Ugh. I have a suggestion. The next time these teams decide to play a game like that, why don't they save us all a little time and, as they gather for the tipoff, simply pull down their shorts, moon the audience and cameras, and head back to the showers. That was an awful exhibition of basketball out there. I didn't think the Toronto game was exactly poetry, but peeee-yeeeeew! I'm going to need to scrub my eyes with a brillo pad to get the residue out.
Blazers 81, Sixers 79
--The big question coming into the game was how Zach and the young backcourt would react to his return after they scored a billion in his absence. The answer was passive all around. Z-Bo barely ever established good position. Jack and Webster didn't really look for their shots. It's as if everyone was trying to prove that they weren't the offense-stalling ball hog. As a result the offense went nowhere. Luckily in the last two minutes of the game both Jack and Randolph said, "Enough!" and scored, bracketing a basket by Juan Dixon who never has a problem being seen as a shooter. What this all shows more than anything is how little these guys really help each other in the offense. Instead of alert vision, keen understanding, and good ball movement leading to better scoring opportunities for all, it's either "Me shoot now!" or "Here, somebody else do something." There's no in-between. This is why I'm keen for Socks to return because he's one of the guys who can not only score but helps others score too. But frankly, in his absence, I prefer the offense when everybody's gunning a little too much to the offense when everybody's passive. Even more I'd prefer guys like Zach and Martell to learn to contribute to the offense even when they're not taking all the shots instead of bailing out.
--One thing that gave us enough of an early lead to enable us to hang on was good help defense. You saw a little bit of verve in Joel tonight that's been absent. The rotations were tight much of the first half. It all fell apart in the second half, culminating in Travis Outlaw's horrible lack of recovery on Chris Webber, allowing him all day to get the game-tying three pointer. All's well that ends well though and it was nice to see at least one half of fine team defense even when our individuals were getting broken down.
--Another reason we faltered was declining rebounding. The first half we rebounded well and we built a lead. The second half we were allowing them offensive rebounds left and right and we lost it. I hate to make it seem as simple as that but in some ways it really is. Rebounding is a HUGE key for this year's team. Nobody really stepped forward on the defensive boards tonight. Zach was pretty passive in this area too but the team can't just sit around and rely on Zach. They need to charge up and go grab something.
--I don't know if it was rust or fatigue or what, but the offensive spacing really started to slip tonight. You saw guys posting right on top of each other. You saw weak side people standing around in no-man's land, not providing good angles to throw passes. You saw a lot of half-assed trotting too. The old mother hen in me was clucking her tongue. In the second half the defensive spacing really fell apart too, as I mentioned above.
--There were way too many perimeter jumpers and too much one-on-one play tonight. What ball movement we had was ineffective...just tossing it aimlessly around the edge of the court. I don't want to pick on Zach too much, but when he doesn't establish position when the play calls for him to get the ball, everything falls apart quick.
--Turnovers are EVIL! And we wallowed in evil again tonight. Martell had 4 in 16 minutes, Aldridge 3 in 13 minutes. Kinda explains why they didn't get more time.
--Yes, the refs were ugly in this game too, but it's hard to point fingers at them on a night when we played so poorly.
--We scrapped hard for 120 seconds at the end of the game and fortunately that was enough to win it. Maybe it says something that we won a game we shouldn't have.
--If there's a gold star in this game it goes to Juan Dixon. This style of contest is tailor-made for him. Nobody was effective scoring, everyone was looking to bail on the offense, somebody needed to step up and get a decent shot. Ta-dah! Here's Juan! He also got 4 steals tonight. Zach scored one more point but if not for Juan we would have lost this game.
--Dan Dickau also played a surprisingly scrappy 17 minutes. He had 4 assists, including a no-look pass that fooled everybody (including its recipient) and some remarkably decent defense. He's earned a little more playing time.
--Zach hit the game-winner. All the rest of his stuff I've already mentioned.
--Jarrett's 7 points came off of only 6 shots. That's what I mean by passive.
--Everybody else had a non-descript game. Magloire played 29 minutes and got more personal fouls (5) than rebounds (2). His only bright spot was 3 assists, one a beautiful wrap-around down deep to Aldridge for a dunk. Aldridge had 5 points but 3 turnovers. Martell had more turnovers than shots attempted or points. Udoka played a decent game, chipping in 12 badly-needed points and grabbing 5 boards while playing his usual good "D" but he also had 5 fouls and 4 turnovers. Joel 0 points and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes (but he did have that nice help defense). Outlaw scored 9 points on 3-of-5 shooting and even got 2 assists but he made life hard for us on the defensive end. LaFrentz saw a little action and missed all three wide-open shots he took. Sergio got about 12 seconds of play at the end of the first half.
--Philadelphia was obviously every bit as bad as we were. If not for Andre Iguodala's near-constant parade to the free-throw line (11-of-13 on the night) they wouldn't have broken 70. They shot just under 38% for the night. If we hadn't let them get a few offensive rebounds it might have been under 35. They also committed 20 turnovers to our 21. That averages out to about 10 turnovers a quarter between the two teams.
--The one redeeming factor to the evening, as Jorga mentioned in a comment earlier, was that Nate wore a FANTASTIC suit. GQ all the way, baby...