Game 18 Recap

We just got rolled by the Atlanta Hawks in our own building.  You can say we have injuries but they have some major injuries too.  This is very disappointing and there's no way around that.

Blazers 96, Hawks 107
Boxscore

Team Observations

--For those who couldn't see the game, we came out primed to lose from the opening tip.  This was the worst first five minutes in a game we've had in forever (and that's saying a lot considering some of our first quarters).  We committed four turnovers in the first three minutes, allowed them offensive rebounds, fouled them left and right, and missed almost all our shots.  There was no energy and confusion abounded.  The only saving grace was that Atlanta started poorly also, otherwise it could have easily been 20-2 before we blinked.

--We committed 21 turnovers in the game.  They converted 23 points off of them.  That was a killer right there.

--What three things do you need to do to stop Atlanta?  1.  Double team and contain Joe Johnson.  2.  Don't let their other guards have wide open shots from the perimeter, especially Lue and Stoudamire.  Make them put the ball on the floor.  Don't try to zone them up.  3.  Don't let them get their mitts on a ton of offensive rebounds.  1 and 2 were abject failures.  Johnson lit up Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, and Ime Udoka all night long.  He netted 33 points on 14 for 22 shooting.  We didn't seem to double team him much and when we did it was just slow and ineffective.  Also we repeatedly left Johnson, Lue, and Stoudamire open on the perimeter because we played a sagging defense.  This is all Stoudamire does!!!  He's miserable unless he's shooting threes.  I was startled when I read the boxscore and saw they only got 7 offensive rebounds.  I swear they had more than that on some single possessions.  Either the stat guy missed some or they just got key ones that killed our rallies.  I guess you can say that was a moderate success but it's little comfort.

--There was nothing much wrong with our offense.  We shot 49%.  We hit 54% from three point land.  We shot 19-for-24 from the charity stripe.  Significantly most of this happened without Zach being the focus of the offense until the 4th quarter.

--That said, if you're getting wiped while putting up those kind of numbers, you know your defense is lousy, and it was pretty lousy tonight.  Even the usually solid Udoka was getting burned.  Everybody got torched individually and only Lamarcus Aldridge played any semblance of help defense out there.  It looked like pre-season or training camp out there.

Individual Observations

--Martell Webster had a great night shooting.  Travis Outlaw replaced him in the starting lineup but Outlaw was one of the guys who came out without much focus, so he got yanked after four minutes and Martell was inserted.  The guys got the ball to him and he put it through.  He ended up 50% from the floor and 66% from the arc en route to 18 points.  Despite this, he left several negative impressions because his defense was so gol' darn awful.  Nate just couldn't play him during the key parts of the 4th when we were trying to mount our comeback.  He had to go with Dixon instead but Juan couldn't deliver.  If Martell could guard somebody the result may have been different.  He also was responsible for a couple of bonehead turnovers, but the whole team followed suit.

--This was one of Sergio Rodriguez's best games of the year, if not the best.  He got 26 minutes while Jack only got 28.  Senor Espresso got 11 assists off of very smart deliveries and succeeded in pushing the pace of the game.  He also hit enough shots (3-6) to keep himself out there.  His dribble drive is impossible to stop, and he knows exactly who to hit off of it.  It didn't hurt that Atlanta's guards are terminally short and poor defenders though.

--As I said the main focus of the offense went away from Zach for much of the game.  At first we were just going through other people.  Then Zach got in foul trouble and had to sit.  The two are not coincidental since Zach played a fairly poor game in other areas when it became apparent he wasn't scoring.  He came out in the 4th and tried to lift us onto his shoulders and ended up with 30 points in 33 minutes off of phenomenal 11-for-18 shooting.  There's a real struggle for identity going on with this team right now and Zach is smack dab in the middle of it.  Question:  Do we not have adequate secondary scorers or can we just not use the secondary scorers we do have because we lose Zach when we do so?  I think that matter is open for debate.

--Besides Martell and Sergio, Jamaal was another bench guy that came to play.  He hit 3 of 4 shots and was the other guy besides Aldridge who was active on help defense.

--Lamarcus had a couple of good offensive moments but his real strength was rebounding and blocking shots (8 and 3, respectively).  The guards kind of hung him out there on defense though and he's not experienced enough yet to compensate for them.

--It seemed like Travis felt really uncomfortable starting.  He looked lost and impotent in the first quarter.  His stroke and energy were back in the second half when he came off the bench.

--Jarrett Jack had 8 assists, which was nice, but he had his share of defensive woes, shot 33%, and had 3 turnovers.  It wasn't his best effort either.

--What's up with Przybilla?  I must admit that when he's in I usually don't focus on him too much since the things he does are quiet, so I suppose I couldn't rightly tell you if he was getting burned out there.  But you know what?  If you blinked when you focused on him tonight you missed his entire game.  He played 9 minutes.  He got 4 boards and a block in those 9 minutes, but he never saw the light of day after his brief starting stints.  And it wasn't because of foul trouble either, as he only had one.  Is it injury?  If not, this doesn't seem like the coaches really believe this guy is a key piece to, and captain of, our team.  This happened a lot last year too and I didn't get it then either.

The best thing to do would be to blot this effort from our minds and focus on the next game, but since the next six games are on the road, the bad taste may linger longer than we want it to.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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