Game 23 Recap: Blazers 108, Magic 109

Boxscore

 

Some dude once said that those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.  The Blazers have been making quite a living this year banking on emotional runs and last-second heroics.  Somebody else had the hilt tonight.  You have to figure that’s going to happen sometimes.

 

General Observations

 

Much like the last contest against the Magic this was a game of runs.  As they did in Orlando, the Blazers came out of the gate slowly tonight.  Lamarcus Aldridge must have performed some kind of pre-game vampiric ritual in the locker room because he was all full of energy while everybody else on the team looked ready for a nap.  We let the Magic run out in transition.  Our three-point shots weren’t falling.  Greg Oden might as well have been pushing a stroller full of mini-marshmallows for all of the good he was doing trying to root Dwight Howard out of the lane.  On the other end we were riding Lamarcus’ jumpers, Oden’s dunks, and Joel Przybilla’s putbacks.  Somebody forgot to defrost our guards before the game.  They tossed the astonishing lack of transition defense together with a handful of missed jumpers to make a full-on sucky salad complete with the dreaded Stale Croutons of Lameness (+4).  We were lucky we were only down 4 at the quarter break.

 

The defense improved greatly in the second period.  Brandon Roy started cranking it up, Lamarcus Aldridge continued his stellar all-around play, and Steve Blake got hot at the end of the period.  We also committed 6 defenders out of 5 to stopping Orlando’s interior play.  We succeeded in cutting down the easy points at the cost of allowing their shooters to go free.  The tradeoff worked as we held them to 20 in the quarter and went in at halftime down only 1.

 

Then the fun really began.

 

First of all, Brandon Roy started going OFF once the second half began.  He fell on the Magic like a cement mixer on a Chihuahua.  Inside, outside, left-hand, right.  Made ya look stoopid, did it all night.  They couldn’t stop him.  They tried, of course, which meant Lamarcus was free to work more of his voodoo.  Then when Brandon was hitting them on the right side and Lamarcus was hitting them on the left in comes Sergio Rodriguez and just kicks…them…in…the…crotch!  Don’t…give…me…playing…time…will…you?  Take that…and…that…and…that…and… for God’s sake Sergio, stop!  They’re dead already!  Easy, man!  Easy!  What??? Rudy???  Don’t…let…me…create…with…the…ball…will…you?  Take that…and…that…and…that…and… Oh geez.  Somebody get a mop.

 

This pretty much continued throughout the second half with Brandon and Lamarcus and Sergio and Rudy taking turns playing sick carnival games with the Magic.  When Joel Przybilla got into the act it was almost too much.  If you want to see something hilarious rewind your Tivo to 9:49 left in the fourth quarter and watch the expression of Joel’s face after he hit a left-handed, fully-guarded, driving, looping flip shot off of a pass from Rudy Fernandez and got the and-one besides.  Normally you wonder if this guy cracked a smile when his children were born.  Or conceived.  But here was Joel walking back down the lane with this incredible grin on his face as if to say, “That’s RIGHT!  I lit you up!  How do you spell it?  P-R-Y-Z…no, no…wait…P-R-Z-Y-B-I-LLA-LLA-LLA- LOSERS!!!”

 

This whole time we were dominating the boards, getting back in transition, and keeping Orlando from scoring inside.  The one thing they did well was find open men for three-point shots.  Whether playing man-to-man or zone we couldn’t watch the paint and still recover to the sidelines to stop that shot.  But that’s OK.  Blazer fans have NEVER seen a team thrive mostly on threes, have they?  You can’t come back in a game shooting from out there.  Why, that’s unnatural and practically scandalous!

 

So…fast forward to 2:15 left in the game.  The Blazers have held off the Magic distance shooting parade and now lead 108-100 off of a Lamarcus Aldridge jumper.  Orlando calls a timeout.

 

1:57 left… Jameer Nelson makes a three-pointer.  It’s now 108-103.  That’s alright.  Anybody can hit a lucky shot.  Or, well, seven lucky shots by this point.

 

The Blazers come back down and after they eat up some time, Travis Outlaw fires a three-point jumper and misses.  That might not have been the best shot.

 

1:31 left… Jameer Nelson misses a layup.  Fool!  That’s not a three-pointer! 

 

Portland comes back down and after they eat up some time, Steve Blake fires a three-point jumper and misses.  Hey, didn’t you read two lines above?  That might not have been the best shot!

 

1:02 left…  Brandon Roy has a great block of a Hedo Turkoglu runner.  Blazers call timeout.  After the timeout Steve Blake loses the ball.  (Egad!)

 

0:33 left…  Keith Bogans misses a three-point jumper.  See?  They don’t all fall.  This game is o…o…offensive rebound Bogans.  The ball swings over to Rashard Lewis for three and it’s good.  Now it’s 108-106 and the Blazers will have to shoot.  They can’t just run out the clock.

 

So here comes Brandon Roy.  Obviously Orlando has watched tape on Portland because they double team him approximately 800 yards from the basket.  Anybody…ANYBODY but Roy is going to get up this shot.  However the Blazers can’t get anybody free and the ball ends up in Roy’s hands again.  Here comes the double.  He drives to the right sideline and now he’s trapped with the shot clock expiring and no timeouts.  He leaps away from the defense, twists in the air, and fires a three pointer from the sideline which…misses everything.  Shot clock violation.  D’oh!  That might not have been the best shot. Orlando has the ball back with 5 seconds on the clock.

 

So here we go.  Turkoglu is the inbounder.  He gets it to Howard up above the three-point line on top.  Howard holds while Turkoglu runs in, then Howard flips it back to him as Turkoglu cuts across the court.  Travis Outlaw is following.  He’s shading him pretty well but he’s giving him maybe six inches too much space.  You don’t want to foul him, though.  That would be a disaster.  Turkoglu is shooting 84% from the foul line but only 30% from three-point range.  Against everybody but the Blazers, that is.  Turkoglu rises.  Outlaw jumps but his arm is out there a split-second too late.  The ball flies towards the hoop and…misses everything!  That was WAY long.  A horrible shot!  The game is o…wait a minute.  What’s this?  When did they start putting that clear material behind the rim?  That almost makes it unfair, as if you could miss a shot WAY long and still have it…D’OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Three-tenths of a second left, no timeouts for the Blazers.  Brandon Roy’s three-quarter court heave misses.  Orlando wins 109-108.  It’s like somebody killed the party by pulling some stupid “light my flatulence” joke and set off the automated sprinkler system.  That fondue will never be the same now.

 

Individual Notes

 

I’m going to make these very brief unless I’m telling you something you don’t already know.

 

--Brandon Roy was amazing in this game.  30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 10-20 shooting, 14 free throws drawn.  And this wasn’t even one of his prettier games.  He missed some layups and foul shots.

 

--Lamarcus Aldridge was AMAZING in this game.  25 points, 13 rebounds, 12-17 shooting, 2 steals, 2 blocks.  He was a force out there.  That’s great to see, as we’ll need that again on Thursday.

 

--Joel Przybilla was amazing in this game.  11 points on 5-6 shooting, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and that smile thing was one of the best moments of the season.

 

--Sergio Rodriguez was amazing in this game.  He only shot 3-9 but he dished 7 assists and hit 6-6 free throws off of beautiful penetration to end the game with 14 points.  Even better he seemed to get in a jawing and playing duel with Jameer Nelson and he didn’t back down a bit.  In fact it spurred him on.  I love to see Sergio, in particular, rise to that kind of challenge because that’s what his career needs to be about.

 

--Rudy Fernandez was pretty amazing in the second half with 4 assists and 4 rebounds to go with his 10 points.  I like how he contributed even when his deep shot wasn’t falling.  And we got two alley-oops tonight!

 

--Travis Outlaw was pretty amazing in the first half when he put in 8 points in the space of 3 minutes.  He only had 10 points total for the game though and the rest of his stat line was anemic.

 

--This was not one of Steve Blake’s stronger games.  He hit a couple of nice pull-ups off of the dribble but no threes.  He had 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 5 fouls in 23 minutes.

 

--Nicolas Batum had 2 rebounds and 3 assists and a steal but also 3 turnovers in 16 minutes.

 

--Greg Oden was not amazing.  He had a dunk and a rebound and 4 fouls in 11 minutes.  He was overmatched by Howard.

 

--Channing Frye was less amazing than that.  He only played 4 minutes though.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Reading the post-game thread was a tortuous experience.  Obviously the emotion of losing like that in a game that was otherwise exciting and fun mandates some venting.  But if this is to be a record that stands the test of time we have to say that people commenting there are WAY too far down about this loss.  Except for the first quarter the game was very well played.  You couldn’t ask for better emotion either.  Orlando’s a good team and they got us like we got Houston earlier.  That’s the way it goes if you leave the game close.  If there is a criticism to be leveled it’s that the Blazers got too conservative with 2 minutes left.  But then again they’ve won plenty of games by getting a lead and then running the shot clock down late.  This is the first one they’ve lost that way.  Going with the percentages isn’t a bad idea.

 

To address some of people’s specific questions/comments:

 

--This game wasn’t lost on the last possession.  It was lost in each of the prior three or four as well.  You can’t indict one person for that loss because had the team done a better job of executing during those crucial possessions--and that means people off the ball as well as people with it--the possibility of the miracle shot never would have come up.

 

--You put your starters back in late because those are the people you trust, who know what they’re doing, who have played in those situations before, and who have practiced together.  The vast majority of the time that move is going to work out for you.  Until your starters have repeatedly proven that they’re going to blow it in such situations (which Portland’s starters clearly haven’t…and that means pretty much ever) you depend on them.  The potential consequences of that call are much lighter than the potential consequences of “What the hell was Bench Player X doing out there on that possession?  Did you see the other four guys?  They had no idea what he was doing.  Evidently neither did he!”

 

--Travis Outlaw didn’t do a horrible job of defending there.  Turkoglu banked a near straight-on shot.  I’m guessing he didn’t call it.  Trout could have been closer but then, as we said above, he risked the foul on the shot.  THAT would have been a major, preventable mistake.  This was a bummer.

 

--Nicolas Batum wasn’t defending Turkoglu on that play because Batum is 6’8” and skinny while Turkoglu is 6’10” and at least medium-sized.  Plus Batum hasn’t been out there in critical situations with those other Portland defenders either.  The first risk of defense is not getting out-leapt, it’s miscommunication and the defense collapsing.  “Oh wait…you said SWITCH?  I was waiting for ‘Simon Says’ first.  We weren’t in the Red Simon formation?  My bad.”

 

--Why we didn’t hack Howard on the inbounds is a decent question if you just consider his shooting percentages.  On the other hand you look stupid if he makes them as you were only up 2, not 3.  It would be an unusual strategy in this situation.  Then again “unusual” can be a synonym for “creative” if it works out.  But still, it’s not an automatic call.  You don’t usually want to give people chances to turn the game without any defense facing them.

 

--Losing that way was tough, but honestly, it’s not like we just lost in the Conference or NBA Finals and it sounds that way a little by the comments.  Let’s hope we don’t have to experience THAT kind of pain again. Fortunately we get to dust ourselves off and try again Thursday.  I already had doubts about that game before this one.  It’ll be tough enough without carrying this one with us.

 

Check out the Orlando reaction at ThirdQuarterCollapse.

 

Check out the Jersey Contest results and enter for Thursday’s game here.

 

Don’t forget that you have a limited time--like maybe just today--to purchase tickets to send needy kids to a Blazer game on December 27th.  Contact Lisa Swan at lisa.swan@trailblazers.com or (503) 963-3966 to help.  Tickets are $22 for one, $17 for each thereafter.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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