Trail Blazers vs Warriors Wednesday, 04/17/13 AT 07:00PM

Poor First Half Dooms Trail Blazers As They Fall 103-90

11/09/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers fell behind by 21 after the first half and despite a valiant effort in the second half ultimately fell 103-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers. Nicolas Batum led the way for Portland with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals on the night as well as excellent defense on Chris Paul in the second half to get the Trail Blazers back in the game.

    “We need to play for 48 minutes, not 24,” a tired Nicolas Batum said after the game.

    Portland came out guns a blazing in the first six minutes of the game. The Trail Blazers hit four of their first five shots and when the first timeout was taken with 5:56 left in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers were down two. What happened after was very simple: Portland could not get stops and their shots stopped falling at the rate they initially were.  Chris Paul was doing anything he wanted on the court, mostly getting to his midrange spots and knocking down jumpers with ease. The other concern for Portland was the play of DeAndre Jordan. On the second offensive possession for the Clippers, Jordan got into the paint and he hit a turnaround hook shot. It seemed that he was always in the painted area and he eventually finished with 21 points on eight of ten shooting.

    “He scored tonight.  He’s effective when he gets in the paint but he hit shots with the right-handed hook and he made his free-throws tonight. He got his dunks. He had seven or eight dunks against San Antonio last night. That’s what he does," said Terry Stotts.

    He continued to do it and it seemed Portland had no answer for him on the interior. The second quarter was when things continued to get worse for the Trail Blazers. Again, their offense lacked movement and the defense lacked any fight on any Clippers dribble. When the Clippers bench came in, things only seemed to get worse as Jamal Crawford was getting into the lane and hitting shots and Eric Bledsoe was bouncing around the perimeter and bothering every Trail Blazers ball-handler. It wasn’t that the Trail Blazers were sloppy, either, it just seemed that they lacked aggression on both ends. Defensively, the Trail Blazers have been one of the leagues worst in allowing opposing teams to shoot a high-percentage a trend, which continued tonight.

    “The shooting percentages in the first half were very disparate,” said Terry Stotts. “They shot close to 60 percent in the first half. They pretty much did what they wanted.”

    Blake Griffin continued his quiet scoring trend but it didn’t really matter. Nic Batum at one point missed eight straight shots despite leading the Trail Blazers in rebounds during that same stretch. Wesley Matthews who had been fairly steady had a two for seven first half and Portland’s bench had eight points in the first half so there was nobody that came in to off-set the bad shooting half from the starters. The Trail Blazers shot 34.9% in the first half and 30% from behind the line. However, the oddest part of the Trail Blazers shooting woes is it crossed over to the free-throw line. Coming into the game, the Trail Blazers were shooting 76.8% from the charity stripe and were six of 12 (50%) in the first half. That trend would only improve a little, as they were 19 of 30 on the night from the line (63.3%).

    “We had no energy, we went soft. I don’t what happened, maybe we’re tired, maybe we’re happy to be back home. Sometimes, when you are young team, that can happen after a long road trip,” said Batum.

    The second half was when things turned around and it started with the decision to put Nicolas Batum on the Clippers’ superstar point guard, Chris Paul.  Batum’s length visibly bothered Paul and Batum forced a few turnovers from the Clippers with his pressure. By putting Batum on Paul, the Trail Blazers got stops, which is key to how their offense operates.

    “We didn’t play any defense and we are a young team and we love to run. When you don’t play defense, when the other team shoots 60 percent in one half, we don’t run. We can’t score, ” said Batum.

    Portland’s defense forced four turnovers from the Clippers in the third quarter and also forced the Clippers to shoot a low percentage. The Clippers were seven of 19 from the field and 0 for three from beyond the arc. Batum also got back into the flow offensively, which helped a great deal as he scored 12 points in that quarter.  LaMarcus Aldridge also chipped in with six points. Damian Lillard also had a nice quarter hitting two threes in the quarter and getting three assists. Lillard finished the game with 16 points, four assists and three steals.

    The match-up between Lillard and Paul was the major match-up people talked about heading into the game. They went up against each other a few times and at times, at least defensively, Lillard could not keep up with Paul. Then again, very few point guards in the league can as Paul has more problems against players like Batum or Memphis’ Tony Allen.  Paul finished with 21 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.  However, Paul was very complimentary of the young point guard saying that “he can play” and that Portland had better hold on to the youngster.

    The Rose Garden crowd was behind the team the whole way and was big in helping the team maintain momentum. Behind Batum and Lillard’s play, the Trail Blazers cut the Clippers’ lead to six at 77-71 after entering the half down by 21.

    “We definitely had a let down but I think those guys got a boost of energy. And this is a tough place to play. I put this as one of the top-five toughest places to play in the NBA,” said Chris Paul.  

    Paul is one to be weary of the Rose Garden as he was part of a New Orleans team in his second season that lost a 26-point halftime lead to lose to the Trail Blazers. Paul remembered that game and made sure his teammates knew about the type of things that could happen in the Rose Garden.

    The fourth quarter was a battle. Portland’s starters needed to rest but they could not take out their key players. One bench player who did make a major contribution was rookie center Meyers Leonard. After a rough first quarter in which Stotts removed him from the game from running consecutive plays the wrong way, Leonard was a monster in the fourth. He had three roaring dunks including delivering an absolute facial on a good defensive center in the Clippers’ Ronny Turiaf.  However, it seemed that as hard as they tried, the Trail Blazers could not get over the hump. They cut the lead to as close as four but it seemed that the drastic comeback had taken too much out of them for them to close it out.

    “I think we got it to a point and it took a lot out of us and we weren’t able to make that next play,” said Damian Lillard.

    The next play never came for Portland.  Jamal Crawford closed things out for the Clippers as he scored 15 of his 25 points in the second half and had 11 in the fourth quarter. Crawford was how the Clippers were able to answer Stotts’ decision to put Batum on Paul and it was that, that eventually buried the Trail Blazers.

    Portland may have shot poorly to start but everything for this team begins with defense. If they can’t get stops and they can’t run, as Batum said, they can’t score.

    Portland’s next game is Saturday at home against the San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs were just blown out by the Clippers a night ago but are still one of the league’s most efficient offensive teams. Stopping the Spurs will be hard but if they want a chance to get out in the open floor where they are comfortable, Portland must get stops. That game will tip-off at 7 PM and will be shown on CSNNW and broadcast on radio on 1190 KEX and 102.3 FM.

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