tweets!

    honestly, i'm unsure where to go from here, but i do know it has to start with Stotts, for as most of us have heard before, players are a reflection of their coach. right now, for this team, that is not a good thing.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/13/2012 7:27 AM
  8. I don't worry about Matthews. The people in charge of this team and making basketball decisions know exactly what his value is to the team. He's not going anywhere. Pay attention Blazer fans. When Matthews is not in the game our defense is like swiss cheese. He is a Ron Artest minus the prozac.
    LMA worked the post last. I like it. Despite missing the two free throws with the game on the line. I like him at the elbow early in the game. It gives everyone else involved. Late in the game get to the free throw line.
    We were sloppy with the ball. Too many turnovers.

    by Divotking on 11/13/2012 7:38 AM
  9. My take:
    1. Poor shooting and too many turnovers lost this game. Don't blame the bench. The starters were in the tanked too.
    2. LA needs to power to the basket and lay it up or dunk it. I am sick of his fade aways.
    No second chance shots with that fade away shot.
    3. They all need to watch some old 4th Q footage from the BRoy days and see how to take charge in the 4th Q.
    4. Why do we have so many miserable first quarters. We are always trying to recover.

    by allie-oop on 11/13/2012 10:18 AM
  10. If we continue to play the starters the minutes we are we will be needing to make an appeal to the Red Cross for relief for the disaster right around the corner.

    by Ancientone on 11/13/2012 11:36 AM
  11. @David: i wouldn't put this loss completely on one player (& certainly not on J.J. at all). there were a number of issues -- such as turnovers and defensive lapses for which the responsibility must be shared. i actually thought Nicolas played generally well, but most of the rest of the guys seemed to be somewhere else. the turnovers especially really hurt us in the first half and i think ultimately led to the loss.

    @Divotking: with all due respect, declaring Wesley is not going anywhere and him actually not going anywhere are two entirely different things. his hustle is good, but he's behind the curve on his defensive ceiling. many games his defense is average and he is often a liability on offense. granted, i was never impressed with his signing (seemed more like a stab at Utah rather than gaining a quality player). i really just don't see him in long-term championship plans, and i've actually felt that since the day he was signed. (as a matter of fact, i said so on this very blog). as with all of my skepticisms regarding the Blazers, i hope to be proven wrong. unfortunately, Wesley has yet to do so. Olshey is going to be active in building this team. of that i am confident. that makes nearly anyone -- including Wesley -- expendable. so as i said, claiming he is staying and him actually staying are two entirely different things.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/13/2012 11:39 AM
  12. Kassandra: I could have sworn I made the same point you did about sharing the blame, and pointed out the failings of all the starters. But it seems to me that when the big problems are turnovers and missed shots you have to look at the point guard--responsible for running the offense--and the guy who missed the most shots, and in this case they were the same guy. It's no big deal; he's a rookie and we knew there would be bad games along the way. But I'd hate to have us start this early with the syndrome that we got with Brandon Roy, where he was so admired--for good reason--that no one wanted to talk about his shortcomings. The misses and turnovers played a huge part in this loss, but they're not what worries me about the future. Lilliard's defensive struggles on the other hand...
    I'd agree, by the way, that Wesley seems like the kind of player a most championship teams would have as a quality back-up, a guy to bring in when you need extra D and energy, rather than a big-minute regular. But I can remember champions from a few decades back who did have similar guards as regulars.
    I'm not sure why we "should have known" that a Stotts team would play bad defense. The approach is new and a lot of players are too. The "jump out and then run back" approach to pick-and-roll defense is failing more than I'd like, but at least I understand what the plan is. I never could figure out the theory of Nate's P&R defense, except that you fight through the pick when you can and hope the help arrives when you can't. It wasn't exactly a sterling success, so I'm fine with giving the new approach a chance.
    By the way, the biggest preparation problem in this game seemed to be that while the announcers knew all about the way Atlanta jumps the passing lanes, the players seemed astonished when it happened. That's a failure in offensive, not defensive preparation.

    by David Maclaine on 11/13/2012 1:37 PM
  13. Can't believe I blanked out on the last post and forgot about Nate's plan A on the pick-and-roll: the switch. I blame post-traumatic stress syndrome, the sheer horror of all those mismatches, the opposing guards looking like the cat that ate the canary when they saw that a big man was on them, waiting to be carved up. It has all come tumbling back to me, when what I most wanted was to forget. The horror, the horror.

    by David Maclaine on 11/13/2012 2:05 PM
  14. Kass;
    I've read you posts. You've made it clear what you think about Matthews. On that topic we disagree. Go Ducks !
    David Maclaine;
    Yes Matthews is a player that is from the past. He will do the hard work. He will play defense with his feet. He will do anything the team needs to win. He is not a star at the 2. He will be a backup the last half of his career. Yes every championship team needs one Matthews. They are hard to find in a league full of players that want the rock and the spotlight.

    by Divotking on 11/13/2012 4:52 PM
  15. It was one game, early in the season, with several new faces. Enough said.

    by dgpdx on 11/14/2012 1:31 AM
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