As the team heads out on the road I’ll share my thoughts on the highs and lows of each quarter and their importance to the game, team and season going forward. Let’s discuss!
Road Review: Back On Track In New Orleans
By sarahhecht Posted in: Blazers, Pelicans
PORTLAND 84, NEW ORLEANS 77
Loved: Points in the paint
The Trail Blazers attacked the paint to open the game. Sixteen of Portland’s 20 points came from close range. Kurt Thomas was 3-of-3, Gerald Wallace was 3-of-6 and Nicolas Batum rounded out the scoring punch shooting 2-of-2.
What makes the paint scoring even better? New Orleans was limited to just two points in the zone.
Loathed: LaMarcus Aldridge’s shooting
It’s not often any aspect of LA’s game makes me cringe, but the opener of today’s contest in New Orleans wasn’t a pretty one for him. He shot 1-of-6 from the field for two points, yanked down three defensive rebounds and failed to make it to the free throw line even once. Needless to say, he didn’t play like the LA we all know, so I'm not too worried on this front.
Loved: Nicolas Batum
For the second game in a row Batum has gotten to work and for the second game in a row it’s made all the difference. He only shot 1-of-4 in the quarter, but still led the team in scoring with six points. His hit from long range was a boost, as many are, and he got to the line twice and nailed three buckets. Nice contributions to his 19-point and 6-rebound day.
Loathed: Shot selection
Yikes. I wasn’t impressed with the decisions heading into the half. You’d never have guessed we played an inside game in the first judging by the shot selection in the second. Last-second shots late in the clock were forced up from the outside. Only two shots were taken in the paint, five from mid-range and eight from deep. Not balanced at all.
Loved: Energy, ball movement
The Trail Blazers came out looking like a different team in the second half. Whatever Nate McMillan—or whoever led the halftime chat—said, it worked. The guys ran the floor, moved without the ball, passed and had far better shot selection than in the first half. It was a massive improvement in many departments.
Loathed: Zero fast break points
The guys ran in the third, but didn’t finish any points on the break. This brings up the bigger issue of a lack of rebounding and pushing into transition. Portland was out-rebounded again in this game. When you’re trying to push the tempo you have to win on the boards. It’s a key ingredient to making running an advantage and not just a race down the floor.
Loved: Maintaining control down the stretch
Being comfortable in a lead is an underrated feeling. I love a close game down the stretch as much as the next fan, but today, what I needed was a comfortable lead. After dropping two in a row to start the trip this team needed to get a win with a solid lead. The 17-point lead held at the beginning of the quarter dwindled significantly in the final three minutes, but even so, late minutes of the game didn’t feel as if they were slipping away. The Trail Blazers maintained control down the stretch, an important skill for a team to have.
That security is a good feeling. One I’d be happy to feel more often.
Loathed: Zero free throw attempts
Failure to get to the charity stripe even once in the fourth quarter is bad. Portland only visited the line for 15 shots through four quarters while New Orleans racked up 28 attempts.
This stat speaks to multiple aspects of the game, aggressiveness being the most important. And in a closer game this stat can make it or break it. The guys have to get to the line and they have to make their free throws. Period.
A win is a win is a win. Coming off a three-game losing streak and yet to get one on this six-game road trip, it doesn’t matter a bit how the Trail Blazers got the win tonight. They did it.
Over all the game still felt slumpy, and by that I mean we’re not back to the basketball we saw at the beginning of the season. There’s no doubt the guys will work their way out of it, but it’s tough regardless.
My major takeaway from New Orleans was the ability of the team to change their mentality during the half. They played a completely different game in the third quarter, which was absolutely necessary. What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the locker room wall during that halftime speech...