How to Beat the Blazers!

NBA teams scout each other. They try different looks to "solve" the other team's scheme. Whatever is successful against you, you will see repeated. Here is part of what other teams in the league have decided works against the Blazers:

1, Be physical.

The Blazers are seen as a jump shooting team. You get up on jump shooters. They are less likely to punish you with drives. Off the ball, get in the passing lanes as the pressured shooters will often make mistakes. Do whatever you can to get the Blazers off their A-game. And turn rebounds into hustle contests rather than height and position contests,

2.  Take the ball out of Roy's hands.

Ever since the Orlando game, especially, teams have been doubling Roy. They have come at him late in the shot clock or late in the game. Denver came at him early and often and was very rarely punished. The Blazers will see this more and more until they punish it. The reason they double Roy is that you can't come up on him alone. Roy is more dangerous off the dribble. More often than not, you would prefer him to take the jumper. But when he is hot, you can't let him beat you by himself. So you get up on him on both his hands and make him pick it up or find an outlet. Even if this does not result in a turnover, it takes the ball out of Roy's hands and eats up clock. This leaves someone open, but finding that player, in the right position, with time running down has been hard, especially with all of our new players. And, sorry to say it, the other players (and perhaps Nate in his sets) are starting to rely too much on Roy. Everyone has to be ready to participate fully on offense or that is where the opponent will force the ball.

3. Pressure the inbound pass.

This has been effective. And there has been no downside. It is surprising we don't see this more. Lately, the Blazers have been wasting a TO or two each game to this. And rather than being punished, opponents more often come up with a steal.

4. Leak out on the fast break.

The Blazers do a great job offensive rebounding, but they can commit too many folks to the offensive glass. Especially when Roy and Rudy are in the game at the guard spots, or when the point guard takes the shot, the Blazers are not getting back in transition. Easy two!

5.  Go at GO early and often.

Greg always looks for the block. And he usually drops his hands. He gets cheap fouls, getting the butt end of rookie calls and not yet knowing where his hands should be or exactly what they will allow boxing-out for rebounds. This not only takes out GO as an offensive threat, it allows the opponent to turn the game into a one-way parade to the foul line. And always going for the block, as has been recently seen, leaves the opposing bigs a better shot at rebounds and put-backs. And being out of position, Greg is even more likely to foul on the second attempt.

Between having an answer for Roy, staying out on our other shooters, knocking us around, eating shot clock, and getting easy transition buckets, put-backs off blocks, and free trips to the charity stripe, the Blazers are having trouble staying out of trouble. They cannot put any real distance between themselves and other competitive teams.

So, what can the Blazers do?

1. Be tough.

Come ready to ball. Punish physical defense by going at the abuser to make the call obvious. Don't be the second to foul, just maintain the contact to make it obvious. And make your free throws (something the Blazers are great at this year). Enforce your will. Stand your ground. Play YOUR game. But if the opponent does everything to take your strength away from you, have a second plan to go to.  For us, that's more guys blowing by the defender and collapsing their defense. (I am looking at you, Travis. Where is that aerial game?)

2.  Be ready for the double team!

Roy usually gets the ball from the point guard out top with 15-20 seconds left in the shot clock.  If and when the double comes, he takes time to get rid of the ball. Defensive rotation comes to the first man out of the double team, so it often takes take two good passes to punish this. There will not be much time if any to reset. Ideally, though, you want to play 4 on 3, so the Blazers should be able to punish the opponent here. This should prove less a problem as the players know more about where each other wants the ball and where each other shoots efficiently. Still, Nate must be chomping at the bit to install sets off this double-team. One thing that is already clear, when Roy is being doubled, Blake is leaking to the corner for the open three. This is getting teams to play Roy more honestly and helping Blake's 3-pt% and ppg. Crisp passes around the perimeter and cutters to the basket desparately needed!

3.  The Blazers need to audible into special plays to beat ball pressure.  Most teams do this by swinging the ball.  Rather than passing inbounds to the primary ball handler for the play, you set up series of passing lanes around the perimeter where the ball will come to an open man, a 2-on-1, or a favorable isolation -- usually on the weak side.

Problems 1-3 are closely related. Until the Blazers beat opponents who overcommit, they will see more and more of this type of defense. The Blazers need to punish overcommitment, preferably by blowing by exterior defenders and getting to the rim for the finish or the easy dish, or at least by crisp passing into new and better looks.

4.  The Blazers are getting back better in recent games. But they are still allowing too many cheap buckets. Better planning and better communication are necessary, especially if we are scrambling to get a shot up and committing bigs to the boards. We can't wait for game situations to improve communication on who's responsible to get back. Speaking of that, the opponents are also getting too many secondary fast-break points when too many of our bigs are trailing the play. This and put-backs is how Denver's Nene got some easy hoops.

5.  GO needs more experience, and -- at least until he is shown some respect -- more patience. He has unique abilities. Which is part of the problem. He is starting to back down opposing players more, ala Sh*q, which is ugly if we are on the receiving end but otherwise very profitable. GO also of course needs to give up on some blocks -- simply elevate to increase the opponent's degree of difficulty rather than go for the stuff every time. A little variety will keep them guessing. LMA and Batum/Travis need to crash the defensive glass and maybe get a body on the opposing center.  This will not only cut down opponents' offensive boards, but will help keep our bigs out of foul trouble when they are out of position after going for the block. On the offensive end, this team needs to learn how to feed the post. We can and do dish when we cut, but otherwise we just try to feed bigs on the block. Something I have not seen all year, I think, is a pass off the backboard when Oden is fronted or off the pick-and-roll. Let's get the other team's bigs sat down on the bench with early fouls!

We are figuring these things out, getting to know how the new guys fit in.  But as long as these basic problems are this glaring, it will be tough for these guys to achieve results comparable to their potential.

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