Blazer Fanatic

Feb 10

No answers on defense and a no-show in the backcourt

By Blazer Fanatic Posted in: Blazers, Magic
AP Photo/John Raoux

Portland players were quoted saying how important this road trip was, and for good reason.  The Blazers are now 1-3 on this trip after dropping another one, 110-104 to Orlando.  It’s frustrating for me, as a fan, and definitely a loss that as a player, you'd like to think they slam the door on and don’t look back.  I’m more disappointed because it felt like the playoff door was shut too.

So much talk the past week about Lillards “snake” shoes, and changing them at half time, how cool they are, and All-Star weekend, and his Adidas sponsorship.  At the end of the game Jason Quick asked, and I responded.



That’s how I feel about the last 3 games.  “Less shoe, more pew-pew!”  While I may have just narrowed my audience to on-line gamer geeks, it makes the same frustrating point. Wes was 1-9 (0-6 from three) versus Houston.  Dame was 6-17 Dallas.  I’m just not a huge fan of talking about anything other than what the Blazers are doing to stop the bleeding, losing 3 must win games in a row.  But did I literally mean that Lillard thinks his shoes are more important than winning?  Some thought so and responded on twitter:

“Seriously. His 1st poor performance as a rookie and people are tearing him up over his shoes?” - Sareena

“Wow, rookies aren't allowed to have one off night? One bad night and Lillard's motives get questioned?”    - Evan McCarthy

It was a joke kids! Take it easy.  I wasn't tearing Lillard down, although I am frustrated with how Portland is losing, as one should expect from a die-hard Blazer fan.  But let’s be honest.  The best jokes have at least some truth to them.  And I think the truth of this game is something that should be seen before I banish it to the annals of things I never want to remember.

This is not Lillard’s first bad game.  Nor was this an "off night."  So, let’s not kid ourselves.  This was a disaster.  It was his worst shooting performance ever.  And basketball gods willing, it will remain his worst ever.  Despite the Blazers shooting a fraction better than Orlando (50 percent clip), one of the big stories of the game was Dame shooting 1-16 from the field and 0-8 from three.  Lillard’s only field goal came with 4:15 left in the 3rd quarter.  He single handely dropped the team's field goal percentage more than 10 percent.  No, this is not jumping on Dame’s case.  This is simply reality.  Bad games happen, but this was one of the worst games by a player in NBA history. So while I feel for Dame, and the team needs him to move on from it, the fact remains.  Below is a list of the 16 times (and players) who have shot at least 16 field goals and made one or fewer in the past 28 years, according to BasketballReference.com.



Drexler and Hardaway are the only two of this list who managed to win in their historic shooting bombs.  Drexler with a double-double, despite 1-16 shooting, played a Sacramento team that finished the season 25-57.  Hardaway played a Timberwolves team that finished 15-67 that year.

Tonight, Portland played an Orlando team (15-36 and 9-17 at home) that had lost its last 12 games, and was missing 3 key players in Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Al Harrington.  While it was possible Portland could have won, 15 missed chances (combined with 4 turnovers) pretty much made it impossible.

Lillard has to learn to adjust his game on the fly when his shot isn't falling.  He needs to get to the rim and draw fouls, realize that the only shot he made versus Orlando was the only shot he squared his shoulder to the basket, focus his enery on defense, do other things.  And while his 12 assists were commendable, he shooting clearly wasn't, and neither was his defense.  Stotts has to be willing to bench the Rookie as he would any other player (see Hickson).

I wanted Lillard to move on from this loss the second the buzzer sounded.  But I don’t want him to forget - and to practice, and prepare, and play with a renewed focus that he’s not immune to this kind of game.  That like the other great players that had similar games, he use this loss as motivation to never allow it to happen again.  While some make excuses, “he’s a rookie,” “he’s human,” “he had ONE bad game”- he is also a professional basketball player and prospective Rookie of the Year (ROY), and I expect much better from him.  I don’t subscribe to the “give him a break, he’s exceeded expectations” for the same reason Lillard is still out to prove everyone wrong who said he was a long shot for ROY, and couldn’t come from a small school to have an immediate impact on the League.  Ok, now I can move on.

This Orlando game was also about post defense.  For Blazer fans that are still not clear as to why Portland can’t keep Hickson, and pay him as a starter, just look at the offensive glass and the post defense tonight.  The Blazers were trashed 17-5 on the offensive glass, and beat up 60-46 in scoring in the paint – against a bad and badly injured Orlando team.  The defense tonight was as bad as ever.  Jason Quick interviewing Hickson after the game:

I asked Hickson why Orlando had such an easy time executing its mid-pick-and-roll plays, which exposed the Blazers’ big men. Hickson was blunt with his assessment.

“The way we guarded it,’’ Hickson said. “I don’t feel like we adjusted to it very well. It was something that just killed us all night, all game.’’

So I asked: What could the Blazers have done better with that play?

“I can’t really put my finger on it,’’ Hickson said. “We have people in place to make those adjustments. It works both ways; we have to do better job as players and ... um ...’’

It was almost as if Hickson realized he was getting into quicksand. He back-peddled and didn’t directly name the coaching staff.

I like Hickson a lot.  But I don’t like that Hickson will cost more than what Portland should pay a backup PF, his post defense, or his lack of size at center.  It’s a subject that elicits some chippy reaction from fans and even Hickson.  The situation reminds me a bit of my feelings deciding on whether or not to put a beloved family pet down.  It’s a no win situation (pun intended).  

After these 3 losses, and the frustration Hickson expressed tonight is revealing, perhaps JJ is as resolved as I am that the Blazers aren't a playoff team, and there isn't a place for an $8 million PF on this team.  Maybe now he is more willing to accept a trade before the dead-line.



Blazers blemish some stats losing to Orlando:

17-6 when the Blazers score 100 points

8-15 when the opponent scored 100 points

17-3 when leading after the 1st quarter

14-10 in games decided by 6 or fewer points

9-1 when shooting over 50% from the field

But hey, Freeland had this sexy baseline dunk. ->
(AP Photo/John Raoux)



I am finally resolved to the reality that the Blazers are not going to make the playoffs this year.  And I think it’s time to look to next season.  If the Blazers brought Freeland and Claver over to see what they could do, they need to play more.  Barton and Meyers need to play more as well, so they can develope.  Portland knows what they have in Price and Nolan, Jeffries and Pavlovic.  And Hickson should be moved if possible.  This is what some may call tanking, but I don’t see it that way.  Playoff hopes are done.  It’s time to look forward to next season and ensure the Blazer front office has all the information they need to make personnel changes.  I think there is a difference between tanking, or trying to lose, and what I am suggesting.  Perhaps semantics, but I see a difference.

On to a streaking Miami team Tuesday who will be fired up to avenge their close loss in Portland.  GO BLAZERS!

3 Comments

  1. Very disappointing loss. I wanted to see us take Redick and Vucevic with us to the next game as Blazers, those guys would look really good in red and black. Upside is that Freeland and Claver played very well but were not in the game enough and as much as we love him, Damian should have sat on the bench.

    by riverman on 2/11/2013 9:55 AM
  2. Isn't it crazy when you try to recall a time when Lillard was ever pulled from a game for playing poorly? I mean, Stotts didn't have a PG that could even walk the ball up the court and get into the offense with more than 12 seconds on the shot clock. It's still debatable.

    Disappointing doesn't even touch how crummy this loss was.

    Vucevic and Redick would be so good for Portland. If they were on the Blazers this year, Portland is going to the Western Conference Finals at a minimum.

    by Blazer Fanatic on 2/11/2013 10:23 AM
  3. Or... Tiago Splitter/Blair/JJ Redick? I'm salavating!

    by Blazer Fanatic on 2/12/2013 12:45 AM
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