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: Disappointed In Atlanta
By sarahhecht Posted in: Blazers, Hawks
ATLANTA 92, PORTLAND 89
Loved: Jamal Crawford hitting his first two shots
A driving layup and a fadeaway jumper were two nice shots to get things going for Crawford off the bench. Back on his former turf for the first time as a Trail Blazer, he started the game nicely. Though he didn’t hit again until the fourth, his buckets in the first contributed to keeping the score close.
Loathed: Twenty-nine percent shooting
No team gets anywhere shooting 29 percent. Hitting just 7-of-24 from the field will get this team into a world of hurt against most teams. To be brutally honest, Portland was lucky to be down only four. What really gets me here is the guys were getting decent looks and shot selection wasn’t bad. Lid on the bucket?
Whatever it is, something has got to give.
Loved: Craig Smith’s hustle
The winner of the workhouse award is Craig Smith. In his 11 second quarter minutes he shot 2-of-4 from the field, 3-of-5 from the charity strip and scored seven points. More importantly, his strong line was amplified by the hustle he demonstrated. Smith coupled with Kurt Thomas to own the paint for the Trail Blazers and keep them in the game. Way to go Rhino!
Loathed: Joe Johnson getting hot
If the goal was to keep Joe Johnson and Josh Smith from getting hot the Trail Blazers held to half of it until the second. Smith scored six in the first quarter and Johnson was limited to none. That little triumph was negated when Johnson got started with a jumper and followed it up with two quick three-pointers. Letting him flip the switch helped Atlanta take a nine point lead into the half.
Johnson was a dagger for Portland. He led the Hawks with 24 points.
Loved: Fast start
A quick seven-point burst at the hands of LaMarcus Aldridge and Raymond Felton put Portland right back into the game after trailing by nine at the break, a shooting spurt the guys desperately needed after hitting a measly 36 percent in the first half.
The positive here is the Trail Blazers were again able to turn the tides from the opening periods. It may not have lasted long, but they demonstrated the capability.
Loathed: Inability to close out quarters
It took Atlanta one minute and seven seconds to take their lead from three to 13 at the end of the third. They started this run with 2:58 left in the quarter. If that doesn’t say the Trail Blazers are struggling to close out quarters, I don’t know what does.
Portland absolutely has to end strong. I don’t think it’s a stretch to affiliate the ability to close quarters with the ability to close games. A skill that would’ve paid dividends this evening.
Loved: Nolan Smith
Five minutes from Smith in the fourth felt like ten. When he checked in at the end of the third Portland was down by seven and the lead grew to 13. The Trail Blazers kicked it into gear again to begin the quarter and went on a 13-0 run to tie the game. All with Nolan on the floor. He moved well, passed well, and hit a good-looking jumper from downtown.
Smith’s strong shift late in the game was a nice treat.
Loathed: Missing free throws
Down by six. Two free throws missed. Bad news.
Late game trips to the charity stripe are clutch, especially when they minimize the number of possessions needed to win a ball game. Tonight Atlanta’s lead would’ve been cut to four. Instead it was quickly increased to eight with just over a minute left to play.
Mentality is a huge factor late. Being within reach and carrying momentum gives teams that extra push to believe they can grind it out. But a time comes when a three-possession game becomes out of reach. That time came tonight, and could’ve been avoided had late game free throws connected.
This was a big loss for the Trail Blazers. The worst of the road trip in my book.
I viewed this game as defining of this swing. Win and we take momentum into the final legs at Toronto and Detroit. Lose and the pressure is on to keep the trip at 3-3 and not let it fall into the disaster zone. Well, the pressure is on.
So even though I’m frustrated with the loss, I’m not disheartened on the season. Long road trips are hard. And after all the rule is to win at home and split on the road, right? A 3-3 outcome is still completely doable.