OK folks, this was not our best game but this was a good game. We gave the Celtics all they could handle for a couple of quarters, hung close until Ray Allen delivered the coup de grace at the end, and left the court with our heads held high. I'm not sure I can understand anybody being disappointed with this game. We could have easily gotten blown out of the water. But we never let them take us for granted.
You could tell at the start of the game and at its end the experience gap between the Blazers and the Celtics. We came out nervous and played tighter than normal down the stretch. But in the middle of the game we had some fine, fine possessions. Our ball movement was basically solid. Our shooting was good. Our three-point shooting was good. We battled back and forth for the lead. We watched guys step up. When we were in the flow there was little difference between the ultra-young Blazers and the championship-contending Celtics. The big differences ended up being that the Celtics stayed in the flow longer than we did and they timed it better. We took the lead at the half and extended it early in the third but they put down the hammer and crushed us late in the third and through the fourth.
The most glaring problem for Portland was an uncharacteristic number of turnovers. Boston harassed us into mistakes and then capitalized on our 19 turnovers to the tune of 23 points. We only had 8 points off of their turnovers. That's a +15 advantage and...scene! That's a wrap. Equally disturbing were our defensive and rebounding slips. We didn't get outrebounded overall by much but we let a lot of offensive boards slip by including a couple off of free throws. Missing free throw rebounds should never happen. Our big man corps looked smaller and weaker than their Boston counterparts tonight. They also had real trouble rotating. Celtics drove the baseline several times and found no opposition inside. They also whipped passes through the interior. We had a serious lack of recognition, foot movement, and just plain hands-up energy in the interior tonight. We did alright one-on-one but as soon as Boston moved ball or feet towards the middle we were sunk. They also attempted 14 more free throws than we did. Much of that was attributable to our defense. If there was some homecourt star-power in there, well, what do you expect?
A. They were at home.
B. They are stars.
C. It didn't matter anyway because everything else in that paragraph spelled our doom before any free throws were shot.
Again...when you realize the overall mediocrity of our interior defense, rebounding, transition, and ball-handing you understand what a nice effort we gave in other parts of the game to hang close.
Beyond all of this, the Celtics had Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Garnett has scored 19,737 points in this league. Allen has scored 17,534 and Pierce 16,127. Our roster combined has scored exactly 25,202, and 10,047 of those belong to Raef LaFrentz and Darius Miles. In other words any one of their stars has put more points on the board than our entire rotation. Those guys know how to play and know how to win. If you're talking just in right now terms Boston fielded the best, most accomplished three players on the court tonight. In any other world that's a recipe for a blowout. Apparently in Blazerland it just means the game is going to be pretty close.
Nobody better be hanging their heads about this.
--I thought Brandon Roy played a fine game. He didn't take over but he kept active. He shot 7-16, 7-8 at the line, dished 6 assists, and had 22 points. The Celtics really tried to shut him down once he put the ball on the floor and headed into the lane. That was obviously their game plan. It might have blunted a little bit of his effectiveness--he did have 4 turnovers to go along with his 6 assists--but not much. I would imagine the Celtics came away impressed with him tonight.
--Lamarcus Aldridge started out hot but seemed to fade as the game progressed and Boston keyed on him. He ended up an impressive 7-12 and had 16 points with 2 blocks but he only grabbed 5 defensive rebounds and committed 4 turnovers. He did a credible job of watching Garnett for much of the game before KG just took over down the stretch. I didn't think Lamarcus brought quite enough to get us to the next level though. He looked like a second-year player given a daunting assignment. That's exactly what he was, of course, but we're used to seeing a little more.
--Jarrett Jack looked like he wanted to win this game! He shot very well, got 5 assists, drew some fouls, and ended up with 17 aggressive points. He had the standout game for Portland in the sense of taking his play up a notch. He looked completely non-intimidated by the situation. I wonder if this bodes well for his possible playoff performances?
--Travis Outlaw also got 17 points on only 8 shots. His 7 rebounds weren't bad either. But he contributed to our defensive shortcomings and committed a robust 5 turnovers all on his lonesome.
(Side Note: You could tell who the Celtics chose to key on tonight. Brandon four turnovers, Lamarcus 4, and Travis 5. Warned you about that defense.)
--Joel Przybilla had 9 rebounds and toughened us up a little when he was in. The big problem: this was his worst offensive outing in forever...so bad, in fact, that you just could not see him playing major minutes. He rim-checked himself on dunks and got his shot blocked. He missed chippies and free throws. He fumbled the ball when passed to. It was like Old Joel made an appearance at our end of the court tonight.
--Other than a brief couple of shots off of curl screens in the third quarter Martell had a quiet night. Perhaps he was spending so much energy on defense that he didn't have enough to get open. He didn't do all that well defensively and he didn't get any help when he got burned, so overall you'd have to chalk this up as a tough night for young Master Webster.
--Steve Blake and James Jones were the only Blazers who played more than 20 minutes without a turnover. Each was decent. Neither made a crucial difference.
--Channing Frye had a poor night. He wasn't any better defending the middle than his cohorts. He collected 4 fouls in 12 minutes of play. Worst of all he shot like he was swinging at a piñata.
--Sergio and Raef really don't bear mentioning.
One Sentence Game Summary
We put up a good fight for being so discombobulated.
Blazer fans can take solace in the fact that had we won this emotionally-charged game chances are good we would have let down in Miami and ended up 1-1. We can still get that same record. It'll just be reversed.
P.S. Thanks everybody for the 1107 comments in the Gameday thread. That stands as a Blazersedge record for a game ending in regulation!