Trail Blazers vs Hawks Monday, 11/12/12 AT 07:00PM

Portland Plays First Of A Back-To-Back Against Deep Hawks

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    The Portland Trail Blazers (2-4) have struggled in their last few games to finish out there opponents. They have been within four points or ahead of their opponents in every fourth quarter. They’ve missed an open shot here, didn’t come up with a defensive stop there and now they face a deep Atlanta Hawks (2-3) team before they head to Sacramento to play the Kings tomorrow night. The game will tip-off on CSNNW at 7PM and on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    •    Nicolas Batum has said essentially the same thing after the last two home losses when asked what the Trail Blazers are missing: a 48-minute game. Portland has been great at times and at other times they’ve been very poor on both ends. When Portland is getting stops and their offense can get a running start, they are much more aggressive, putting pressure on other team’s defenses. They have shown flashes of how good they can be throughout their first six games but stringing together 48 minutes of good basketball has not happened since their season opening win against the Lakers.

    •    Speaking of Nicolas Batum, he has been on a tear in Portland’s last two home games. Batum is averaging 28 points over his last two games and has been affecting every aspect of the game by crashing the boards as well as getting into passing lanes. Batum is currently tied for fourth in the league in steals per game, averaging 2.7.

    •    Even in their season opening win against the Lakers we saw something that the Trail Blazers have yet to correct and that is allowing other teams to shoot a high-percentage. Through six games this season only one team, the Houston Rockets, has shot under 50% against Portland when they shot 34.6% in Portland’s overtime win in Houston. The Trail Blazers currently rank 29th in the league in opponents effective field goal percentage, surrendering an eFG% of 54.8% to opposing teams. Atlanta is another elite offense as they rank eighth in the league so far in effective field goal percentage at 49.8%. Atlanta has a variety of players that can score in many different ways in Al Horford, speedy point guard Jeff Teague, Josh Smith and Lou Williams. They also have a host of good three-point shooters like Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and so far this year, DeShawn Stevenson who leads them shooting 45% from three. Horford is a talented post player and Smith is an elite athlete who can force opposing defenses on their heels. The only time Smith isn’t like that is when he is settling for jumpers, something Portland will be very happy with if he chooses to do.

    •    Portland has continued to be very good at taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers. Portland’s turnover percentage is currently 4th in the league, turning it over on 12.3% of their possessions. Defensively, the Trail Blazers have been very opportunistic as opponents turn the ball over on 15.6% of possessions against them. However, Portland has not been able to translate the success they have forcing turnovers into overall good defensive performances.

    •    Atlanta’s depth may present problems for Portland. After the Hawks traded the monster contract of Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, they got much deeper. They also traded Marvin Williams to Utah and added solid veteran perimeter players in Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and Devin Harris. Also, by getting rid of Johnson they turned the keys to the offense over to their speedy point guard Jeff Teague. The Hawks offensively are very balanced and they do not have a single player averaging over 15 points per game. They are coming off consecutive losses against the Heat and Clippers heading into tonight’s game, which is the second game of a four-game west coast road trip. Portland has four players averaging over 15 points per game and their starting five averages double-figures, but the drop off comes when it comes to the bench unit. Meyers Leonard is the bench’s leading scorer averaging four points per game, most of which come on dunks.

    •    Could minutes become a concern? With Portland’s starters playing well and their bench unable to contribute offensively, Portland’s starters have been logging major minutes. Nicolas Batum leads the team averaging 39.5 minutes per game but the Damian Lillard (37.8), LaMarcus Aldridge (38.7) and Wesley Matthews (37.7) are all averaging over 37 minutes per game. JJ Hickson is the only member of the starting lineup averaging under 30 per game as he has been splitting minutes with Meyers Leonard, who leads the bench averaging 19 minutes per game. Although the starters have played well, as the season progresses wear and tear from playing so many minutes is something Portland must be weary of.

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